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Apr 09

Downton Abbey: We Can’t Get Enough Of It!

Posted on April 9, 2013 at 12:00 AM by Craig Jacobson

Downton Abbey.jpgI have two nieces who recently hosted a Downton Abbey-themed birthday party for their mom.  They made recipes from the Unofficial Downton Abbey cookbook, everyone dressed up, and they feasted on a multi-course meal which included chicken with mushroom sauce, asparagus with Hollandaise sauce, and a rich chocolate cake.

If you’re a Downton Abbey fan too, you might enjoy browsing through the companion book to the TV show, The World of Downton Abbey.  Details about the actors, the characters, the filming of the show, and life in Britain during the early part of the 20th century are interspersed with gorgeous photos.  You could also listen to the original music from the series on the CD Downton Abbey: the essential collection.

If you missed the series, and are wondering what all the hype is about, (or you just want to watch them again!) your library system has all three seasons on DVD.  And if you’re hungry for more episodes, try watching Upstairs Downstairs, the long-running BBC series from the 1970s that also focuses on the intrigues, plots, and interactions between British servants and those they serve.

I recently read Below Stairs and Servants Hall, both by Margaret Powell, who, at age 15, began her life in service as a kitchen maid (think “Daisy”).  She minces no words as she describes her various employers, and what life was like for those in service.  Julian Fellows, who created the Downton Abbey series, used her books as his model and guide in writing for the show.

Those who are interested in what daily life was like for servants in England, including the pay, the hiring and the firing, and the working and living conditions might enjoy Life Below Stairs:  True Lives of Edwardian Servants by Alison Maloney.

Fiction stories about servants and their masters include:

Habits of the House by Fay Weldon, who wrote the pilot for Upstairs, Downstairs, tells the familiar story of an old British family that is in financial straits until the arrival of a marriageable American heiress.

Colour of Milk by Nell Leyshon, in which a spirited young girl encounters many difficulties in her first job working for a local vicar, his invalid wife and spoiled son.

Park Lane by Frances Osborne:  the story of a young girl who takes a job in service when she is unable to find work in an office.  As WWI approaches, her life changes in ways she could not have imagined.

The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons, which takes place during WWII, and follows the not uncommon story of a wealthy Jewish girl who works as a parlormaid in England as a way to escape the dangers of her native Vienna.

Finally, those who enjoy mysteries might want to try The St. Zita Society, by Ruth Rendell, is a suspenseful tale in which the events of the house escalate to murder.

So, if you’ve ever felt like a servant, wished for a servant, or simply been intrigued by the lives of those who are rich enough to employ servants, come to the library and check out one of these books or DVDs