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If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home | [Lucy Worsley]

If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home

Why did the flushing toilet take two centuries to catch on? Why did medieval people sleep sitting up? When were the two "dirty centuries?" Why did gas lighting cause Victorian ladies to faint? Why, for centuries, did rich people fear fruit?In her brilliantly and creatively researched book, Lucy Worsley takes us through the bedroom, bathroom, living room, and kitchen.
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Publisher's Summary

Why did the flushing toilet take two centuries to catch on? Why did medieval people sleep sitting up? When were the two "dirty centuries?" Why did gas lighting cause Victorian ladies to faint? Why, for centuries, did rich people fear fruit?In her brilliantly and creatively researched book, Lucy Worsley takes us through the bedroom, bathroom, living room, and kitchen. She covers the history of each room and explores what people actually did in bed, in the bath, at the table, and at the stove-from sauce stirring to breastfeeding, teeth cleaning to masturbation, getting dressed to getting married-providing a compelling account of how the four rooms of the home have evolved from medieval times to today.

©2011 Silver River Productions and Lucy Worsley (P)2012 Tantor

What the Critics Say

"Who could not be enthralled by the history of toilet paper? Anyone who lives in a home with a kitchen, living room, bathroom and bedroom will delight in reading this history of the development of home life." (Kirkus)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (94 )
5 star
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Overall
3.8 (79 )
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Story
3.6 (79 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Kirsten Omaha, NE, United States 06-05-12
    Kirsten Omaha, NE, United States 06-05-12 Member Since 2007
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    "Compelling."

    Lucy Worsley???s book is meticulously researched and yet quite engaging and easy to follow. It might sound hard to believe, but the material is truly interesting and thought-provoking. I finished it in two days because I could not put it down. If you like slightly quirky facts to fuel your water-cooler chat, this book is for you.

    On the downside, the narrator had a strange sort of hook in her voice that was distracting to me, and I wasn???t fond of her attempts at various accents. However, it wasn???t so distracting as to take away from the overall content. Although not really a downside, the other thing that I wish I???d known when I bought this book is that it is highly England-centric. There is very little information about the rest of Europe or the East.

    All in all, this was a satisfying, fascinating and informative look at the way our lives and social structures have been shaped by our living spaces and vice-versa. I think it will appeal to history buffs, Anglophiles and eclectic fact-lovers alike. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Margaret Alameda, CA, United States 12-16-12
    Margaret Alameda, CA, United States 12-16-12 Member Since 2008
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    "Too scatological for my taste"

    I was disappointed with this book. I expected quirky historical facts, maybe told with some offbeat humor, but what I got was a book that dwelt on the most basic bodily functions. Like some kind of British version of a high school fart joke. I wish I'd listened to other reviewers.

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marie WASHINGTON, DC, United States 07-06-12
    Marie WASHINGTON, DC, United States 07-06-12 Member Since 2010

    Professional librarian type, amateur historian.

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    "Bill Bryson did it better"

    I found this book irritating. For one it comes across as a compilation of different articles written at different times, because she will mention one tidbit as myth and then later, mention that same bit of information as truth. This was the case with Anne of Cleaves. I studied this period in college and was amazed someone with a PhD would do something so silly. Not just once but at least twice dragging out contradictory information. Secondly, it seemed a little too focused on the aristocracy and their homes. Some mention would be made about the middling and lower classes, but this seemed to be more of a history of the homes of the royal and wealthy.
    The narrator has a limited range when capturing voices of other persons/characters when quoting. She gives you enough to know that it is a quote, but no so much that it seems to capture the person. Otherwise, she was ok with the straight reading. If you are determined to buy this listen to the sample and imagine listening to 8 hours of it.
    Lastly, this book had me yearning to listen to Bill Bryson's 'At Home' again, which I found to be far more entertaining.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    marcia adler livingston, nj USA 06-14-12
    marcia adler livingston, nj USA 06-14-12 Member Since 2009
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    "Bill Bryson's At Home is superior"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    I have listened to At Home many times and always learn something new. This book is sort of At Home condensed with Bill Bryson's wit and scholarship.


    What was most disappointing about Lucy Worsley’s story?

    The book is nonfiction; there is no "story."


    How could the performance have been better?

    She reads quickly and without inflection.


    Do you think If Walls Could Talk needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    no


    Any additional comments?

    The author expresses as fact her opinions. Was the exhaust fan really the most important development of the 20th century?

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jason Havertown, PA, United States 03-01-13
    Jason Havertown, PA, United States 03-01-13 Member Since 2005
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    "Great book, poor reading"
    If you could sum up If Walls Could Talk in three words, what would they be?

    If you like history, and the odd anecdotes that make it really fascinating, this book has it in spades. It does wander off its core path to explain historical minutiae, but that is part of the fun. Also, it is told from a very British point of view that may be a touch jarring to an American reader.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    The narrator had a very high, quiet, breathy voice that I do not prefer for Audiobooks. Also, she was terrible with accents. Her German, Russian and Arabian were identical, and her American was not even as close as I have heard British comics using as jokes.


    Any additional comments?

    The Author debunks several common misunderstandings about the origins of certain words and phrases that 'everyone' thinks they know the true story on.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Troy DALLAS, TX, United States 01-15-13
    Troy DALLAS, TX, United States 01-15-13 Member Since 2012

    I grew up on Golden Age Radio, and while I love to read, I typically consume more books via audio thanks to a job that lets me listen while I work. As an aspiring writer, I try to read a great deal of non-fiction in addition to a variety of fictional genres. I especially love history, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and old-style gothic horror.

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    "Never Look At Your Own Home the Same Way Again"

    Sometimes the missing link between history and our appreciation of it is that personal touch. Names and dates are all well and good, but cause and effect mean so much more. In this way we see how things evolve from then to now. With this book, the appreciation of history is all about appreciating just how good you've really got it by comparison of your ancestors. After reading this book, I defy you to willingly allow farm animals to sleep in your living room floor at night, and I challenge you to believe that life would be better off if your kitchen and/or personal relief facilities were detached from your house, especially in times of bad weather. This and SO much more is explored herein. Most of what we know to be common features of the home are relatively new, and understanding the way things used to be paints a better understanding of what it was like to live in earlier times. After listening to this, I certainly feel like a king in my own castle.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Deana Granby, CT, United States 07-10-12
    Deana Granby, CT, United States 07-10-12 Member Since 2009
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    "Another great domestic history"
    Where does If Walls Could Talk rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    I love nonfiction, particularly histories about everyday things/ people-- so this was right up my alley. I have to say, it's VERY similar to Bill Bryson's At Home (which I found ten times more entertaining)-- although had I not read that book, I would have liked this one even more.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The information. There's a ton of history packed into each chapter-- very enlightening and fun.


    Have you listened to any of Anne Flosnik’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    She did a great job, but I could have done without all the accents-- began to get on my nerves very early.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Not really. Not because it was dull-- just unnecessary with nonfiction books.


    Any additional comments?

    I wish I had turned it off at the end of the last real chapter-- before the author went on a bizarre soapbox rant about the horrors of the future.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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