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review 2018-02-08 18:55
Inside the Victorian Home by Judith Flanders
Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England - Judith Flanders

This is an engaging and informative survey of daily and home life for the middle classes in Victorian England. It is organized by rooms of the house, but the author uses each room as a segue to discuss various aspects of Victorian life: the nursery leads us to childrearing and the education of girls; the scullery, to the lives and expectations of servants; the morning room, to the etiquette of paying calls. The author pulls from diaries, letters, memoirs, official records and even novels to paint a detailed portrait of life at the time: from the physical details of lighting and plumbing and the many, many household items, to family and social life and expectations.

It is a fascinating portrait, and left me glad not to live in Victorian England, for all kinds of reasons. Industrialization made London so dirty that merely walking outside could leave soot in your clothes and hair, while arsenic was included in dyes used in clothing and wallpaper. Constant housework was required of anyone without several servants: not only because of the dirt, not only because of the many household implements and fabrics that all required special and often time-consuming care, not only because a growing understanding of germ theory linked cleanliness strongly to morality and social worth, but because society piled even more expectations onto that in order to keep women busy. Doorsteps were supposed to be whitened every morning, for instance, though this did nothing for cleanliness. Meanwhile women wore close to 40 pounds of often voluminous clothing (today’s clothing weighs 2 pounds or less); between that and the housework and expectations of always serving others, some appear to have become invalids less because they were really sick and more to get a rest and have time to themselves. (With that in mind, it’s no surprise that Florence Nightengale, among the most productive women of the period, was an invalid.) The power structure, in which husbands ruled their wives and wives ruled their servants through the husband’s borrowed authority, was considered divinely ordained, and wives were expected to keep from their husbands all details of running the household, even so far as the news that their baby was sick.

But there’s a lot more than gloom to provide food for thought. The Victorians ate an enormous variety of meats, many of which have disappeared from modern menus. Waste was virtually unknown; household items were repurposed or sold to, for instance, visiting rag-and-bones men, until all that remained to be simply carted away was ashes from the fires. Mail was extraordinarily quick: when a husband in a Victorian novel sends his wife a note from the office telling her when to expect him for dinner, it’s actually going through the post. And while many aspects of Victorian life seemed to revolve around showing off one’s means in carefully prescribed ways – “living up to one’s income” was considered a moral virtue, rather than, say, being generous with it – some aspects were much less extravagant than today. Weddings were simple affairs, and more importance seems to have been attached to sending pieces of wedding cake to connections and paying them calls in one’s wedding attire than to the ceremony itself. Meanwhile, for all the talk about the drabness of mourning clothes, I wonder if this socially prescribed ritual of grief wasn’t healthier than today’s discomfort with the subject of death.

There is a lot in this book, and as the author admits, it’s an overview. It barely touches on the upper or lower classes, it primarily focuses on London, and the focus on home life means it discusses women’s lives much more than men’s. Some topics, like Victorian medicine, are breezed through very quickly, while others, such as sex, aren’t touched at all (though marriage and childbearing are). The organization into rooms is sometimes stretching it: the drawing room and parlor are apparently synonyms, but get separate chapters to discuss different aspects of social life. For that reason, it may make a frustrating reference book. But as an engaging historical work and a window into another time, I found it to be excellent.

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review 2017-09-20 09:47
A Cast of Vultures (Samantha Clair, #3)
A Cast of Vultures - Judith Flanders

Flanders delivers again - with the exception of one scene that asked too much suspension of disbelief, I had a great time with this book.

 

Helping a neighbour check on her missing friend, Sam is sucked into a well-intentioned case of B&E, but when that friend turns up dead in an arson-related house fire down the street, Sam can't resist wondering: how does a man who worked with at risk boys, dined with elderly neighbours, and helped squatters negotiate the law end up setting fires and selling drugs?

 

The mystery surrounding all of this is deliciously complex, and even though I correctly picked out the guilty party early, I had no earthly idea why that person was guilty (sometimes it's obvious by the story's construction - the dog that doesn't bark, so to speak), and finding out was fun and a little bit... if not surprising, interesting.  And a little bit sad.  

 

Most of all, I love the scenes that are played out in the publishing house Sam works for - the politics of the job, the editing process (the part that isn't all about the grammar), and the office interactions are all some of my favourite bits.  (Miranda is awesome.)

 

This is one of those cozy mysteries I can recommend without reservation; it's not the fluffy stuff being pumped out in droves; it's smart, funny, real, and highly relatable in just about all aspects (save that scene I mentioned at the beginning).  These are the ones I buy in hardcover - bring on #4!

