But first, I suppose I should confess to the reasons why I started checking out her blog tour in the first place. I don't normally get excited about debut books, but Ari from Reading in Color directed my attention to this book and I clicked around to check out her site for some excerpts to see if this book could be my thing. Which had me stumbling upon this little 10 Things You Didn't Know About Me post on Walker Books, wherein I found out the author was grew up in Singapore and moved to Canada when she was two and a half. And I was like, hey, if we replaced Singapore with Malaysia, that could be me! And was duly impressed that she actually spoke English, Chinese *and* Malay before getting to Canada. (I am no natural linguist: only knew Mandarin pre-school years, which I lost, and gained French and English instead.) Also, I was just charmed by the 10 things list in general. She just sounded really fun and witty. But I was still wary about the book itself. The summary didn't really make it sound like my thing, since I don't normally enjoy mystery novels (TV shows is a whole different story though), and a book about spies will abound with mystery-ness. Still, I kept the author's site bookmarked, and kept the book in mind.
Fast forward to this month of March, wherein bits of Y.S. Lee's blog tour posts were cropping up in my google reader, coupled with usually glowing reviews next to them. I was once again charmed by her posts. I'll confess that since being introduced to the concept of blog tours after having made this book blog, I was not converted to its appeal. I usually find the endless string of interviews dull (there's only so many times I can read the same answers for the similar type questions of Where Do You Get Your Ideas? and What's Your Inspiration or something), and a too large onslaught of reviews for the same book usually creates apathy on my part. However, if everyone had blog tours like Y.S. Lee's I'd never complain again. She totally set a new bar for the quality I expect out of a blog tour. Her guest posts are AMAZING. Seriously, they make the history factoid nerd in me all floaty in happiness. It's amazing how much she knows about Victorian England, and I love how accessible her posts are, this wry touch to her posts that I really enjoy. It also made me confident that Y.S. Lee's version of Victorian London will come to life with her impeccable amount of research. And it may also have ruined me for other blog tours forever - for historical novels anyhow. I'll probably be thinking inside, But why don't you have awesome geeky guest posts on history factoids of awesome?! Why aren't your guest posts like Y.S. Lee's??!?! Which I suppose is unfair to these future historical authors pursuing their blog tours, but new standards must be met! 8D
Heck, I even enjoyed the interviews, and I usually ignore Author interview posts. Her answers were very conversational and I approve her thoughts on Jane Eyre ending (one word for y'all on that subject: disappointing). Also, her answer to Steph Su's interview on her possible next novel was the best answer EVER (for me, anyhow. I acknowledge my South-East Asia-centric bias here.) I liked seeing everyone's opinion on the novel in their reviews, and they didn't start going dull on me mostly because of how the reviews were carefully worded so as to not give away the mystery stuff, and by consequence fuelled my imagination. I was all, What is this big secret no one wants to spill?! and combed through every word of the review trying to gather hints... Which is totally ironic since my initial reservations revolved around the whole mystery factor, lol.
*coughs* So anyhow: Y.S. Lee's blog tour posts are the best things ever and everyone should read them. And as I'm the most amazing and generous person alive, I decided that I'm going to LINK all 8 of the posts right here! 8D
Myth 1: “Lie back and think of England”. There is absolutely no evidence that Queen Victoria (or any other woman of the 1800s) ever advised anyone to “lie back and think of England” during sex. In fact, Queen Victoria thought her husband, Prince Albert, was gorgeous and confided to a friend that “Greek statues are nothing compared to Albert in his bath”.
Victorian Child Labour
In a different district, work might involve crawling through a coal mine, because skinny bodies and tiny fingers were good at collecting little bits of coal. Urban children went to work in factories, where their small fingers were useful once again – until they lost them in industrial accidents, and were thus unemployable.
Victorians of Colour
So when I started to imagine my novel, The Agency: A Spy in the House, I included a population I’d stumbled across in my PhD research: Lascars, aka sailors from the Asian subcontinent. Some were simply passing through London between ocean voyages; others chose to settle down, marrying English women and having families; others still were stuck in England, unable to find passage back to their home countries. For this last group, there were actually specific charities that aimed to help them (and convert them to Christianity at the same time). The “Imperial Baptist East London Refuge for Destitute Asiatic Sailors” mentioned in Spy is parody of their usual tone.
There are ASIANS, in a Victorian England setting!!! This post alone would have gotten me to fork out my money for the first available copy in my bookstore.
5 Reasons Why Historical Fiction > Time Travel
The family toothbrush. According to John Sutherland, whom I never doubt, dental hygiene is a relative latecomer to Western culture. In his terrific essay, “Heathcliff’s toothbrush”, Sutherland contemplates the state of our favourite Brontë psychopath’s teeth. Apparently, Heathcliff is unlikely to be able to gnash his gleaming white teeth in fury, because it would be rare for men of his age to have gnashable teeth. Indeed, while Victorians bathed regularly and believed in fresh air, they generally had only one toothbrush per household; the family toothbrush, if you will, in much the same way that families now have one nailbrush, or one shoe-polishing kit. A fortnight’s stay in 1840, anyone? I thought not.
Ewwwwwwwwwwww. Also a very convincing argument. 8D
Cadavers and Childbirth
Semmelweis noticed that at the doctor-staffed clinic, about 10% of the women died of something called childbed fever. In contrast, at the midwife-staffed clinic, about 4% of the women died of childbed fever (also called puerperal fever).
This didn’t make sense to Semmelweis. The higher death rate at the doctors’ clinic troubled him for years – until he realized that the doctors moved freely between the autopsy room and the delivery ward. (Yes, you read that correctly: they sliced open corpses, then went straight on to deliver babies without washing their hands in between!)
... And you thought the family toothbrush was bad. *grins*
The Great Stink
All through the history of the River Thames, Londoners dumped their garbage into it: food scraps, human waste, anything they didn’t want to deal with… it all went into the river. It’s a big river, though, and this was basically okay. They also used it as a source of water for cooking and bathing. Again, it was mostly tolerable. And then came the 1840s, and the invention of the flush toilet. Guess where they all flushed into? That’s right. Straight. Into. The Thames.
This is all horrifying in a fascinating way, y/y???!! *inner history geek is happy*
Victorians and Opium
Laudanum, however, was a liquid tincture of opium widely prescribed by doctors for pains, for anxiety, as a sleeping aid, and other general ailments for which a little light sedative might be helpful. It was unregulated in Victorian England. It was a major ingredient in lots of over-the-counter medicines, and few households were without their little bottle of laudanum.
I really liked how she debunked the whole opium dens and the exotic east connotations opium has here. =D
Victorians and the Corset
Little-known truth: men sometimes wore corsets, too. It’s true, it’s true! Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband, was admired for his great posture and splendid tailoring. Turns out that he had help with his posture. And he certainly wasn’t alone.
CORSETS FOR EVERYONE. lawl
Do go check out these epic guest posts. 8D Also, I promise a review for The Agency: A Spy in the House sometime this week. 8D