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Feb 18 2013

If you liked “Downton Abbey”…

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What a great finale last night!  I can’t say any more, because I know a lot of people  haven’t caught up yet on the third season.  But sadly, we have a year to wait for the next installment of the adventures of the Crawleys and their devoted (and not so devoted) servants.  To help pass the time, here are some suggestions of movies and books we have here at Belk that will keep the feeling alive:


  • Gosford Park:  This is the film for which DA creator Julian Fellowes won an Academy Award for best screenplay.  It has the same upstairs/downstairs setting, and a nice juicy murder mystery thrown in.  It’s set a little after DA, in 1932.  DVD 791.4352 G692aL
  • The Buccaneers:  Based on the novel by Edith Wharton, this Masterpiece Theater mini-series shows the adventures of American heiresses who came over to England in the late 19th century to marry impoverished lords.  (The Cora and Lord Grantham story!)  DVD 791.4572 B851sa
  • Upstairs, Downstairs:  The Masterpiece Theater classic that started it all!  The show follows the fortunes of the Bellamy family and their servants in London, from 1903 until 1930. The first series appeared in 1971, and we have the complete series (20 discs!) as well as the new episodes that came out in 2010 and cover the 1930s and the darkening shadows of war.  DVD 791.4572 Up7Lo
  • Remains of the Day: A beautiful film about the lives of servants on a country estate.  Much of the flashbacks focus on life in the house between the wars, and the inevitable changes that come.  The film was nominated for 8 Academy Awards, and probably would have won many if it hadn’t been released the same year as Schindler’s List!  Unfortunately we only have the videocassette.  VHS 791.4372 R281iv
  • Manor House: When you imagine yourself living at Downton, you always imagine you’re Lady Mary, right?  What if you were Daisy?  This is a reality television show from Britain where nineteen people were thrown into life either upstairs or downtstairs.  They agreed to use Edwardian technology and to abide by Edwardian standars of behavior.  DVD 942.082 M317mu
  • Love in a Cold Climate: Based on the novel by Nancy Mitford (one of the famous Mitford girls, the last of whom is the dowager Duchess of Devonshire!), this is the story of castles, country houses, and the eccentric aristocracy in the 1930s. DVD 791.4572 L941ho
  • Berkeley Square: This BBC mini-series is focused on three girls who work as nannies in the posh houses of Berkeley Square in London in 1902.  One character in particular has overtones of the DA maid Ethel – illegitimate child from an aristocrat…  Lots of mistress/servant drama here!  DVD 791.4572 B455co
  • The Forsyte Saga: So the Forsytes are a “new rich” family rather than an old aristocratic family, but they’re dealing with the same social changes of the 20th century.  And you can’t beat it for familial soap opera drama.  It includes amazing actors, including Damian Lewis from “Homeland”.  DVD 791.4572 F775me

Nonfiction Books (and one Fiction):

  • What Jane Austen ate and Charles Dickens knew : from fox hunting to whist, the facts of daily life in the 19th century : A wonderful reference book that answers all your questions about what’s going on at Downton!  What’s the different between a duke and an earl?  Why does Matthew inherit Downton and not Mary? A great read.   820.9008 P781wh
  • Not in front of the servants: a true portrait of English upstairs/downstairs life:  The author, journalist Frank Dawes, realized in the 1960s that many of the old servants were dying off.  So he sent out a request for memoirs and was inundated with stories.  This is a collection of interviews and letters from the real housemaids and footmen!   640.4609 D321no
  • Up and down stairs: the history of the country house servant:  Life in a country house like Downton was very different than life in London.  This book covers country houses from medieval times to the 20th century.   640.4609 M977up
  • American Jennie:  the remarkable life of Lady Randolph Churchill:  Jennie Jerome was one of the most famous real-life American “Buccaneers” to marry an English lord.  She was also the mother of Winston Churchill.  942.081 C485se
  • The glitter and the gold: A memoir by another “Buccaneer”, Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan.  She also married a Churchill and became chateleine of Bleinhem Palace.  It was a big adjustment!  920.72 B216gL
  • Lady Almina and the real Downton Abbey: the lost legacy of Highclere Castle: This is the real story, written by the current Countess of Carnarvon.  Lady Almina was an American heiress who married the earl, and ran a hospital out of the Castle during World War I.  Lots of interesting stories!  941.083092 C214ca
  • Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain: An excellent choice if you’re interested in Lady Sybil and the World War I period.  Vera Brittain was an upper class young lady when war broke out, and signed on to be a nurse.  She paints a moving picture of the lost generation of young men who were killed in war, as well as what nursing was like. 928.2 B778
  • The Sisters: the saga of the Mitford family: The Crawley sisters don’t have anything on the real-life Mitford sisters!  Six sisters (and one brother) grew up in an aristocratic country house.  They were famous in the 1920s and 1930s for their beauty and political beliefs: one was with the French Resistance, one was a fascist, one was a Nazi, one was a communist, and the youngest became Duchess of Devonshire and saved the family estate!  941.0820922 L943si
  • The Buccaneers by Edith Wharton: As mentioned above, this is the story of a group of American heiresses who come over to England to marry impoverished lords.  The novel was unfinished at the time of Wharton’s death, but completed using her notes.  813 W555fa

Mystery Novels: (Because I love them!)

  • Early Lord Peter Wimsey novels of Dorothy Sayers, especially Clouds of Witness:  Sayers’ work is certainly a classic. But you might have forgotten the novels are set in the same post-war world and milieu as DA. Clouds of Witness is about a murder at a house party at a hunting lodge.  Parallels to the country house, the shooting party in Season 3, and between Lord Peter’s sister and Lady Sybil. Also check out The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club. 823 Sa9901th
  • Maisie Dobbs novels by Jacqueline Winspear: The eponymous detective began as a housemaid, where she was discovered reading the books in the library instead of cleaning.  She was given the chance at an education, and served in World War I as a nurse.  After the war, she becomes a private investigator.  Personal note: I met the author at a library conference, and she said that many people had told her that her novels helped them understand DA!  823 W733
  • Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen: The main character, Lady Georgiana, is not unlike what would have happened to Lady Rose if she weren’t getting taken in to DA.  Related to the royal family, Lady Georgina’s own family has a moldering castle in Scotland and no money in the 1920s.  So Lady Georgiana comes to London and starts work as a domestic servant who still has time to solve murders.  These are light-hearted, cozy novels, and a lot of fun.  823 B6571