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Book Review: If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home by Lucy Worsley

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 If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home is the kind of book that’s perfect for reading during your lunch break or while waiting at the doctor’s office — light, engaging non-fiction full of obscure facts and entertaining history that’s great for passing the time without wasting it.

Author Lucy Worsley is a chief curator for Historic Royal Palaces, an independent charity organization responsible for such British treasures as the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace State Apartments, the Banqueting House in Whitehall, and Kew Palace in Kew Gardens.  In If Walls Could Talk, Worsley employs the trivia gleaned from her work to a history of each room of the home and the way these rooms have evolved in use and appearance throughout history.

An excellent example that encapsulates the scope of If Walls Could Talk is Worsley’s description of the humble bedroom closet over the course of several centuries. In ages past, when the bedroom served as a combination office, library, sitting room and sleeping area, the closet was a private area where one could pray, read or study, and store art, valuables or other items not intended for public viewing. Only as the bedroom evolved to a more private space did the closet in turn evolve into mere storage space, or, as Worsley points out, disappear altogether, as the closet did in many British homes from the 17th century to the late 20th century.

Worsley covers each room in the home in such a manner, exploding square footage into the larger historical and social context. A discussion of the bathroom includes the history of indoor plumbing in Britain, while the history of the bedroom includes everything that went on in the bedroom, from sex to childbirth to medical treatments.

If Walls Could Talk may not be un-put-downable, but trust me when I tell you that it will be ages before you look at your closet or flush your toilet without thinking of this book. A compliment of the highest order.

If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home

By: Lucy Worsley

Hardcover: 368 pages

Publisher: Bloomsbury/Walker & Company

U.S. Release Date: February 28, 2012

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Author: J.E.

Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

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