The Downton Withdrawal Reading List
Another season of Downton Abbey has ended, leaving tears, questions and a hole in some of our Sunday nights. What to do? Well, for those of us longing to re-immerse ourselves (or just learn a bit more about) a bygone era, here are a few books that should help you manage your Downton withdrawal.
The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde: The Dowager Countess had some great one-liners, but she's no match for Lady Bracknell, a character one of my English professors described as making Lady Macbeth look like Brittney Spears.
The Perfect Summer by Juliet Nicolson: This rather addictive book provides a panoramic view of all levels of English society during one long, lovely pre-war summer.
The Lady's Maid: My Life in Service by Rosina Harrison: Learn more about what it was really like to be at the beck and call of an aristocratic lady during the era. Thankfully, there are no soap-related incidents in this story.
Not in Front of the Servants: A True Portrait of Upstairs, Downstairs Life by Frank V. Dawes: Dawes delves into the intertwining lives of both servants and masters.
Bright Young People: The Rise and Fall of a Generation, 1918-1940 by D J Taylor: The horrors of war gave way to a hedonistic party lifestyle for many young aristocrats, like Crawley cousin Rose. The difficulties faced by an entire generation, despite their privilege, is movingly chronicled in Taylor's book.
Below Stairs: The Bestselling Memoirs of a 1920s Kitchen Maid by Margaret Powell: The upstairs folk at Downton are so benevolent it's easy to forget that, in reality, the lives of women like Daisy and Ivy were grim indeed. The truth of life belowstairs is portrayed with wit and warmth by someone who was actually there.
The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy by David Cannadine: Admittedly, this one's a bit of a slog, but if you're looking for a serious scholarly book about the many forces that endangered and brought down big estates like Downton throughout the 20th century, this is the one for you.
Ladies of the Manor: Wives and Daughters in Country House Society 1830-1918 by Pamela Horn: What did women like Cora and the Crawley girls do all day? This book offers a glimpse of the country society lives of ladies.