Fixed Navigation Bar

Monday, February 24, 2014

Upstairs, Downstairs with Downton Abbey

Watching the characters of Downton Abbey navigate the ties of love, class, duty and desire in Edwardian England has become a national pastime. The storyline moves the inhabitants of the Earl and Countess of Grantham’s country estate from the sinking of the Titanic in 1913 through the vast social and economic changes of the roaring twenties. However, it’s the tumultuous upstairs and downstairs relationships that keep followers entertained and entranced with this Julian Fellowes hit. So, when Season Four ended Sunday, the break until the show resumes next year will leave an abbey-sized hole in our viewing lives. While you can always fill that void by watching Seasons 1-3 again, here are some alternatives to consider.

In the early 1920s, a young maid plays silent witness to the lives of Lord Ashbury's family in The House at Riverton: a Novel by Kate Morton. When a director making a documentary film interviews her late in life about the tragic 1924 death of a poet on the estate, long-buried secrets of that fatal night begin to emerge.

If you’ve ever wondered what downstairs life was really like, try the biography that inspired the show Margaret Powell’s Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir That Inspired "Upstairs, Downstairs" highlights the fascinating details of her life in service. In Servants' Hall: A Real Life Upstairs, Downstairs Romance she shares the true story of an underparlor maid who eloped with the heir to a prominent family.

If true tales of young heiresses and impoverished earls intrigue you, consider Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by the Countess of Carnarvon. This history of Highclere Castle, the actual estate used as the setting for Downton Abbey, portrays the marriage of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon to the young daughter of an industrialist during and after the First World War.

Brideshead Revisited, based on the book by Evelyn Waugh, was a popular BBC costume drama. This sweeping tale of British upper class life between the two world wars tells the tale of architect Charles Ryder’s tangled and troubled relationship with the aristocratic Anglo-Catholic Flyte family.

The movie adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s classic depiction of service in a great British house, The Remains of the Day starred Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. An aging butler reflects on his life and losses during his rigid and uncompromising pursuit of perfection in carrying out his duties for a lord with unsavory political ties.

- Rebecca Wolff, Centreville Regional Library

No comments: