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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 21 November 2008
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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on 17 May 2017
Fascinating read, recommended for anyone with an interest in this period.
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on 8 March 2017
Great x
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on 15 August 2015
Excellent. So many facts. Very well researched. Can't fault it.
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on 1 April 2006
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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on 24 January 2013
I thought this book was fascinating on so many levels. The author wrote in an accessible and engaging style, the scholarship was worn lightly, and I loved the footnotes.

The attitudes of the Victorians towards women and cleanliness were intriguing and frightening in equal measure - I'm glad I was born in 1969 and not 1869! It's also interesting to see how many of them hang over into the present time.

I only have a couple of criticisms - the book was very London-centric, and middle class biased - although that is perhaps inevitable given the use of documentary sources.
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on 2 January 2008
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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on 11 July 2010
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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on 21 March 2005
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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on 23 March 2017
Full of fascinating stuff
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