#NonficNov Review: Unmentionable by Therese O’Neill


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

Author: Therese Oneill

Published: October 25th 2016, Little, Brown & Company

Status: Read November 2019


My Thoughts:

With an irreverent presentation, journalist slash humourist Therese Oneill invites the reader to accompany her as she peels back the romanticised veneer of of a middle to upper class lady’s life in the 19th century in Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners.

Next time you imagine yourself dancing prettily around a grand ballroom in an elaborate gown, know this…your underwear is crotchless (even at that time of the month), your never washed dress is marked by soot and sweat, your face powder is poisoning you, and the room reeks of mixed floral scents which only just barely cover the smells of rarely washed bodies.

The supper feast laid out on the table has been made from poorly preserved fruits and vegetables, and badly cooked, unrefrigerated meats, all prepared and served by unwashed hands, so it’s likely you will spend several hours later in the evening on the chamber pot, or close stool.

And that handsome gentleman across the room who you hope will invite you to dance…if he picks up your dropped handkerchief he may ask for your hand in marriage, after which he will none too gently insist you bear him a son, and visit prostitutes while you are indisposed, eventually infecting you with gonorrhoea or syphilis, which your doctor will refuse to diagnose to protect your delicate sensibilities. And should you have the temerity to complain about any of this, you will be declared hysterical and institutionalised.

The truth, quite frankly, is grim but Oneill imparts this information in a manner that, laden with snark, is hilarious. I found Unmentionable fascinating and absolutely entertaining, however I recommend you give this a miss if you are a fan of Victorian era romance novels or movies, you will never feel quite the same way about them again.

Oh, and I will never be eating Kellogg’s Cornflakes again.


Read an a Excerpt

Available from via Booko I via Indiebound I Book Depository

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Claire Louisa
    Nov 09, 2019 @ 10:30:53

    Wow, and the truth comes out. I’m definitely glad I didn’t live in this era. I love your review.

    Liked by 1 person


  2. the most constant
    Nov 09, 2019 @ 12:57:21

    Totally fascinating. I’ve thought the dressing style of that time was so elaborate while the hygiene was so minimal!

    Liked by 1 person


  3. Lisa
    Nov 10, 2019 @ 05:26:21

    Great review! I’ve had this book on my to-read list for a while now — you’ve convinced me to make it a priority in 2020!

    Liked by 1 person


  4. Aj @ Read All The Things!
    Nov 11, 2019 @ 00:36:41

    This book has been on my wishlist forever. I should just buy it. It sounds exactly like the kind of nonfiction I’d love. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person


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  6. Mic
    Nov 11, 2019 @ 11:41:00

    Fabulous review, and it certainly does change the perspective.

    Liked by 1 person


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  8. Tracey (Carpe Librum blog)
    Nov 17, 2019 @ 22:37:03

    Loved your review, I already have this on my TBR.

    Liked by 1 person


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