Monday, October 31, 2016

Review of "Unmentionable" by Therese Oneill

This is not a history book. This is not an etiquette book. This is a well-researched (and humorous) time-travel book. Only, it’s not a fantasy. Oneill takes you back to the Victorian era and tries to put you into the shoes (and crotchless pantaloons) of an upper-class lady.  Why? Because you’ve wondered.

I know you’ve wondered. At least, I assume you have because *I’ve* always wondered: how did Scarlet O’Hara pee while wearing that dress?  How did Countess Ellen Olenska keep her skirts clean when New York’s streets were basically strips of mud? Perhaps Oneill and I are kindred spirits because she answers those questions that I never knew I needed answered. She acts as a wry tour-guide/teacher who dispels myths about what life was like for the upper and upper-middle classes of women in the Victorian era by quoting primary sources.

And thank heavens for her humor. The “medical” advice given in the past was truly horrifying. In defense of the Victorians, science was in its infancy, but much of what “doctors” told Victorian women to do was contradictory and dangerous. Oneill softens the horror of life 120 years ago with humor and wit.

If you are a Vic Lit fan and on my Christmas list, there is a good chance you’re getting a copy of Unmentionable from me. Fair warning.

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