Review: Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage and Manners

I found this book uncommonly infuriating.

Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners by Therese Oneill is just… it’s just that it’s…

Guys, it’s so good.

It takes everything delicate and sweet about the Victorian world featured in movies and romance novels and turns it sideways, going into the horrible details of being a woman in the 1800s. Dealing with marriage, the marriage bed, periods, a woman’s duty, cleanliness, hysteria and more, Unmentionable is a well-researched peek into the 19th century private lives of the fairer sex.

This type of book isn’t unique in itself—I’ve literally got a shelf of “everyday life” books just a few feet away—but Oneill spends the entirety of the book making the reader laugh at the absurdity of it all, all the while retaining respect for the women who were forced to endure so many horrible day-to-day events. (Having to stick a towel between your legs once a month and hoping for the best stands out in my mind.)

When I say “laugh,” I mean actually laugh. Like, not silent snickers but actual, physical laughs. Any book that can make me laugh as much as this one did gets my seal of approval and unending praise.

Lots of Victorian illustrations are included, all with a funny little caption. I also really like that the hardcover doesn’t have a dust jacket. The cover illustration is directly on the cover. Why aren’t more hardcovers made this way?

So, why exactly did I find this book so infuriating? Because I’m mad I didn’t write it first. It’s brilliant.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I just got a new parasol with a handle that looks most delicious.
(Inside joke. You’ll have to read the book yourself to get it.)


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jillianne hamilton headshotJillianne Hamilton is an author, history enthusiast, book lover and graphic designer. Her debut novel, Molly Miranda: Thief for Hire, was shortlisted for the 2016 Prince Edward Island Book Award. Her debut non-fiction book, The Lazy Historian's Guide to the Wives of Henry VIII is now available. She lives in Charlottetown on Canada's beautiful east coast.
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