Saturday, January 3, 2015

How to Be a Victorian: A Dawn to Dusk Guide to Victorian Life by Ruth Goodman ~~ Book Review

Did you get some great books for Christmas? I did! My husband, Jamie, gifted me with two Dickens' and this one, How to Be a Victorian: A Dawn to Dusk Guide to Victorian Life. I've just finished reading it and really loved it! I can't wait to find more by author, Ruth Goodman.

Book Description: A delightful tour through the intimate details of life in Victorian England, told by a historian who has cheerfully endured them all.Ruth Goodman believes in getting her hands dirty. Drawing on her own adventures living in re-created Victorian conditions, Goodman serves as our bustling and fanciful guide to nineteenth-century life. Proceeding from daybreak to bedtime, this charming, illustrative work celebrates the ordinary lives of the most perennially fascinating era of British history. From waking up to the rapping of a “knocker-upper man” on the window pane to lacing into a corset after a round of calisthenics, from slipping opium to the little ones to finally retiring to the bedroom for the ideal combination of “love, consideration, control and pleasure,” the weird, wonderful, and somewhat gruesome intricacies of Victorian life are vividly rendered here. How to Be a Victorian is an enchanting manual for the insatiably curious. 

I love the idea of a "waking 'til sleeping" look at Victorian life in England. There were so many interesting tidbits and insights into how our world just wouldn't be what it is if it weren't for the enterprising Victorians. The book is lively and very readable and I found myself only skipping over a few pages about men's sports and later, a small bit about abortion.

I love how the author has so much personal experience with living the Victorian life. It sounds like she's had some very interesting employment. Some of my favorite parts include:
  • Interesting findings on her washing experiment (pages 15-16)
  • The way plaid shirts came to symbolize the manual laborer.
  • That tiny waists were fashionable for men of the time and that they, like women, wore corsets to achieve the look!
  • Her hair care regimen on page 143---I might try it!
I also found the many cases of history repeating itself to be strangely satisfying. For instance, the English Victorians also struggled with schools focusing on standardized curriculum, rather than the individual needs of the student. Also, with all the talk about the rise of obesity---especially with the way the British like to get on us Americans about it---I found it rather ironic that only 2 out of 9 volunteers were considered physically fit enough to fight in the Boer War.

This is my first book finished of 2015 and will be included in my goals toward these challenges: 
Full House Challenge: "Author Outside Your Own Country"
New to You Challenge: New Author
For more information on the challenges I've joined this year, see my post, Reading Challenges.

How about you? Have you finished a book yet this year? I'd love to hear about it!


  1. Your book sounds very interesting. I am reading Emma, Mr. Knightly and Chili-Slaw Dogs by Mary Jane Hathaway.

  2. Have you seen the BBC programmes that Ruth Goodman has made such as Victorian Farm, Tudor Farm etc.. - if not, they are so worth watching. Each of these programmes also contain a book.

  3. I am so intrigued by this book that I went straight to Amazon and ordered it! With the new season of Downton Abbey I am more and more convinced that I should have been born in that era!