Book of the Year -- The Sunday Times

Dec 1 2013
The Times [London]
James McConnachie

"Half the book feels like eavesdropping -- tales of illegitimate half-Indian children and 'bachelor uncles' -- the other half is a deeply considered argument about the changing relationship between privacy, secrecy and shame."

Deborah Cohen’s Family Secrets: Living with Shame from the Victorians to the Present Day (Viking) pries open the most astounding archives to uncover what our recent ancestors tried to hide. The Victorian divorce courts offer outrageous stories of adultery and elopement, while heartbreaking letters from parents of children at institutions for "imbeciles" reveal staggering shifts in attitudes. Half the book feels like eavesdropping -- tales of illegitimate half-Indian children and "bachelor uncles" -- the other half is a deeply considered argument about the changing relationship between privacy, secrecy and shame.