Review: Stephen Fry’s Victorian Secrets by John Woolf, Nick Baker

Step right up, step right up and don’t be shy—welcome to Victorian Secrets. Over 12 fascinating episodes, Stephen Fry explores the weird and worrying ways of Victorian Britain through true accounts delving deep into a period of time we think we know, to discover an altogether darker reality.

Stephen Fry’s Victorian Secrets by John Woolf & Nick Baker.  An Audible Original published by Audible Studios, November 2018.  7 hours and 33 mins.  Read as my last book for Non-Fiction November.

Legendary British actor and comedian Stephen Fry takes us on a 12 episode journey through the secret taboos of the British Victorian era.  Each episode, or chapter, deals with a specific secret topic.  Just about every secret you can think of is covered!  Family, same sex relationships, porno, sex, dangerous women, beauty, freakshows, minorities, bathroom & health, science & seances, drugs, and Sherlock Holmes & the police.

This was a nice look under the skirt of the Victorian era.  I really learned a lot about a subject I only kind of knew about.  Throughout the audio,  Mr. Fry introduces us to different authors and historians who specialize in whatever theme they are talking about.  Most of them mention books they have written on the subject, so if you want a more detailed look at the subject, you have a title to check out.  I thought that was pretty handy.  Also throughout the audio are numerous quotes from real Victorians via dairies, letters, books and articles (newspapers and magazines).  If you think the Victorian era is straight-lace and conservative, you might be in for a shock!

Stephen Fry does a fantastic performance of narrating Victorian Secrets.  His voice is nice and relaxing, with a hint of cheeky-ness to it.   The authors also did well when they talked about their topics.  When it came to quotes being read from real Victorians, there were voice actors.  They sounded a little soap opreaish, with a side helping of melodramatic, but they were supposed to be like that.  Everyone did a fine job. Since this was an Audible Original, there was also a music score to accompany the multi-cast performance.  Each chapter had it’s own theme song that fit in nicely with whatever the subject was.  I really enjoyed all the ambient sounds in the background – if Mr. Fry was supposed to be in a crowded room, there were people talking in the background; if he was underground, there was an echo.  A really nice touch to add even more dimension to the audio.

The only drawback, for me, was that there was a LOT of sex talk.  I’m not a fan of sexy time romance in my books, so I grew a little bored with so much of it being discussed.  Victorian Secrets was filled with plenty of details about all kinds of sex things.  I wouldn’t have minded if it had all just been contained in to one chapter / episode, but it seemed like the sex topic spilled over in to almost all of the other episodes!  I enjoyed the non-sex topics the most- murder, crime, mental & physical health, drugs, science.  Those topics were really interesting.  I don’t regret listening to Victorian Secrets, but I wish I had known going in that it would be more sex talk then anything else.  I thought I was going to learn more about secret murders or crimes, but those topics weren’t covered nearly as in-depth.

This book was very entertaining and you do learn a lot of interesting facts about the Victorian era that you might not have known before.  Several taboo topics are covered, with scandalous sex being the most covered topic.  Stephen Fry is a great narrator and the multicast does a fine job with interviews and performances.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s