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Pauline's Fantasy Reviews

Reviews of fantasy books, plus some mystery, sci-fi and literary works, and my random thoughts on book-related matters.

Currently reading

Dragon Queen (The Memory of Flames, #5)
Stephen Deas
The Splintered Eye (The War of Memory Cycle #2)
H. Anthe Davis, Erica Dakin

If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home

If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home - Lucy Worsley This is a fairly lightweight and easy to read discussion of the history of the four main rooms of the house: living room, bedroom, bathroom and kitchen. Starting with the medieval manor house with its single large room, the author describes the origins of each separate room, how they were used in the centuries since and what that says about the society of the time. This could have been very dull and dry, but actually it's a lively read, filled with anecdotes and stories of the people of the time, gleaned from contemporary writings. Occasionally the author resorts to the more speculative 'could have been', and if I have my suspicions that some of this is perpetuating popular myths, it's none the less entertaining, for all that.

For anyone interested in the medieval period, there's a lot of material here that doesn't usually find its way into history books. Most interesting to me are the fixed beliefs that people of earlier centuries held which affected not just their lifestyles but also their health and (ultimately) their life expectancy. And yet there was a curious logic to it. Not eating raw fruit and vegetables? Dangerous in the age before clean piped water. And almost anything might be feared without the knowledge of how diseases could be spread. Even today, when we have more scientists at work than ever before, there's still mystique surrounding what we should eat and drink, and how best to live our lives.

Anyone looking for the raw research data won't find it here, although there's a detailed bibliography. It's also got a very English feel to it. The rest of the UK gets an occasional mention, the rest of the world or recorded history before medieval times, hardly a word. This is a gentle overview of the subject, not inaccurate but sugar-coated and pre-formed for easy digestibility. It's also short; fully a third of the book on my Kindle is taken up with the bibliography, index and a whole series of pictures which should more properly have been in the body of the text, but presumably wouldn't fit. But as light background reading, it's useful enough and quite enjoyable. Three stars.