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62 of 63 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good background reading for Victorian novels
This is a wonderful work of popular social history about the lives of Victorians. But, rather than the upper classes or the ruling elite, or the working classes, we are taken into the homes of the middle classes. Yes, this is costume drama territory. Flanders introduces us to the archetypal middle class house -- perhaps a prosperous five-storey villa in the city, or a...
Published on 21 Mar. 2005 by SAP

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cross between and 'interesting' read and a 'study' volumn
As an 'oldie' found the print both too small and indistinct. I bought it to satisfy an 'interest' and ot as a study subject and for me it was, coupled with the reading difficulty, a little deep. Nevertheless I found it satisfying.
Published on 5 Jan. 2013 by V. G. N.


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62 of 63 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good background reading for Victorian novels, 21 Mar. 2005
By 
SAP "Steba" - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Victorian House: Domestic Life from Childbirth to Deathbed (Paperback)
This is a wonderful work of popular social history about the lives of Victorians. But, rather than the upper classes or the ruling elite, or the working classes, we are taken into the homes of the middle classes. Yes, this is costume drama territory. Flanders introduces us to the archetypal middle class house -- perhaps a prosperous five-storey villa in the city, or a humble terrace -- and she takes the reader on a guided tour of all the rooms in turn. We are told how the room was used by the household: what occurred there and when, how and why. How it was furnished, how often it was used etc. Then, far more interestingly Flanders digresses into wider related social aspects in each chapter. For example the chapter on the 'sickroom' -- usually a bedroom emptied of all furnishings to nurse a sick family member back to health -- becomes a discussion about Victorian healthcare, medicine, funerals, and mourning etiquette. (The Victorians had an unhealthy preoccupation with illness and a tendency towards hypochondria.)

Flanders makes wonderful use of primary sources such as memoirs, diaries, letters and journals to illustrate the points she is making and to give specific examples to bring situations and ideas to life (very evocative, quaint language). She also regularly cites contemporary novelists such as Dickens and Bronte (to name but two) that allows us an insight into the mind of a Victorian reader through their characters, whose situations, circumstances and opinions reveal an awful lot about prevailing thought of the period. Various 'pamphleteers' and authors of household management books (especially Mrs Beeton) also feature heavily, though usually to be derided by the author and the reader for their hopeless pomposity and self-righteous bluster.

Having read this, it's very difficult to admire or to respect Victorians very much as far as their private lives were concerned, and Flanders seems to concur with this and makes no attempt to disguise her contempt: generally (there are exceptions) they were pompous, self-righteous, patronising, snobbish and arrogant beyond belief, not to mention cruel to their servants. It is difficult or impossible to sympathise with any of the Victorians whose writings feature in this book. However this does allow for Flanders' pithy and acerbic notes at the bottom on the pages to add a little humour too. This is somewhat unusual for a history book and the author's style certainly ain't Adam Hart-Davis' gushing What The Victorians Did For Us. I'm just aching to read a Dickens now, or to watch a period drama. This really is a fascinating and entertaining read and written in an accessible prose and with some nice illustrations.

Just a few quibbles now. One thing I would add is that it seems to concentrate more on the lives of women and rather brushes over men a little. But this is to be expected in an exploration of the household. And Flanders does seem to repeat herself too often for my liking; there's repeating things for emphasis and then there's just repeating things. Lastly, it's also rather 'Londoncentric'. Now I don't mind this, thinking as I do that London is magnificent, but I'm aware that certain people object to this. But these are just trifling criticisms that don't detract from a real achievement. A splendid book.
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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I couldn't put this book down, 19 Sept. 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: The Victorian House: Domestic Life from Childbirth to Deathbed (Paperback)
I loved this book. I wouldn't normally read a non-fiction book from cover to cover, but I found this one addictive. It is quite specific in the ground it covers, centering very much on the domestic life of middle class women. The reference material is mainly contemporary fiction and advice books, which do perhaps give more of an indication of what people aspired to, rather than how they actually lived. However, the author does not pretend otherwise. We may not all follow the advice of TV programmes such as "How Clean is your house", but the fact that they are so popular does tell us something about our society. This book doesn't view the Victorians through rose tinted glasses, but why should it? If you want to know why your house has a front room, or how long you should wear black to mourn the death of your second cousin twice removed or are just feeling sorry for yourself because you have a big pile of ironing, then this is the book for you.
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars buy it for your friends, 1 April 2006
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This review is from: The Victorian House: Domestic Life from Childbirth to Deathbed (Paperback)
I got my copy from the library, started to dip into it and five minutes later had ordered a copy from Amazon for my mother. It's absolutely fascinating. Not only brilliantly researched but wonderfully well-written. You may think you know the Victorians, but did you know for example that at a child's funeral everybody wore white? That the coffin was white, and the pallbearers children? What an amazing opening that would make for a film. Any idea how long Mrs Beeton would cook a large carrot for? Twenty minutes? Thirty? Not even close; two and a quarter hours is the answer.
A wonderful piece of social history, that can be dipped into at any time. Everyone I've shown a copy to, has wanted one for themselves.
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53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Astonishing Depth, 4 Nov. 2003
By 
David Wineberg "David Wineberg" (New York, NY USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
Although the fifty page intro was a bit sluggish, it fortunately did not represent the rest of the book. Flanders devotes a chapter to each room in the stereotypical Victorian house, plus one for The Street. Her research gives new meaning to the word "depth". She has mined non fiction, letters, fiction, and just about anything that could possibly add insight to life in that very rigid time. The result is a wealth of analysis, as well as wonderful trivia (People did not want newfangled toilets in their bathrooms because bathrooms were clean rooms!). From the weight of women's clothing (37 pounds) and the number of times they had to change clothes daily (6), to the ways households detected adulteration in their food (and there was good reason to), and the number of mail deliveries per day (10-12, and the postman always rapped twice), The Victorian House is a treasure trove of fascinating information. Unsurprisingly, since they spent so very much of their time at home, the book's real impact is in the trials and tribulations of women - children, mothers, servants - and how the Victorian house shaped and ruled them. It is sad, frightening, and crazy, all at once.
The three sections of colour plates add visual evidence to Flanders' text, and the whole thing is a remarkably focused trip through this world.
I have no reservations about recommending this book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive description of middle class Victorians, 21 Nov. 2008
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This review is from: The Victorian House: Domestic Life from Childbirth to Deathbed (Paperback)
Absolutely outstanding and gorgeously readable from first page to last. If you want to learn about everyday life, especially for the middle classes, in the Victorian period, this is the definitive book to read. It is less detailed on the working class experience (except in relation to domestic servants, whose arduous work is described so well I ached for them), but that is because the focus of the book is the middle class Victorian house. Great scholarship, rewarding experience.

