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4.2 out of 5 stars
Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England
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70 of 72 people found the following review helpful
I am a great fan of Amanda Vickery's books. And I think that they should be required reading for anyone interested in the social history of the Georgian era.

Her previous work, "The Gentleman's Daughter" was a wonderfully detailed exploration of the intimate lives of women in the 18th century and helped many of us to a greater understanding of Jane Austen's female character's lives, setting them in a recognisable historical context .Her new book "Behind Closed Doors : at home in Georgian England" once again takes the domestic realm as it subject but details it on a much wider scale.

She does not concentrate on one class of people but considers, in minute detail, the intimate lives of landladies and lodgers, tradesmen and women, professionals and aristocrats living in both London and in the provinces.

Its scale is breathtaking and the detail, delicious. And what I really adore is that she admits the historical truth of Jane Austen's writings by including copious quotes from the six novels to illustrate her points. Indeed, she devotes almost half a chapter of the book to consider the way in which the subject of the home is treated by Austen's heroines and heroes, even going so far as to paraphrase the famous opening sentence of Pride and Prejudice.

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Georgian house with a drawing room,French windows and lawns must be in want of a mistress..."

It was an irresistible and understandable opportunity ....I daresay had I been given the chance to play with that famous line, I would not have let it pass either...

While reading Professor Vickery's descriptions of the lives and experiences of real individuals the Jane Austen devotee will find many parallels with the situations in which her characters find themselves.

The book is beautifully produced , printed on fine glossy paper and illustrated in black and white and colour with very appropriate and carefully chosen illustrations.

I confess I have devoured this book and read it quickly almost at one sittting.I am going to revisit it over the next few weeks savouring its detail. I highly recommend this book to you: anyone who is keen on Jane Austen's works will enjoy delving into the minutiae of real people's lives - especially as many of the lives have telling details which echo in Austen's works.

Is it too much to hope that this book will soon appear in a Kindle edition?
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 29 December 2009
An Englishman's home, as the saying goes, may be his castle, but three hundred years ago it was becoming so much more. In the 18th century, the English home served as a place in which its inhabitants sought to define themselves through the use of décor. As more people socialized in their homes, their living spaces became venues in which their identity could be displayed for others to see for themselves. The emergence and development of this trend is the subject of Amanda Vickery's book, which analyzes the lives of the men and women of Georgian England by examining the homes in which they lived.

In studying Georgian homes, Vickery uses a number of different perspectives. Among her goals is the reintroduction of men into the picture, which she does most notably in her chapter on the homes of bachelors. Yet as she demonstrates, the furnishing and decoration of homes was predominantly a female concern, albeit one often handled in consultation with the men of the household. Such decisions were often mundane, and focused more on simple maintenance rather than grand refurbishment, but all of them reflected the interests of the participants and were shaped by the concept of "taste" that emerged during this period, which charted a path that increasing numbers were compelled to take.

Detailed, insightful, and well-written, Vickery's book offers a fascinating examination of life in Georgian England. Because of the limitations of her sources, it is by necessity an examination focused primarily on the upper classes, yet she succeeds in taking account books, ledgers, and other mundane sources to reconstruct their lives, showing the growing importance of home life and the weight contemporaries placed on defining their domestic environment. Her success in unearthing these details and bringing the Georgian world back to life makes this book a necessary read for anyone interested in 18th century England, one that will likely serve as an indispensable study of the subject for decades to come.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 22 December 2010
A carefully researched and vigourously presented study of Georgian homelife as interpreted through building, decor, fashion and customs. The study of domestic accounts and of personal correspondence is particularly good, and the contemporary illustrations relate well to the text. The emphasis on the relative roles of men and women in domestic and financial arrangements provides fascinating insight into what many have considered to be a male-dominated society.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 8 October 2010
`Behind Closed Doors' is an astonishing achievement. To say I enjoyed it is an understatement, really - the effect of the book was truly thrilling, in a way you don't expect when you take an academic book off a library shelf.

The writing in the main body of the text let the reader experience an incredibly direct engagement with eighteenth century lives, but at the same time this experience was contextualised by the controlling argument on the book - and all this underpinned by the terrifying range of sources listed in the notes. This is an amazing book. Just order it.
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31 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on 14 June 2010
This is an obviously well researched book, with Vickery pulling from many different sources. However, with many repetitions of statements already made (often in the same chapter), it seems the book could have been almost half its size. The chapters themselves also seem to deal with very much the same subject in households, namely, the difference and relationship between men and women. Fair enough, but not as varied as the description of the book would have you believe.
There are also statements of the blindingly obvious, such as- when someone wipes faeces on your front door, it is a statement of their personal dislike of you....Wow. You don't say. Another gem was 'kitchens represented not just a special room for the business of cooking, but also a space for storing the expanding battery of equipment employed for processing food and drink.' Right-not the most informative of sentences, but admittedly true- still, not really restricted to the 18th and 19th century's.
I personally think the author made more of an effort to sound intellectual rather than impart actual knowledge deserving of a book of this size. I learnt, but not as much as I hoped to, and the book was therefore a bit of a struggle to read- waiting for the repetition and obvious statements to end, and for the learning to begin.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 17 May 2014
Apologies for this review not being more substantial, however this book provides great insight into the topic and makes wallpaper far more interesting than it should be.
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18 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on 13 January 2011
This is a book of two halves. When Vickery is analysing account books and diaries it is quite interesting though she does sometimes state the 'bleedin obvious'. But when she starts theorising - oh my Gawd, get your dictionary of academese out!

Be prepared for sentences like 'the mystery surrounding the faculty of taste lent it versatility, and it's adjectival usefulness to retailers...hastened the spread beyond the patrician elite'

Or 'nevertheless the myth that classicism was strictly masculine and diversions feminine settled into a formula that shaped the grammar of design'

Oh, and your home, or lack of it, materialises your place in the social heirarchy!

You get my drift? She's one of these writers that thinks you have to use long convoluted sentences to prove how clever you are. She also uses terms like 'mise en scene' or 'faute de mieux' instead of perfectly good English expressions.

There is some merit in this book but I can't really recommend it. I was going to buy her book about Gentleman's Daughters but after reading this I don't think I will.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 27 July 2014
Found this book very disappointing. Slightly patronising writing style, more in keeping with a series of academic essays than a novel ("this chapter will discuss..."). Also found it rather heavy to read and was relieved to get to the end. Having said that there were some interesting parts and a wealth of detail to help you visualise the era.
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on 4 September 2015
Very interesting and a pleasure to read.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 25 December 2011
This is a scholarly but very accessible book - full of interesting information and useful for the researcher and for the general reader.
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