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How To Be A Victorian by Ruth Goodman

I had previously read a book that explained aspects of life in Austen's and Dickens' England and enjoyed it because--English period drama.  When I saw a review for this book someplace, I thought it was right in my wheelhouse--because English period drama.  The book about life in Austen's England covered English customs and life in the late 1700's to early 1800's.  The Victorian period covers about mid-nineteenth century to early twentieth century.  How To Be A Victorian: A Dawn To Dusk Guide To Victorian Life by Ruth Goodman is about exactly what the title says.

Goodman gives an account of a day in the life of the average Victorian.  She covers those living in the early Victorian period and addresses the changes to Victorian life that occurred later in the period.  She also addresses the differences in Victorian life that would exist between the classes as well.  And Goodman also distinguishes between the daily life of men, who worked outside the home, and the work of women, some of whom worked outside the home depending on economic circumstances, and others who worked in the home and ran the day to day life of the family.

The author literally begins the day at dawn and takes us through Victorian life over the course of a day.  It's a meticulously detailed and researched book.  Goodman has gone so far as to experience quite a bit of Victorian practices, such as hygiene and dress and other things as well, so she can often give a first hand insight into what it might have been like for the actual person living in Victorian times.  Indeed you will learn more than you ever wanted to know or thought possible to know about Victorian life.

I was really looking forward to reading this book.  However, after the first chapter or so it went downhill because it got bogged down in the daily minutiae of life during that period (as I imagine a book about contemporary life today would as well).  The lesson I came way with was that life was hard in Victorian times--especially if you were someone who was just barely scraping by in life.  I have a confession to make--I may have skipped and skimmed more than half of the book.  Normally if I'm this bored with a book, I just ditch it.  But I refused to jettison this book because WHAT IF I MISS SOMETHING.  If you're a hardcore historian with an interest in English life during the Victorian period, I recommend this book to you.  If you're a hardcore English period drama fan as I am, you may also want to try this book because some parts (or all of it) may interest you.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie


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