Saturday, February 27, 2016
How to be a Tudor: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Tudor Life
Rating: 4 Stars
I find books like this enjoyable because, no matter how I might imagine for myself what life would be like if I was a princess in Tudor England, it is much more likely I'd not have been a member of the royal family. Honestly, I know I am not that lucky - even if my name MEANS princess, even. So, I like these kinds of books because it is a glimpse at what my life would have been like in that time, and I can count my blessings once again that I was born safely in 20th century with all the modern conveniences like running water and a public education.
My interest in the book was shot almost immediately however, in the second sentence of the introduction when the author stated that her heart lies somewhere in the middle of Elizabeth I's reign. It is no secret my opinion of Elizabeth and I knew I would not be able to stand yet another author fawning over a monarch I hold in lower esteem than most people. While I will not go into all those details here of my lack of belief in Elizabeth's abilities, they can be found on other reviews for books specifically about Elizabeth that I have reviewed in the past.
Luckily that issue went right on by and I pretty much forgot about the author's statement when presented with the meticulously researched and richly detailed content of the book. I was surprised to find how much information was packed into the book, considering it comes in at only 289 pages. The author has divided the day as the title implies, from waking up through going to bed. Different aspects of daily life are addressed in much detail, from the subject of bathing, to the dress codes strictly enforced by class, food stuffs, education, work and play for both genders, and so on. I consider myself somewhat knowledgeable of the time period and even I learned new things that are not typically conveyed in the other books of the period that I read. It never ceases to amaze me what medical practice looked like at the time. The four humors is endlessly fascinating and there were several pages dedicated to this very aspect of life in the period. I learned more about that in his book than I have any other thus far. I didn't realize before how connected the humors were to digestion and such as well.
I did skip the parts completely that dealt with the blood sports like bear baiting. It holds zero interest for me to read about how cruelly these poor animals were treated. It is yet one more reason I am so glad that I was not actually born in that time.
My only real complaint is the abrupt end. Typically books such as these have some kind of conclusion but this one simply ended with the last chapter. Literally, the end of the book comes with this line, "Whichever bed you had ended up in, it was finally time to go to sleep - lying on your right side was considered healthiest!" (page 289). It just felt rushed, with no kind of wrap-up. It would have been a fine line if there was a conclusion beyond it, but it is a strange way to end an otherwise well-written book.
Highly recommended for anyone interested in the time period, regardless of knowledge base.