Judith Flanders,
Inside the Victorian Home:
A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England

(W.W. Norton & Co., 2005)

Judith Flanders' Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England provides a solid background to Victorian novels, including much steampunk, as well as the actual ones written then.

In many ways -- sometimes scarily so -- we share values with our Victorian ancestors. In other ways, it's a very foreign country for us.

The structure of this book is excellent for those of us who wonder more generally, what was it like back then? I can see it's less helpful for people doing specific research.

Still, as a reader, I think it worked very well. The set-up is browsing through the rooms in a middle-class Victorian house, what was done in them and why. This gives a coherent structure to the book -- especially since it also moves from birth to death -- and relates the architecture to the mores of the time and the lives people led. I found this fascinating.

Also -- the past is a foreign country. There are ways we're in sync; there are ways they are bafflingly foreign to us. I like knowing that! (A failure to appreciate such is why some moderns dislike Pride & Prejudice, because they say they would never act in such a manner! And yet, in my opinion, it's one of the great stories. Still, one needs context.)

This book is all about the context. And the structure makes it a really engaging read.

Highly recommended, especially for people who like historical fiction, whether actual or alternate (like steampunk).

book review by
Amanda Fisher

29 March 2014

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