A middle class home, circa 1850, of the sort that many people live in today, is the focus of Judith Flanders' book. The Victorian age is both recent and unimaginably distant. In the most prosperous and technologically advanced nation in the world, people carried slops up and down stairs; buried meat in fresh earth to prevent mould forming; wrung sheets out in boiling water with their bare hands. This drudgery was routinely performed by the parents of people still living, but the knowledge of it has passed as if it had never been. Running water, stoves, flush lavatories - even lavatory paper - arrived slowly throughout the century; and most were luxuries available only to the prosperous.