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Austen to Zafón

Reading widely since 1972.

Currently reading

A London Family, 1870-1900: A Trilogy
Molly Hughes
The Cellist of Sarajevo
Steven Galloway
Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher
Lewis Thomas
All the Names
José Saramago, Margaret Jull Costa
A History of the World in 100 Objects
Neil MacGregor
Down the Garden Path
Beverley Nichols
Virtue Betray'd, Or, Anna Bullen
John Banks
Year of Wonders
Geraldine Brooks
Swallows and Amazons
Arthur Ransome
Illusion in java
Gene Fowler
Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England - Judith Flanders What a great read! I was a little worried when i picked it up at the library and it was huge. It looked menacingly like a textbook and I thought, "Oh no, it's going to be dry and have piles of footnotes, or worse, endnotes." But it turned out to be an fascinating page-turner. Even the footnotes were engaging. And the author makes good use of advertisements, paintings, and quotes from contemporary novels, diaries & letters to support her claims. The book covers the lives of women (and to some extent, children) during the Victorian era and it made me absolutely, positively glad I wasn't living then. Going from room to room in a typical upper or middle class house, we see what the servants do in the basement, the horrendous ways children are raised in the nursery, and how women coped in the parlor, the dining room, and the bedroom. The constant filth (which is why anything that would hold still had some sort of doily or drop-cloth on it), the mind-numbing boredom and constraint of rich women (few options besides paying calls that couldn't be more than 15 minutes each and doing fussy little handwork), and the exhaustion and constant illness of poor women made me thankful to live in a culture where, yes, I can embroider, but I can also surf if I want. In shorts! And best of all, no one thinks knowledge is bad for my health. It's cliche I know, but it is a good reminder that indeed, we have come a long way, baby. Did you know it was common to believe that most women's illnesses were caused by the simple fact of being female? One doctor recommended a hysterectomy for cataracts! Girls were fed low-protein diets to minimize the effects of female puberty. And there were many even weirder ideas about babies. Reading this book was a little like a tragedy you can't look away from. I think I might buy it.