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

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  7,365 ratings  ·  1,392 reviews
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 secr
Hardcover, 307 pages
Published October 25th 2016 by Little, Brown and Company
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Molly Of course many libraries and archives still have books from the 1800s! Not so much in public libraries, but universities and museum libraries have ext…moreOf course many libraries and archives still have books from the 1800s! Not so much in public libraries, but universities and museum libraries have extensive collections. Also, in the US, anything published before 1923 is out of copyright. So many of these books and illustrations have been digitized and are freely available on the web.(less)
Therese No, but I have. At this point really bizarre stress dreams about deadlines and porcupines and Victorian dolls eating ergot. The gang at Little, Brown …moreNo, but I have. At this point really bizarre stress dreams about deadlines and porcupines and Victorian dolls eating ergot. The gang at Little, Brown and I are working on making your dream real. And parts of mine, unfortunately (shudder). Be out in time for Mother's Day, pinky-swear. (less)

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Petra X karma should have given me a Ferrari
I finished the book. I wasn't keen on the chatty style and the author addressing me directly and thinking I must be some wilting flower who wouldn't be able to stand the utter repression of middle class women in the Victorian age. (Working class women had to go out to work which is the first step towards independence).

The book was far more about that than crotchless panties. Can you imagine wearing one of those crinoline skirts perhaps on hoops and having to pull your knickers down to have a pe
Michelle Araujo
Jan 08, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2017
I studied this stuff for fun and for a degree. I was pumped when I found it and immediately dove into it when it arrived on my doorstep. A day later, I'm finished. And disappointed . It's an easy read but the snark was ceaseless, the focus too narrow and the reliance on advertisements and popular media of the day misleading. It's as if the author took every stereotype about the Victorian era and looked for information to back it up. I'm going to be a little dramatic and say she's done the perio ...more
Heidi The Reader
Unmentionable made me truly appreciate how good I have it compared to my female ancestors. This clever little book examines the gross, disturbing, and, at times, hilarious "unmentionable" facets of a Victorian woman's life and also, their powerlessness in society when compared to their male counterparts. The women's rights portion sounds grim, but Oneill's writing keeps it light. I learned so much and was entertained too.

For example, I don't consider modern cities to be very clean, but Oneill ex
☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣
This is fun. This is so much fun, I'm going hysterical right now!
I really like the author's humoristic approach to all this ... uh... history. I'm going into fan mode for an indefinite period of time! Bye-bye!

Here goes the summary (in case one wants to uhh... live historically, for a bit):

Good stuff for women:
- Cocaine
- Tape-worms
- Marriage
- Arsenic
- Lead
- Strychnine

Bad stuff for women:
- Panties
- Washing
- Bathing
- Museums
- Libraries (extremely unwholesome, these ones!)
- Thinking
- Speaking

Mar 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners by Therese Oneill is a 2016 Little Brown US publication.

Based on a review written by one of my Goodreads friends, I knew I had to check this book out. I’ve waited for months for a copy to become available at the library, but it was worth the wait.

The author transported me back to the Victorian days to experience firsthand what it would have been like to live during this era.

The author exhibits a riotous sense of humor as s
Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

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I love historical romance, specifically historical romance that takes place in Regency and Victorian times. I enjoy the language, the costume porn, the odd customs, the strange romance of it. But I would never, ever want to live there. We have a tendency to romanticize the past, and focus on the feel-goodsy aspects of it that make for good films and A+ school dioramas when the truth is, it's the past for a reason.

Diane S ☔
Dec 06, 2016 rated it liked it
3.5 Our witty and rather sarcastic narrator (aka the author) takes us back in time to the world of woman in the Victorian age. The Victorian Age has held an attraction for many with its romantic nature, its clear cut rules and prim and proper manners. We love to read the books from this time period, love to watch the dramas on television and movies. This book was in many ways a shocking eye opener.

