Thursday, August 11, 2011

Book Review: If Walls Could Talk by Lucy Worsley

Curator, historian and author Lucy Worsley knows how to make history accessible, interesting and entertaining. In her latest book If Walls Could Talk, An Intimate History of the Home, she takes us on an intimate journey through the bedroom, bathroom, living room and kitchen. It sounds like it might be a dull topic for a book, when in fact "every single object in your home has its own important story to tell". Lucy's saucy writing style makes the most mundane historical fact seem fresh and original. Divided into four parts covering the four main rooms of the house, the chapter titles include such teasing titles as: A History of the Bed, Sex, The Whole World is a Toilet, A History of Clutter, The Wretched Washing Up, Speaking to the Servants.... Lucy knows how to turn a phrase and the book almost seems like an intimate conversation between friends. And although the book lacks footnotes, it has an extensive bibliography for history buffs that want to find out more.

Of course, one of my favourite chapters was on the history of knickers. Although I am well versed in this topic, Lucy is not shy in telling it like it was..... "A huge hooped skirt meant that drawers were impractical if you needed to use the toilet without completely undressing. So ladies went commando, and squatted over a chamber pot when required. This meant that toilets were everywhere and nowhere. The bedchamber, an ante-room, even the street: all were potential places to go." (page 43)

Engaging, delightful and fun are words to describe Lucy's book and they are also words that describe her as a person. My interview with Lucy for her last book  The Courtiers: Splendor and Intrigue in the Georgian Court at Kensington Palace continues to be one of my most popular posts and no doubt reflects the enormous popularity of her show for the BBC.

Title: If Walls Could Talk, An Intimate History of the Home
Author: Lucy Worsley
Publisher: Bloomsbury House 2011
Category: Non-fiction
Number of Pages: 331

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