Friday, February 28, 2014

Book Review: If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home

For the last three years, I've set a variety of concrete goals around the turn of the calendar. Some of them are about personal growth, some are career-minded, but a lot of them are just reminders to do things I love.

One of main ones in that category is the aim to read at least 26 books a year, or one every two weeks. This year, I specialized and denoted at least a half a dozen of those should be non-fiction. I kicked that off with one of my favorite British historians: 


Lucy Worlsey is the head curator for the Royal Palaces and writes extensively about life, love, and all the dirty bits of royalty and the palaces they inhabited. She has hosted a variety of television specials that bring the times and ways of England's past to life and is incredibly enjoyable and relatable throughout. Unsurprisingly, her book 'If Walls Could Talk' (which has a t.v. companion series) was my favorite book of the year so far.

"If Walls Could Talk' explores the evaluation of the four main rooms of the house: bedroom, bathroom, living room, and kitchen. Beginning at a time when all four co-existed in one space through the eventual prosperity of the late 20th century, Worsley informatively and - most importantly - amusingly explores what these four rooms were used for, looked like, and meant for people across the social and economic spectrum. From the medieval cottages of manor fiefs to Henry VIII, the reader experiences the sights, sounds, and often the smells for better or worse of over 700 years of history. While this book is an image of British/English domestic bliss, it is enhanced by references to life on the continent and in America. Influence came and went from all over, and it is intriguing to imagine how much life on one side of the Atlantic could differ - or be like - from the life on the other.

Broken down into four room-themed sections filled with easy to get into short chapters, 'If Walls Could Talk' stands out as one of those books I will go back to again and again, after spreading it amongst my friends. Lucy Worsley recreates worlds and people that contributed to our own modern time and deftly shows us how much we have in common with our ancestors through the centuries.

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