I knew the wore a great number of clothing items, that their medical treatment was sub par or non
This book is laugh-out-loud funny and is a must-read for anyone who enjoys reading about the Victorian era. I am particularly grateful for my modern life on a day when I've eaten an avocado, managed my own bank account, and spent less than 10% of my time doing housework, and this book throws those very simple facts into sharp relief. I mean, I like the 1996 adaptation of Emma as much as anyone, but I also like that I routinely launder my clothes and participate in the political process. Tomato / ...more
Sep 06, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was hoping to love this book. And at the beginning it was very enjoyable. The chapters about personal hygiene, dressing were both fascinating and horrifying no matter how familiar you are with them from reading about the time period. The omnipresent writer’s voice via snarky comments was funny at the beginning as well but got irritating and patronizing pretty quickly.
The book contains a fabulous collection of illustrations mostly from the Victorian era. I wish the author provided a source of
Unmentionable is a hilarious and unsettling look at what life was really like in the 19th and early 20th Century for women. I must say life was a literal cesspool. Bathing was not common, nobody washed their clothes( you simply dyed them when they got dirty), you had to poop in a bowel that was kept under your bed, and most importantly as a women you were to be seen and not heard also everything is your fault. But at least you could go to your local drug store and get some cocaine to make you fe ...more
Book Riot Community
Have you ever thought about the fact that Jane Eyre and Rochester probably had a stinky chamber pot under their bed the first time they made sweet love? I’m guessing not. Never fear! This book will banish your silly romantic notions of life in the nineteenth century and make you laugh out loud while doing it. In Unmentionable, Therese Oneill serves as tour guide on a hilarious and educational journey back in time to the Victorian era. She probes into the private aspects of life as a Victorian wo ...more
Dec 21, 2016 marked it as dnf
Is there a book that provides the same interesting info, but in a MUCH LESS OBNOXIOUS manner?
Jun 01, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminism, non-fiction
As I ventured into reading this book, I was quite unsure of what to expect from it. I was thinking it might be a bit more informative than it was and there would be less humour. Humour in this instance, just didn't work. The narrator came across to me as highly irritating, and I felt like I was being spoken to like I was completely stupid.
That aside, the book was readable, and I did find out some interesting snippets of information. A lot of it I was pretty familiar with, but other things, not s
Laurie Notaro
May 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Horrifying, hilarious, shocking and revelatory, Unmentionable crashes into our romantic notions of what it would be like to live in a past century, wearing gossamer silk and sleeping with your shit pot under your bed. Dashing about in elaborate dresses that can't be cleaned. AND EVERYONE HAS B.O.. I loved this book so much it's going to be my go-to gift this year. Beautifully done, meticulously researched, this is the book I wanted to write but couldnt figure out how. Very well done. ...more
Jessica Jeffers
Dec 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: feminism, nonfiction
Funny and horrifying at the same time. I don't think I've ever been so grateful to have been born at the end of the twentieth century as I was when I read about how Victorian ladies pooped. ...more
MaryannC. Book Freak
I must admit I have always had a romantic fascination for the Victorian-era, I have often wished that I could have gone through this time period in all it's dainty splendor of lace handkerchiefs and sumptuous gowns being driven through town in a lovely carriage. Still love the era, but this humorous book was definitely an eye opener. I loved the way Therese Oneill with her sometimes snarky narrator takes the reader on a fun journey of the way women had to deal with issues such as crotchless unde ...more
Jody McGrath
Jan 28, 2017 rated it liked it
This book takes you back in time to the real Victorian Age. Where getting dressed was a 4 hour affair and bathing was horrendous. While I enjoyed the information, I did not like the writing style. Instead of being a normal humorous nonfiction book, that lays outs facts and ideas, this book acts as though you have been transported to the time period. The author talks directly to you, as you supposedly experience these things. But not always. A lot of the time she just quotes quack doctors of the ...more
Mar 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, vic-lit
3.5 stars. After countless hours spent watching Downton Abbey and historical dramas, it is tempting to romanticize the lives of women (upper class, of course) in the 19th century. The dresses! The courtly behavior of dashing gentleman! The lack of ability to vote or own property! Er, wait...

