If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home

Written by Lucy Worsley
Review by Gordon O'Sullivan

The chief curator at Historic Royal Palaces, Lucy Worsley, has written this book to tie in with her television series for the BBC. However it stands firmly on its own two feet, as this perfect tour guide discusses a range of subjects; from what British people ate to their sexual attitudes while guiding the reader adroitly through each room of the home.

Worsley covers the architectural evolutions of the bedroom, bathroom, living room and kitchen but concerns herself more with what people actually did in those rooms and why. Why did the flushing toilet take two centuries to catch on? Why did medieval people sleep sitting up? Why, for centuries, did people fear fruit?

Although she is especially strong on the 16th and 17th centuries, If Walls Could Talk spans 600 years of British history and touches on the experiences of all social classes. While this book has the natural broad strokes of a guided tour, it is written in a chatty and accessible style with short chapters to dip into. This is a work of popular history, finely balanced between historical insight and anecdote which will make you see your home anew.