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IF WALLS COULD TALK by Lucy Worsley Kirkus Star


An Intimate History of the Home

by Lucy Worsley

Pub Date: March 1st, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-8027-7995-3
Publisher: Walker

This masterful social history illustrates the lessons you could never have learned in school, and with a great deal more entertainment.

With inspired precision, historian Worsley (The Courtiers: Splendor and Intrigue in the Georgian Court at Kensington Palace, 2010) entertainingly traces the expansion of the rooms of the house from medieval times to the present. As chief curator at Historic Royal Palaces, the author has opportunities not only to research upper-class habits through the centuries, but also to be able to physically experience the arduous lives of the lower-class men and women who served them. One of the great strengths of her book is the exposure of all levels of society throughout the history of England, with delightful notations of daily life most readers would not ponder: the food they ate, the way they cooked it, the privacy they lacked, the diseases they endured, etc. Just the fact that bathing was out of favor from 1500 to 1750 will make many readers appreciate living in modern times. Many of today’s common necessities, such as the toilet, the dishwasher and the kitchen extractor fan, changed daily life in unimaginable ways. Even so, in 1960 only 60 percent of London homes had a refrigerator. The availability of an army of servants to manage a home faded as the opportunities for education and betterment lured the staff away from the scullery and the pantry. This lighthearted approach to the most intimate moments of our lives informs, amuses and titillates. Who could not be enthralled by the history of toilet paper?

Anyone who lives in a home with a kitchen, living room, bathroom and bedroom will delight in reading this history of the development of home life.