Saturday, August 11, 2012

This Week's Book: If Walls Could Talk

Feels good to finally be caught up. This was a fun one, not that any here aren't.

August 5-11: If Walls Could Talk by Lucy Worsley

History (2011 - 325 pp.) 

If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home is a history book that reads like a pop history book, which makes it great for a quick read but a nuisance for citation. I enjoyed it thoroughly and would recommend it for anyone who wants to learn quirky tidbits that fit into a larger story. It's written by the chief curator of the Historical Royal Palaces. She augments much of the work through her own experiences, whether through cleaning medieval toilets or making Georgian wallpaper from scratch. I like the approach - it's something different, and specifically something that can be applied to a book like this. 

The style and format of the book are very much appreciated. The breakdown of the book into four parts (bedroom, bathroom, living room, kitchen), and then each of those parts into small sections (usually under ten pages each), allows the reader to consider individual aspects of the home in their own miniature contexts. It also allows for putting the book down without having to trudge through the latter half of a forty-page chapter, something I've done far too many times in my history-reading young life so far. The trivia aspect of each section also keeps the content fresh, with no individual topic taking up too much of the book. Lucy Worsley must have had a lot of fun writing the manuscript. 

Anything else I could reasonably say would be a spoiler. Enjoy the various histories of closets, serial murders, toilets, dinner parties, makeup and mistress/servant relations throughout. Many are enlightening, others are hilarious, still others are surprising, and some are simply dark. Aside from the occasional bit that doesn't get fleshed out nearly enough, like the brief mention of Jamie Oliver's impact on cooking without any reason given as to why, I liked it. A little too casually written for the specialist but probably just fine for the specialist who's taking a break. Think of it like an economist's general interest book that way. 

Ease of Reading: 5 
Educational Content: 9

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