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If Walls Could Talk: An intimate history of the home [Paperback]

Lucy Worsley
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 Jan 2012

Why did the flushing toilet take two centuries to catch on? Why did Samuel Pepys never give his mistresses an orgasm? Why did medieval people sleep sitting up? When were the two 'dirty centuries'? Why did gas lighting cause Victorian ladies to faint? Why, for centuries, did people fear fruit?

All these questions will be answered in this juicy, smelly and truly intimate history of home life.

Lucy Worsley takes us through the bedroom, bathroom, living room and kitchen, covering the architectural history of each room, but concentrating on what people actually did in bed, in the bath, at the table, and at the stove.

From sauce-stirring to breast-feeding, teeth-cleaning to masturbation, getting dressed to getting married, this book will make you see your home with new eyes.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (5 Jan 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571259545
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571259540
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 13,266 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dr Lucy Worsley is Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, the charity which looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace, the Banqueting House in Whitehall and Kew Palace in Kew Gardens. (Yes, this is a fabulous job, but no, you can't have it. Bribes have been offered, and refused.)

Her first paid employment after studying history at Oxford was at a minor stately home called Milton Manor, near Abingdon, where she fed the llamas. After that she became an Inspector of Ancient Monuments at English Heritage, doing historical research at Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire: this led to her first book, 'Cavalier', about a dissolute Royalist duke. Her work as a curator at Kensington Palace led to 'Courtiers', and taking part in a BBC TV series on the history of houses resulted in her most recent book, 'If Walls Could Talk, An Intimate History of the Home'.

Do please visit www.lucyworsley.com for lots more information, and for Lucy's blog.

Product Description


'Fascinating history ... it is very useful to have these histories of different purposes brought together under one banner ... highly accessible.' -- The Herald >> 'Almost every page contains [a] diverting nugget. Worsley is like a larky tour guide, whirling us round the seedier corridors of the royal palaces ... it's all terrific fun.' -- Bee Wilson, Sunday Times >> 'Anecdotes, jokes and fascinating facts come thick and fast ... Worsley's eye for quirky detail is so compelling that you quickly find yourself gripped by the most unlikely subjects ... a very enjoyable beginner's guide to British domestic life.' -- Kathryn Hughes, Mail on Sunday >> 'This book has an excellent title.If Walls Could Talk hints at saucy intimacies and salacious secrets - and the reader (blushing, if male), isn't disappointed ... I was glued.' -- Clive Aslet, Country Life >> 'She is almost school-teacherly, but has a naughty twinkle in her eye and a talent for self-deprecating personal intervention that allows her book to wear its learning lightly ... engaging.' --Stella Tillyard, Daily Telegraph

'It all works. From the plethora of detail emerges Worsley's overarching point, which is that "every single object in your home has its own important story to tell".' -- Observer Paperback of the Week >> 'Fascinating intimate history.' --Daily Telegraph

Book Description

A fascinating look at how people really lived, loved and died over the centuries

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Home Truths. 31 Mar 2011
If Walls Could Talk is a hugely enjoyable book, as equally informed as funny. The author pulls back the curtains and leaves the bedroom door open with relish.

Lucy Worsley's history of the home reveals how much domesticity has changed - or in some cases stayed the same - over the past 500 years. The bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living room are used as stages for all manner of historical personages (Henry VIII, Pepys, Queen Victoria) to make their entrances and exits.

Sex, hygiene, science and tradition are also all put under the microscope. One can either read this book in great, delicious chunks or, such are its small chapters, If Walls Could Talk is, fittingly perhaps, an ideal loo book.

Am greatly looking forward to the forthcoming TV series - and I only hope the programmes contain half as much information and humour as this treasure trove of a book.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If walls could talk - 12 April 2011
"If Walls Could Talk" is the third book by Lucy Worsley that I have read and I was certainly not disappointed. Hugely enjoyable, it is a towering achievement by a great historian. Lucy has produced a work of staggering detail but it is so beautifully written that this reader had no difficulty coping. As in her previous books, one is dazzled by the depth of her research and knowledge of her subject, but drawn into the stories by her intimate style of writing. It is as if one is catching up on the latest gossip with an old friend. What separates Lucy from many other historians for me is the way she manages to balance gravitas with humour. This book had me laughing aloud - a first for a history book. The one problem with her books is that one does not want them to end and is left waiting (impatiently) for the next fix! The television series will go some way to helping. Dr Worsley is rapidly becoming THE historian of her generation. I cannot recommend this book and everything else she has written highly enough.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
By T.M.
I didn't want this book to end (indeed my one small criticism would be that we didn't get shown around the garden). The author's warm wit and encyclopaedic knowledge of her subject make this an original and enjoyable work of popular history.
The history of the home is married to that of the story of the nation, as the author uses the bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and living room as prisms by which we can also view broader topics (such as sex, female emancipation, scientific progresss and the lives of royalty and servants alike).
The publishers should also be congratulated for furnishing the book with such gorgeous colour plates.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If Walls Could Talk 25 April 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book is relevant to every single person as it looks at the intimate history of the home - focusing on the bedroom, bathroom, living room and kitchen. The book accompanies the television show of the same name, which is equally enjoyable; Lucy Worsley being as engaging as a presenter as she is as an author. I always enjoy her books and The Courtiers and Cavalier: A Tale of Chivalry, Passion, and Great Houses are also available on kindle.

