The Homecraft Book – by Ann Hathaway
Book Review by Emily Elphinstone
In the past few years, there has been an increasing trend toward rediscovering traditional techniques of knitting, darning, home-cooking, and home-growing; which might otherwise be lost in our disposable age. So it is perhaps unsurprising that this seems a relevant moment to re-release The Homecraft Book, a highly acclaimed household manual, first published in 1945.
It is a relief to see that the new edition contains a light hearted introduction by the Grandson of author Ann Hathaway, highlighting how some elements of the manual may now seem dated or downright dangerous, including the use of Borax and Sulphur. However, this appears to be the only edit to the original text, which then launches fully into how a housewife’s duties may be eased.
In many ways The Homecraft Book is a fascinating read, particularly as a ‘historical document’ as it is described in the introduction; and Hathaway has a great way with words, uttering such advice as: “See that your shoes shine brightly and your nose doesn’t.” As we now live in a world where it’s often cheaper to buy new items than to get them repaired; it is intriguing to read about cutting matches in half, or darning gloves.
But unfortunately there are points where the advice seems so dated (particularly in reference to pleasing ‘the menfolk’); that it becomes confusing as to why the book is being newly published.
The greatest shame, however, is that more care was not taken in the editing and proofreading of the book. There are a number of instances in which misspelling and poor grammar (lost spacing, and writing ‘slat’ instead of ‘salt’, for example) make it more difficult to read; and if some of the less relevant tips were taken out, then others might be better showcased. Though many of Hathaway’s suggestions may not be commonly adopted today, there are still a number of wonderfully interesting tips and recipes which could be very useful; and it’s refreshing to hear beauty tips about avoiding “that look of not having enough flesh to cover your bones” in contrast to today’s emphasis on weightloss.
Overall, The Homecraft Book is an interesting, and sometimes informative read. It is only a shame that errors throughout, and an apparent wish to keep absolutely everything from the original print (parts of which are now difficult to comprehend), make the guide a more dense and difficult read than it might otherwise have been.