The Lazy Historian
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Review: Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage and Manners
January 28, 2018

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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.)


If you want more Victorian era goodness, check out my historical fiction novel, The Spirited Mrs. Pringle now available on paperback and at all major ebook retailers. (Audiobook coming soon.)

Jillianne Hamilton is a history enthusiast and the author of The Spirited Mrs. Pringle (historical fiction), The Hobby Shop on Barnaby Street (historical romance), and The Lazy Historian’s Guide to the Wives of Henry VIII (non-fiction). Jill launched The Lazy Historian in 2015. She lives in Charlottetown on Canada’s beautiful east coast. Learn more.

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Hi, I'm Jillianne.

I'm a historical fiction writer, a lover of history, and a hoarder of books. I'm the author of The Spirited Mrs. Pringle, The Hobby Shop on Barnaby Street, and The Lazy Historian's Guide to the Wives of Henry VIII.

The Lazy Historian is a history blog featuring stories from the past with sass. With a focus on Western European and women's history, I delve into anything fascinating. Learn more.

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