(Just want to start by saying the blog post could contain topics not suitable for anyone under the age of 18, so if you are a minor please don’t read!!)
I don’t know about you but I just love learning about history. Specifically the topics that aren’t taught in schools! My favourite topics to read about are women’s fashion history, LGBT history and anything that proves the people of the past weren’t as prudish as we might think! So when I got the chance to part of this book tour it was perfect!
I have read a lot of Pen and Sword books in the past, but never a book by Violet Fenn so I was super excited to get started!
I already have a little bit of knowledge on some of the areas discussed in this book, for example Jack the Ripper, the treatment of gay men, prostitutes and photographic pornography. But it was still fascinating to read about these topics from another perspective and some in more depth.
Naturally, as an LGBT woman the chapter I found most interesting was the one on homosexuality titled ‘A Walk on the Wilde side’ (I enjoyed the play on words a lot here!). It breaks my heart to read about how the people in the book were treated, and how easily men could’ve been arrested for what was referred to as ‘gross indecency’, especially as this would make it a lot easier for them to be convicted as hard evidence was less of a necessity.
I also found the chapter that talked about sex toys to be very interesting. A lot of theories were debunked due to being unrealistic; like the fact that victorians invented the mechanical vibrator to cure hysterical perimeter when the patriarchal society meant that interest in female anatomy was minimal and most examinations were done with the patient fully clothed therefore it isn’t likely that “a doctor would instruct a female patient to lie on the couch and display her most intimate regions to him while he brought her to orgasm”.
The chapter titled ‘Hidden in Plain Sight’ talked about sex and sexuality in art and literature. My favourite thing was the talk about Bram Stoker and Dracula and all the sexual subtext. Because let’s be honest, there’s not much more that’s sexier than a vampire! Fenn also talked about how it’s possible that Bram Stoker himself was a homosexual, based of of certain pieces of evidence including a letter with a LOT of homerotic subtext and vexing very close to Oscar Wilde. Although this isn’t very strong evidence, and Stoker later goes on to make a strong stand against homosexuality so who knows!
My only gripe with this book is that Fenn says we shouldn’t judge Victorians by modern standards and I don’t agree with that, especially with some of the more sensitive topics. One of the best things about history is that we can look back, make judgements and learn to do better!
In conclusion, you can tell this book was written by someone with a genuine passion for history, and who actually enjoys researching and writing about these topics. It is one of the few history books I have found where the writing is very accessible, and although taken seriously is still written in a chatty and easy to read way!
I give this book 3.5/5 stars!
(keep scrolling is you are interested in reading and would like to know what possible triggers to be wary of!)
See you soon!
If anyone is planning on reading this book I just want to give a warning that there are a lot of sensitive topics discussed in this book that can be quite hard to handle. A full list of these possible triggers will be listed below!
[rape, child murder, child prostitution, postpartum depression and psychosis, sexual abuse, child harm, suicide, death, violence]