Set in Sweden at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, it is the story of two marriages between painters and their wives, of the slow growth of an intimate friendship between Sofie and Cecilia, and the women's flowering in old age. She wrote an article about becoming a debut novelist in her 70s for the Toronto Star , and about researching the Jewish roots of her character Cecelia in the Canadian Jewish news. Reviews have been excellent. The best news of all: the novel is on the Globe and Mail bestseller list in the historical fiction category.

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Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Other editions. Enlarge cover. Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. For the first-century Roman, being clean meant a public two-hour soak in baths of various temperatures, a scraping of the body with a miniature rake, and a final application of oil.

By the early s, an extraordinary idea took hold in North America — that frequent bathing, perhaps even a daily bath, was advisable. Not since the Roman Empire had people been so clean, and standards became even more extreme as the millennium approached. Now we live in a deodorized world where germophobes shake hands with their elbows and where sales of hand sanitizers, wipes and sprays are skyrocketing.

Ashenburg searches for clean and dirty in plague-ridden streets, medieval steam baths, castles and tenements, and in bathrooms of every description. Filled with amusing anecdotes and quotations from the great bathers of history, The Dirt on Clean takes us on a journey that is by turns intriguing, humorous, startling and not always for the squeamish.

Get A Copy. Hardcover , pages. More Details Original Title. Other Editions Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about The Dirt on Clean , please sign up. The world learned of the shower from the Muslims.

Of the duties of worship in Islam, wash five times a day, and bathing. Hidden facts, and fake history of European. Eyke Plus, the ancient Aztecs had "soap plants", "soap trees", and "soap roots" they used for washing, bathing, and cleaning as well as bathhouses, deodora …more Plus, the ancient Aztecs had "soap plants", "soap trees", and "soap roots" they used for washing, bathing, and cleaning as well as bathhouses, deodorants, and dentifrices in a context uninfluenced by Romantic and Arab hygiene.

In a parallel, ancient Egypt is credited with the oldest example of deodorants and perfumes. Also, ancient Chinese feizao balls were basically bathbombs that were used as detergents for cleaning clothes which I think should be brought back. Plus, the thousand or so years of uncleanliness that followed the fall of the Roman Empire fails to account for the hygiene practices of the ancient civilizations that preceded it, including the Roman's, Greek's, and Byzantine's practices.

See 1 question about The Dirt on Clean…. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 3. Rating details. More filters. Sort order. May 24, carol. I love a clean space. I actually like cleaning, particularly when it involves dusting my bookshelves. There's something about a room where I've just removed the dust, hair and debris that says, 'order,' followed by 'exhale. So when I saw this title, I was intrigued.

I'm well aware 'clean' is psychologically, personally and culturally defined. I have, after all, lived with other people, one of whom woul I love a clean space.

I have, after all, lived with other people, one of whom would have dust bunnies the size of hamsters under the bed, and another whose tolerance for dirty bathrooms inevitably resulted in me cleaning it. But I digress. Unfortunately, The Dirt on Clean is largely about Western bathing rituals, from early Greek and Roman period to the English in the Middle Ages and 19th centuries, and then finally modern American.

It was vaguely interesting, in a sleepy-time bath kind of way. On the entertaining side, if you've ever wondered how Western bathing rituals evolved through the years, you'll find a reasonable detailing here. The ancient Greeks no mention of the modern ones were well known for public baths, plumbing, and a culture that encouraged bathing for both social and health reasons. Hippocrates apparently believed hot and cold baths could bring the body's humours into balance. Of course, bathhouses also served as an important social setting.

In fact, excessive washing "signified vanity and worldliness," p. Hot baths might also be stimulating, a concept that would be echoed in the Victorian era. Several more chapters discuss varying aspects of bathing through Europe during the next millennia.

Some areas retained bathing and bathhouses the Swiss, the French through the s, but the plague ended up being a fatal blow to the conception of water as healthy because of the growing belief that baths and water opened the pores and let "pestiferous vapour in" p.

Francis Bacon, as a matter of fact, had a regimen where a person had a pre-bath oil and salve routine to close pores, sat in the bath for 2 hours, then wrapped in a waxed cloth that had herbs and resin for 24 hours, intending to re-close pores and 'harden' the body.

Further chapters explore the return of cold water bathing in the s which coincided with the view that the pores should be open so that germs could be flushed away from the body.

Technology facilitated the rise of bidets and ocean 'baths' in the s. A subsequent chapter looks at plumbing in America during the same time frame, followed by soap and marketing in the early s, and the crazy war on germs from the s onward. My problem with this book is that it was neither fish nor fowl. On one side, it talks about cleanliness from a ritual and conceptual standpoint, occasionally tying it into medical theory or physical resources.

The problem with this approach is that she also uses stories as examples of rituals, when--as readers know--sometimes stories are as much about what we wish or fantasize about rather than what is. Or, you know, metaphor. Like using Fifty Shades of Grey to talk about sexual rituals in 21st century America; although they are connected, there's a difference between cultural practices and cultural entertainment. So my academic criticism would be that she muddles her anthropological analysis. I'll also note that although she rarely brings in examples of various bathing rituals in other countries, it usually lacks context.

On the other side, she also enjoys sharing the Trivia l Pursuit or Entertainment Tonight type of stories where we get the scandalous and shocking details of what they did Way Back When, such as when Jean-Jacques Rousseau griped that a house was so full of "maids and teasing lackeys [that] I do not find a single wall or wretched little corner" to pee in. She also tries periodically to bring in the issue of 'smells. In an effort to be appropriate, I usually read it in the bath, which accounts for the many days it took to complete my reading.

It's not a bad book, but when it comes to non-fiction, I prefer less attempts to be titillating and more focus on substance. View all 7 comments. Feb 09, R K rated it it was amazing Shelves: educate-yourself-books , non-fiction-you-should-read , canada , favorites , recomended-books.

If anyone ever tells you that you shouldn't be spontaneous. That every decision in life needs a solution. Shove this book in their face. I just saw this book randomly on my Goodread's rec list and thought, "Why not?. What could you possible tell me that I don't already know? Challenge me, book! Everything was built up and up and up and I can tell you that I was giving myself a good scrub down and wash while I was reading this book.

Water and Sanitation is some If anyone ever tells you that you shouldn't be spontaneous. Water and Sanitation is something I will never take advantage of. Katherine Ashenburg did a fantastic job in going through history and telling the story how people from different cultures viewed the simple concept of hygiene. It's a lot more complex than you can possibly imagine and the effects of each culture's mentality had affected them both positively and negatively.

To you and I, the simple concept of maintaining your hygiene is something you don't even think about. You were taught when you were young and then you just added it to your routine. Yet, had you been brought up in a different timeline, your views would have definitely been different. It's incredible to think that such a minuscule task was something that challenged societal views. I'm talking big issues such as views on "What made a man?

Mind you, this book focuses more on European and North American notions and history. Yet, it's fascinating and mind boggling to read how people viewed cleanliness throughout different timelines.

You've got conceptions of public baths being normal to it becoming a dreaded sanctity. You have people shunning the idea of having a bath but being totally okay with wading thorough a public bathhouse filled with other people's germs, dirt, blood, hair, and god knows what else.

For a long period of time, cleanliness was represented by having closets loaded with clean white linen. It's why today, we still view clean white linen as a sign of cleanliness.

So the next time you see a painting where the subject is wearing clothes that show their linen underclothes, realize that it's not because they're trying to be "hot" for their timeline.


The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History








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