In this tongue-in-cheek primer, the author firmly bursts this romantic bubble with advice for the modern woman on how to live, marry, and run a household in the Victorian era. While much of the information w
Lara Lillibridge
Mar 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a super fun read and filled with interesting facts.
Mar 02, 2020 rated it liked it
Fun and really entertaining for the most part, though the humor felt totally inappropriate when applied to the darker topics mentioned like spousal abuse, racism and slavery. I learned a bit but I don't know a ton more than I knew before reading this book. ...more
Mar 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: oregon-author
When I was about 10 years old, I watched the movie Gone With the Wind and was instantly captivated with the voluminous skirts. I wanted so badly to sashay around in one that it became an obsession. That lasted until I discovered exactly what was under that beautiful silk and realized a simple trip to the bathroom could be quite a major event.

And what does this have to do with UNMENTIONABLE? I’m sure we’ve all wished we could return to a simpler time period, one without all of the stress of techn
April (Aprilius Maximus)
Apr 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
This was really fascinating and hilarious, but I admit I skimmed over some parts that I just wasn't as interested in, but overall, I highly recommend this one! ...more
Apr 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history, non-fiction
I went into this book hoping for something similar to what Ruth Goodman writes, with a focus on North America rather than the UK. After the first two pages, I switched to hoping for something readable and lightly humorous. I was disappointed on both fronts.

Let’s start with what made me switch hopes: the tone. This is written in an arch, patronizing tone. And when I say arch — all of Ancient Rome was not this arch. If you enjoy being called diminutives by the authors of the books you’re reading,
Cora Tea Party Princess
5 Words: History, feminism, humour, Victorian, etiquette.

What started off as a barrel of laughs slowly turned sour and ended in anger and disgust.

And it was amazing.

Full review to come.
Anne ✨
Dec 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Lots of fascinating facts that will make you happy to not be living in those times. Highlight for me was the collection of photos and illustrations from the period. The author's narrative style is humorous tongue-in-cheek that was fun at the beginning, but did grow a bit annoying as the book wore on. I think I would have liked this book a more if it were a bit more condensed, after 50% I admit to skimming a lot of the pages. ...more
Feb 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
The county library system is now the proud owner of this humorous little tome because of me...After trying to get them to let me borrow it from another library via inter-library loan, they said they couldn’t b/c it was less than sixth months old, so I convinced them to buy it. Anyway, now all local residents and taxpayers can enjoy Therese Oneill’s hysterical take on sexual mores, marriage values and bathroom habits of the 19th century. I literally LOL’d every day that I read this, although I wo ...more
Feb 20, 2018 rated it liked it
If, a hundred years from now, someone quoted select passages from Cosmo and xoJane and then laughed at how absurd the advice was and how backwards the social mores, you'd have the intellectual sequel to this book.

It's fun to read, in parts, though I don't know how academically rigorous it is. It has a bibliography, but it's not annotated, and quotes within the text aren't given much context. Oneill transports the reader back to Victorian England (with some American examples thrown in randomly) a
Jan 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
What a hoot! So funny and informative too.
The author certainly has a way with words. She might consider becoming a stand-up comic in her spare time. Some favorite lines:
"Many women turned to the terrifying world of unregulated patent medicine to embiggen their bosoms."
"I am going to wallop you so hard your great-great-grandchildren will feel it."
"You serve many purposes as a wife, but the most important is incubating and extruding his biological legacy from your body."
". . . ladies go to the 'wi
Apr 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle-ebook
This is no Downton Abbey, Emma, or any other romantic historical drama. Instead, Oneill writes this novel in a time traveler style. She talks to the reader (holding back very little) in a humorous and sarcastic (sometimes a bit too much) way. Don't get me wrong. It is well researched and informative. I did enjoy learning about the actual history of the time period. It also makes me appreciate doctors, soap, shampoo, indoor plumbing, boiling water, a husband who respects me, and so much more! ...more
Nov 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ebook
A cheeky romp through the ins and outs of Victorian culture, hygiene and etiquette. Oneill frames the book as a Victorian expert taking a delusional Downton Abbey/Bronte/hoops-and-bustles-costume-porn-fangirl by the time-traveling hand and showing her that you really really wouldn't want to live back with your ancestors.

Most of the info, in a general sense, is stuff that anyone slightly versed in the era would know right off. But there's plenty of quotes and citations from vintage era manuals th
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