Ask the Past: Pertinent and Impertinent Advice from Yesteryear by Elizabeth P Archibald

Ask the Past: Pertinent and Impertinent Advice from YesteryearAsk the Past: Pertinent and Impertinent Advice from Yesteryear by Elizabeth P. Archibald
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A cute little comedy romp through the “Dear Abby” of the medieval world. Most of this should not be tried at home, no matter how much you long for the simpler days of the past. You will burn down your house (2), alienate your friends (80), and probably chop off your foot (20). Oh, and PETA will be so angry with you (30, 96, 182…there’s a few. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

Maybe don’t read this if you’ve got a weak stomach, now that I think about it. The past was a whole different universe and some of this advice can be a little…gruesome. Archibald doesn’t group or order the advice in any way. It works well in the book (and she explains why in the introduction, which was also worth reading) but makes it impossible to avoid remedies involving…fresh animal bits, shall we say. But since there’s no logic to the types of solutions offered for various problems it’s not like you could just skip the section on “advice for really serious problems” and be guaranteed not to be told about newt sacrifices or whatever. You’d be just as likely to find that under “liven up your dinner party” as “protect your loved ones from the plague.”

Some of the best parts are Archibald’s commentary on the advice she’s collected. There’s a sentence or two of snark and witticisms at the bottom of each page to set off the serious tone. And plenty of hysterical historical illustrations to help you understand what you’re supposed to do with that newt you sacrificed. And if you didn’t get enough historical advice, but now you’re at the end of the book and you don’t know what to do with yourself? Archibald has a blog: http://askthepast.blogspot.com. Everything you never wanted to know and were afraid to ask.

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