Home, by Witold Rybczynski

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  • #7854
    Hilary FiskHilary Fisk

    This is not a novel.  The sub-title is ‘A short history of an idea’.  Published in the 1980’s, it is partly a bit of a historical survey of house interiors, discussing for example what Vermeer’s paintings tell us about middle-class Dutch domesticity; and partly a consideration of ideas of ‘comfort’ – which the author seems to think is the main aspect of the concept of ‘home’.  It is a rather unsatisfactory volume as to my mind it does neither part of its job very convincingly.  The art historical discussions are very limited in time, place and class, and the more ‘philosophical’ musings omit consideration of what I would have thought to be basic ideas related to ‘homeliness’ such as security and safety (physical and psychological) and ‘ownership’ – what one might think of when one says  ‘an Englishman’s home is his Castle’ .  There is SO much more that could be said!  I did quite enjoy the discussions in the book of the advent of technology – such as vacuum cleaners, air-conditioning (the author is American and it shows) and lighting, and the changes these developments made to the deployment of servants and the ‘liberation’ of women.  However, on the whole I give it only 2 stars out of 5 – and that might be being generous!!

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