 

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text 2017-03-12 20:16
Week 9 & 10 of 2017
The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime - Judith Flanders
Why I March: Images from the Woman's March Around the World - Abrams Books
The Slippery Slope (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #10) - Brett Helquist,Lemony Snicket,Michael Kupperman
The Grim Grotto (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #11) - Brett Helquist,Lemony Snicket,Michael Kupperman
The Penultimate Peril (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #12) - Brett Helquist,Lemony Snicket,Michael Kupperman
The End: Book the Thirteenth (A Series of Unfortunate Events) - Tim Curry,Lemony Snicket

 

And I'm back. My training has been completed, IT finally resolved my issue with logging into my profile on our system (it only took 2 1/2 weeks) so I can now do billing under my own user name, and we're back to 8 hour days, five days a week.

 

Books Read: 6

 

Why I March: I had to make a minor correction here. I previously had written that I had purchased this book from Amazon due to a review written by Grimlock ♥ Vision, but she pointed out in the comments that she hadn't read it yet, though she had written about it. So, I actually have Grimlock ♥ Vision to thank and Stacy Alesi, thank you so much both of you.There are so many powerful images packed into this book: men, women, children, the young, the old all marching for a cause. The royalties go to several nonprofit organizations. 5 stars

 

The Invention of Murder: This is one of my favorite non-fiction books. Judith Flanders walks the reader through some of the more well-known Victorian murders and the public's reaction to them; how people profited from them, how public opinion played a large role in the outcome of the trials, and the influence these murders had in the writings of some well-known authors including Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Wilkie Collins. 5 stars

 

The Slippery Slope, The Grim Grotto, The Penultimate Peril, The End: And this wrap-ups of A Series of Unfortunate Events. The series itself is, as it's name suggests, rather dark, but book eight, The Slippery Slope, is where it pulls out all the stops. 4 1/2 stars.

 

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review 2016-10-30 06:38
Book Review: The Invention of Murder
The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime - Judith Flanders

Book: The Invention of Murder

 

Author: Judith Flanders

 

Genre: Nonfiction/Mystery/History of Murder/Victorian England

 

Summary: Murder in the nineteenth century was rare. But murder as sensation and entertainment became ubiquitous, with cold-blooded killings transformed into novels, broadsides, ballads, opera, and melodrama - even into puppet shows and performing dog acts. Detective fiction and the new police force developed in parallel, each imitating the other - the founders of Scotland Yard gave rise to Dickens’s Inspector Bucket, the first fictional police detective, who in turn influenced Sherlock Holmes and, ultimately, even P.D. James and Patricia Cornwell. In this meticulously researched and engrossing book, Judith Flanders retells the gruesome stories of many different types of murder, both famous and obscure: from Greenacre, who transported his dismembered fiancee around town by omnibus, to Burke and Hare’s body-snatching business in Edinburgh; from the crimes (and myths) of Sweeney Todd and Jack the Ripper, to the tragedy of the murdered Marr family in London’s East End. Through these stories of murder - from the brutal to the pathetic - Flanders builds a rich and multifaceted portrait of Victorian society. With an irresistible cast of swindlers, forgers, and poisoners, the mad, the bad, and the utterly dangerous, The Invention of Murder is both a mesmerizing tale of crime and punishment, and history at its most readable. - St. Martin’s Press

 

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review 2016-10-30 05:41
Book Review: The Invention of Murder
The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime - Judith Flanders

Book: The Invention of Murder

 

Author: Judith Flanders

 

Genre: Nonfiction/Mystery/History of Murder/Victorian England

 

Summary: Murder in the nineteenth century was rare. But murder as sensation and entertainment became ubiquitous, with cold-blooded killings transformed into novels, broadsides, ballads, opera, and melodrama - even into puppet shows and performing dog acts. Detective fiction and the new police force developed in parallel, each imitating the other - the founders of Scotland Yard gave rise to Dickens’s Inspector Bucket, the first fictional police detective, who in turn influenced Sherlock Holmes and, ultimately, even P.D. James and Patricia Cornwell. In this meticulously researched and engrossing book, Judith Flanders retells the gruesome stories of many different types of murder, both famous and obscure: from Greenacre, who transported his dismembered fiancee around town by omnibus, to Burke and Hare’s body-snatching business in Edinburgh; from the crimes (and myths) of Sweeney Todd and Jack the Ripper, to the tragedy of the murdered Marr family in London’s East End. Through these stories of murder - from the brutal to the pathetic - Flanders builds a rich and multifaceted portrait of Victorian society. With an irresistible cast of swindlers, forgers, and poisoners, the mad, the bad, and the utterly dangerous, The Invention of Murder is both a mesmerizing tale of crime and punishment, and history at its most readable. - St. Martin’s Press

 

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