Last updated on December 23, 2022
by Therese Oneill
Genres: 19th Century World History, Etiquette, Victorian Era
Release Date: October 25, 2016
Purchase from: Amazon
My Rating: ★★★★★
Have you ever wished you could live in an earlier, more romantic era? Ladies, welcome to the 19th century, where there’s arsenic in your face cream, a pot of cold pee sits under your bed, and all of your underwear is crotchless. (Why? Shush, dear. A lady doesn’t question.)
Unmentionable is your hilarious, illustrated, scandalously honest (yet never crass) guide to the secrets of Victorian womanhood, giving you detailed advice on: What to wear Where to relieve yourself How to conceal your loathsome addiction to menstruating What to expect on your wedding night How to be the perfect Victorian wife Why masturbating will kill you And more!
Irresistibly charming, laugh-out-loud funny, and featuring nearly 200 images from Victorian publications, Unmentionable will inspire a whole new level of respect for Elizabeth Bennett, Scarlet O’Hara, Jane Eyre, and all of our great, great grandmothers. (And it just might leave you feeling ecstatically grateful to live in an age of pants, super absorbency tampons, epidurals, anti-depressants, and not dying of the syphilis your husband brought home.)
Unmentionable wasn’t at all what I expected. When I purchased it, I assumed I’d be reading a dry, but interesting non-fiction book — as you can probably guess, I didn’t read the description, I read the title and looked at the rating. What I got instead was a hilarious trip through the most ridiculous parts of Victorian America.
The first and final third are simply hilarious; I haven’t literally laughed out loud at a book this much in a long time. It’s easy to poo-poo nonsense ideas that we’ve long since abandoned. The middle third, however, hits a bit too close to home, especially with the current issues facing the U.S. and world today. While still funny, I didn’t find myself laughing as much.
It’s clear that Unmentionable is well-researched, with its significant bibliography. And there are many instances of that research provided in the form of quotes from “leading” figures of the time. One thing I wish was included was a list of graphics. While the photos and illustrations have delightful captions, it would be nice to know their origin so that I could look up larger versions.
Unmentionable is definitely an interesting, and eye-opening look at the Victorian era. I hope someday something similar may be written for the Regency, Edwardian, or Tudor eras (my favorites, obviously), but that may be asking too much.
About the Author
Therese Oneill lives in Oregon and writes humor and rare history articles for many different popular outlets, including Mental Floss, The Week, The Atlantic, and Jezebel. She lives with her husband and children near Portland. She can be found online at www.writerthereseoneill.com where she runs a popular history and narrative blog.
NOTE: This review is based on an eBook I purchased from Amazon on November 18, 2022.