I'm positively terrified of non-fiction, injecting it with a dose of social history will have me cowering in a corner. It most likely has to do with my rubbish memory and my short attention span so I'll freely admit I wasn't excited about reading this book. Although I was willing to power through it in hopes of some interesting tales of debauchery.
And tales of debauchery there was. Dabhoiwala covers everything from Church law and state regulation to bawdy houses and good old fashioned Buggery. The book is divided into subtopics where the author is free to explore certain topics in more detail be it the change in attitudes to prostitution and the rise in sexual celebrity.
This book should definitely be aimed at an academic audience and not a curious reader, at times I felt as though I was reading a string of words and sentences without fathoming a single meaning from them, so at best I got a very vague idea of what I was being told. However, when I begin to understand what was being said I did start to find the information interesting.
I noticed throughout the book that there were a fair amount of quotes from Lord Byron and I'm not entirely sure what they were doing there. Lord Byron left the country in 1816 because of the sexual repression, never returning to England until his death in 1824. With this in mind, I feel that the quotes were an unnecessary and inaccurate addition and it made me wonder which other parts of the book have questionable historical merit. With my limited knowledge on the subject (save the free love movement) I have no other choice in believing it to be a true depiction of life at that time.
Overall, it did make for an interesting read although I do wish that a wider perspective was used. After all, you can't have a complete sexual revolution without the world following suit. I would have seen how the rest of the world dealt with the changes.
I'm offering up a word of caution to anyone who wants to pick up this book- it is fairly academic and very verbose. Full attention is required.