There are so many fascinating facts in this book that it is impossible to list them. If you have any interest in why your house is the way it is and how the rooms in it developed, then this is a must read. The bathroom was the last to appear, but they have all evolved over time, especially in terms of privacy. There is also lots of great details about how our lives have changed along with our homes - we no longer expect to give birth or die at home, except in rare cases, for example - these events having been taken over by hospitals. Worsley discusses both the huge events of our lives and the small details. Highly enjoyable and, with short chapters, a book anyone can dip into and discover an interesting fact about the home and our history. Highly recommended, as are all her books. She's a wonderful author and this is popular history at its best.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun and Fascinating... 31 Mar 2011
By MCRoyal
A fun and fascinating look at the history of the home. Written in a gossipy, accessible style Lucy Worsley guides us through the rooms of a house and discusses a myriad of topics, encompassing fashion, food, sexual mores, royalty, domestic service and more.
There's a gem of a fact or insight to be found on every page. The book is particularly strong on the intimacies and inventions of the Tudor and Victorian Ages.
Should you enjoy the wit and wisdom of QI, or if you read and enjoyed Bill Bryson's history of the home (there's little duplication), you'll love this book too and view your own home in a new light.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book 2 May 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Thoroughly enjoyed this look at our social history, based around 4 rooms in our house. A lot of detail on some very personal but pertinant subjects that I've not seen elsewhere. Above all, it is intriguing that we seem to be returning to the medieval principle of open-plan living in our new 21st century homes! This book is a very easy read, not at all dry - I have been learning lots and highly recommend this!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intimate, informative and fun 29 Nov 2011
Lucy Worsley's book concentrates on the home's four principal rooms, namely, the bedroom, bathroom, living room and kitchen. Her history of these rooms spans about eight hundred years and is split into multiple mini-chapters of around five to ten pages. The topics covered vary enormously but are nearly always fascinating. As an example, the history of the bedroom includes accounts of the bed, being born, sickness, sex, what to wear in bed, sleeping with the king, a history of sleep, and even the historical dangers of being murdered in bed. The author's style is eminently readable and she always finds something interesting to say that throws light on and makes sense of the way our ancestors lived their lives. By writing short chapters Worsley also makes this an easy book to read in bite sized pieces, although actually the subject matter is sufficiently stimulating to tempt the reader into devouring large chunks at a time. Anyone who is interested in learning more about the history of the domestic home will find this both an informative and enjoyable read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Yet another great product from this super lady. If only it was on Dvd.
Published 3 days ago by Kaz
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating!
I really enjoy any TV programmes Lucy Worsley does - and this book was a delight! Volume 2 please! And more about life in Mediaeval and Tudor times!
Published 1 month ago by Susan
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
A really good read. full of information and very well presented. Quite funny as well. Lucy Worsley knows how to keep the reader's attention.
Published 1 month ago by Leslie
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
Never fearing to tackle the moreearthy side of life, this provides an insight into the everyday doings of our forebears as they went about their daily lives.
Published 2 months ago by Ms. Sharon Brown
5.0 out of 5 stars one of my favorite books
A must read for anyone interested in history! Full of facts but not in the least boring, it's a page turner!
Published 4 months ago by monik412
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting and informative book
A really interesting read on subjects you never really thought about from bygone years! If you are a lover of social history, it's a great read
Published 5 months ago by bhjk
4.0 out of 5 stars Good historical read.
A most interesting book although I would have preferred it if the author had not jumped around so much in the chronology. She certainly favours medieval history. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Marilyn-Chantal
5.0 out of 5 stars An accessible slice of popular history
If reading a simple description of Dr Worsley's "If Walls Could Talk: An intimate history of the home" makes you suspect it is a dry tome; please think again. Read more
Published 7 months ago by SEM
5.0 out of 5 stars Historical information
Some of my work involves historical facts so this is great information. I shall look out for more books like this
Published 7 months ago by Mary Clothier
4.0 out of 5 stars Lucy Worsley books
Lucy Worsley is an excellent historian and her talks and books are put in such a away that make these stories exciting.
Published 7 months ago by Ann Reavey
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