The Making of Home

91oxNOt6nfLThe idea that ‘home’ is a special place, a separate place, a place where we can be our true selves, is so obvious to us today that we barely pause to think about it.

But, as Judith Flanders shows in this revealing book, ‘home’ is a relatively new concept. When in 1900 Dorothy assured the citizens of Oz that ‘There is no place like home’, she was expressing a view that was a culmination of 300 years of economic, physical and emotional change.

In The Making of Home, Flanders traces the evolution of the house across northern Europe and America from the sixteenth to the early twentieth century, and paints a striking picture of how the homes we know today differ from homes through history.

The transformation of houses into homes, she argues, was not a private matter, but an essential ingredient in the rise of capitalism and the birth of the Industrial Revolution. Without ‘home’, the modern world as we know it would not exist, and as Flanders charts the development of ordinary household objects – from cutlery, chairs and curtains, to fitted kitchens, plumbing and windows – she also peels back the myths that surround some of our most basic assumptions, including our entire notion of what it is that makes a family.

Praise for “The Making of Home”

“Flanders’s mind is as well and copiously furnished as any of the interiors she describes. She knows a prodigious amount, from the poetry of William Cowper to the history of Huguenot silk-weaving to the differing decorative traditions of Friesland and the central Netherlands. There is as much here about the illusions of Romanticism as there is about the technology of cast-iron stoves… [Flanders’] prose is witty and lucid, her ideas stimulating. By the 19th century, she writes, our ideal of “home” was so well established, “that no one could remember a time when it had not held sway”. Her project is to counter that  forgetfulness. In this clever and entertaining book she gives the everyday, from bed-making to drainpipes, all the vivid interest of something newly made strange.”
Lucy Hughes-Hallett, Sunday Times

“…a delicious yet nerdy treat. Enjoy it on your sofa while reflecting that this item of furniture did not make its arrival in most houses until around 1740. Before then people sat on benches, a bit uncomfortable. Or on beds — which were an acceptable place to entertain even acquaintances, according to Flanders. Yet another reason why this book deserves a place on your shelves, bedside table, or ottoman”
Anne Ashworth, The Times

“[Flanders’] ambitious scope necessitates a narrative that sometimes whizzes by at breakneck speed but Flanders is at her riveting best when she gets right down to the housework. Flanders demonstrates how nakedly the measure of our social worth is laid out in domestic consumables. She is an efficient debunker of myths about poverty, family and the past. In her search for meaning she wipes the dust, clears the cobwebs and pulls the stuffing out of the cushions. It is in the down and dirty of the home that our hopes and delusions are revealed.”
Lucy Letherbridge, Financial Times

“…a hugely informative book, and worth reading for the feminist chapter on women’s changing roles alone. An absorbing read.”
Viv Watts, Daily Express

Writer’s Block

Writer's Block

You know when you have one of those days at the office? You spill coffee on your keyboard, the finance director goes on an expenses rampage and then, before you know it, your favourite author is murdered. When Samantha Clair decides to publish journalist Kit Lovell’s tell-all book on the death of fashion designer Rodrigo Aleman, she can scarcely imagine the dangers ahead. Cue a rollercoaster ride into the dark realms of fashion, money-laundering and murder, armed with nothing but her e-reader and her trusty stock of sarcasm.

Praise for Writer’s Block

“It’s a thriller, a wickedly funny insider’s view of the book trade and the heroine has a backbone – for me the perfect storm of an entertaining read. Sam Clair lives alone and likes it; she’s a great one for making her own rules. She works as a publisher and she recently commissioned Kit Lovell, Gay Best Friend and fashion guru, to write a book about the murder of an iconic designer. But several I people are taking an unhealthy interest in the manuscript, and suddenly Sam’s quiet working life is getting murkier by the minute. What’s in the book that I people are so desperate to see? And where on earth is Kit? To make it more complicated, a policeman is buzzing around her, and he’s distractingly gorgeous. Best of all, Sam’s Dr Watson is her elegant, overachieving mother — a successful lawyer and all-round brilliant character who’s not above a little mild law-breaking. Loved it.”
Kate Saunders, The Times

The Victorian City

vic-city-pbkVictorian buildings still surround Londoners, so we are under the impression we know the Victorian city and how it functioned. But just as Flanders’ The Victorian House revealed the long-lost daily routines of the Victorian home, so now she describes the comings and goings of the world’s largest city. Calling on the magical eye of Charles Dickens, possibly the greatest ‘look-er’ the city has ever seen, Flanders takes her readers down the teeming city streets of the 19th century, conjuring up the once-common street-bands, street-sellers, street-walkers and street-children. How did passengers hail an omnibus? How were the streets paved before macadam? How did householders collect their drinking water? With these and other questions, Flanders brings back to life a city of pea-soup fogs, horse manure, and even gutters running with blood.

(read more about The Victorian City)

 

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