Palaces of Pleasure: Review

Alan D.D. is an author, journalist and blogger from Venezuela. He works with books, comics, music, movies and anything else that catches his attention. 99% of the time, it’s something about witches. He’s currently studying a Masters in Communication and Development and searching for a 24/7 chocolate supplier. 

Once in a while, it’s good for the reader to get out of their comfort zone and go for something in an unexplored genre, the kind of book they don’t usually read, and see what happens. I did this with Palaces of Pleasure: From Music Halls to the Seaside to Football, How the Victorians Invented Mass Entertainment by Lee Jackson, and I would say that anyone with any level of interest in the Victorian world should get a copy.

The book examines the Victorians’ invention of mass entertainment. Each chapter focuses on a different form of entertainment, such as the gin palace, music hall, dance halls, pleasure gardens, exhibitions, football and the seaside, in chronological order.

Jackson not only explains how different forms of entertainment evolved in the Victorian era, but also how they were received and the reactions they provoked at the time. While some have a rather sombre and aristocratic image of the era, Palaces of Pleasure proves the Victorians were not always so serious. Jackson describes how each of the entertainment inventions was subject to debate due to their nature. Jackson does not ignore the implications of social class or gendered experiences of leisure, either. Leisure, though not a criminal act, seems to have been treated as such due to the many legislations and laws created to keep it suitably moral and family-friendly. It surprised me to learn how many controversies arose, either because a form of entertainment was seen as too liberal or because it did not hold any educational value for the public.

It also surprised me that the author, while maintaining a formal and academic tone throughout the book, managed to keep to a simple and direct style. Jackson does not skimp on details and descriptions, but adds them in such an organic way that the reading does not become heavy or boring in any way. Palaces of Pleasure, then, is a pleasant journey through history.

As I mentioned at the beginning, the book is perfect for anyone interested in the Victorian era. It captivates you from the first moment, and although it requires time to enjoy it chapter by chapter, it is worth the effort to immerse yourself in a story that asks to be revived more than once. Palaces of Pleasure is full of interesting historical facts, and it is a box full of surprises that all readers can enjoy.

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