Wednesday, 25 November 2015

The Homecraft Book - review

This is the time of year when many of us are looking for good presents for those difficult-to-buy-for people. I have done my bit for this cause with the science quiz book How Many Moons Does the Earth Have (traditional shameless plug), but even I, through gritted teeth, have to admit that not everyone would greet a science book in their stocking with a cheery smile. And if that's the case, you are recommended to get hold of The Homecraft Book by Ann Hathaway.

In case there's a suspicion that the Hollywood actress is following her colleague Ms Paltrow into telling us how to run our lives, this was the pseudonym of an Irish writer of home tips. Written at the end of the Second World War, the book has been edited by the author's grandson, who has the even more unlikely pseudonym of Thaddeus Lovecraft. 

The reader knows that there is a fun trip ahead when seeing the 'mostly non-lethal advice' comment on the cover, reinforced by being informed that we won't need to have a maid (or a Hoover). Some sections are marvellous read aloud, preferably in a Joyce Grenfell voice, e.g. 'use two dusters at the same time - one in each hand when dusting your rooms. You'll find you can do your work much more quickly'. (And don't forget to 'paint your cork tablemat with enamel, cheerful and easy to keep clean.')

Realistically, this isn't the kind of book you are likely to sit and read from end to end as it does contain a lot of lists for advice, for instance on mending everything from the household bucket  (using putty) to getting rid of cracks in china (the secret is an application of the anything but harmless quicklime). But it is a great title to dip into and to get a feel for a very different world from our disposable society. Back then, make do and mend was essential - an approach that arguably we can learn a lot from.

Appealing both to older readers for nostalgia reasons and younger trendy folk for its ironic appeal, I expect the book to do very nicely this Christmas.  And you will be pleased to know that there is even a section on making the most of your Christmas festivities. Available from and

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