Lisa Hilton at the TLS:
“Before the bedroom there was the room, before that almost nothing”, Perrot announces. She chooses to leapfrog over much medieval history and begin with a description of the king’s bedroom at Versailles under Louis XIV – an account for which she relies heavily on the memoirs of the duc de Saint-Simon, who spoke to the Sun King twice. Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie is more thorough as an interpreter of the stultifying etiquette of the Versailles system, and Nancy Mitford much funnier; there is no fresh research or information in Perrot’s summary, which is at best indecisive as to the significance of the royal bedroom: “the king’s chamber guards its mysteries”. That said, we learn that Perrot intends to trace the origin of the desire for a “room of one’s own”, which mark of individualization is apparently less universal than it might appear. The Japanese had no notion of privacy, we are told, which might have come as news to the ukiyo-e artists of the seventeenth century; nonetheless, Perrot is broadly correct in her account of the evolution of private sleeping space as depending on the movement from curtained or boxed beds to separate chambers during the same period in Europe.