This review is by David Williams writerinthenorth
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting, eye-opening!, 2 Jan. 2008
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I love reading about domestic life and this book hit the spot perfectly! I keep re-reading it and always find something new I've missed before because there is so much information.

The book divided into sections corresponding to each room of a Victorian house but it goes beyond that, to explain the way Victorians lived in and related to that particular room in the house. In this way, the book presents an intriguing insight into the Victorian worldview and how it compares to ours. It is often amazing to see how different they are and explains a lot of the Victorians' preferences and actions.

Oh, and if you thought that middle-class life in the 19th century English towns was somehow romantic, this book will set you straight. You will have no illusions regarding the work women had to do, either. It's one of these books that changes your perceptions completely.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars unputdownable!, 14 Nov. 2007
By 
Mrs. K. A. Wheatley "katywheatley" (Leicester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Victorian House: Domestic Life from Childbirth to Deathbed (Paperback)
What a great book! I love the way the chapters are divided into the different rooms in a Victorian house. Each one deals with not only the items you would expect to find within the room, but the kinds of lives lived there and the effect of such domestication on the external world. She roams as far afield as the development of department stores, the boom in food colourings, the effects of furnishings on disease etc. It also talks about the way that current markets have been shaped by the growth of marketing in Victorian times. Here are the origins of mass consumerism and a competitive business culture that we live with today. It is full of human interest and those snippets of history that make the Victorians such eccentric, memorable and fascinating people.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent, 15 Aug. 2008
By 
Rinconete (Córdoba, Spain) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Victorian House: Domestic Life from Childbirth to Deathbed (Paperback)
Excellent account of what life was like for upper-middle-class people in the Victorian era. Very entertaining and thoroughly researched. It does not certainly deserve any 1 or 3 star ratings. I've just finished reading it and have already ordered "Consuming Passions" by the same author.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating study., 11 July 2010
By 
M. P. OKeefe "martinphilipokeefe" (London, England.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Victorian House: Domestic Life from Childbirth to Deathbed (Paperback)
This is a fantastic book, very easy to read despite it's slightly intimidating doorstep size. It explodes a lot of the myths of what we think we know about the Victorians and it is full of interesting snippets that you'd be unlikely to find anywhere else, like mice were considered more of a nuisance in the kitchen than the slightly more tolerated rats.

It raises quite a few questions that you'd like answered but I guess that's only inevitable in such an all encompassing book. Great bibliography and footnotes too so it'd be ideal for students.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and entertaining, 19 Jun. 2005
This review is from: The Victorian House: Domestic Life from Childbirth to Deathbed (Paperback)
I really enjoyed this book, most informative and entertaining is the room-by-room description of the lives of the middle- and upper-middle classes. Her own fascinations also provide interesting tangents.
As the author says herself, this is about the middle classes so don't expect a consideration of working class lives (other authors such as George Gissing provide this very different perspective).
A enjoyable and informative starter to pursue more focused topics as outlined in the excellent brief biographies and bibliography.
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The Victorian House: Domestic Life from Childbirth to Deathbed
The Victorian House: Domestic Life from Childbirth to Deathbed by Judith Flanders (Paperback - 2 Aug. 2004)
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