From the author of the "hysterically funny and unsettlingly fascinating"* New York Times bestseller Unmentionable, a hilarious illustrated guide to the secrets of Victorian child-rearing [*Jenny Lawson]
Feminist historian Therese Oneill is back, to educate you on what to expect when you're expecting . . . a Victorian baby! In Ungovernable, Oneill conducts an unforgettable tour through the backwards, pseudoscientific, downright bizarre parenting fashions of the Victorians, advising us on:
- How to be sure you're not too ugly, sickly, or stupid to breed
- What positions and room decor will help you conceive a son
- How much beer, wine, cyanide and heroin to consume while pregnant
- How to select the best peasant teat for your child
- Which foods won't turn your children into sexual deviants
- And so much more
Endlessly surprising, wickedly funny, and filled with juicy historical tidbits and images, Ungovernable provides much-needed perspective on -- and comic relief from -- the age-old struggle to bring up baby.
Oneill (Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage and Manners) keeps her tongue firmly in cheek for this dark-humored, enlightening look at Victorian-era prescriptions for upper-class childbirth and child rearing. Using a Socratic dialogue between the brisk yet cheerful narrator and an intelligent modern woman, Oneill lays out common expert opinions from the 19th century, a time with a startling 20%-or-higher child mortality rate. Dubious and often conflicting advice culled from numerous medical books and articles includes preventing children from drinking when thirsty to stave off adult-onset alcoholism and requiring new mothers to remain quietly, boringly bedbound for several weeks. The narrator's obvious enjoyment in sharing vintage expert opinions increases as particularly horrifying facts regarding baby farms, beatings, and heroin for expectant mothers pile up, rendering the imaginary listener nearly speechless. Oneill probes each topic with a Lemony Snicket like tone and candor, revealing how some of these beliefs eventually evolved into improved girls' education and a kinder approach to discipline. One part sauciness, one part frankness, and one part sweet relief that readers live in the present, Oneill's book provides readers with a liberal dose of medical and women's history that's well worth taking.