Sunday, May 20, 2012

Downton Abbey Related Books

Downton Abbey Related Books

If you, like me, are obsessed with the PBS/ITV soap opera Downtown Abbey, then you may want to do a bit of reading about the house, the show or life in the Edwardian age. This is the first and hopefully not the last post on Downton Abbey related books.

The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellows
This full-color coffee table book is eye candy for the Edwardian enthusiast. It contains chapters on the history of the Edwardian age. The chapters cover the topics of family life, society, change, life in service, style, house & estate, romance, war and finally behind the scenes. Each chapter is based around anecdotes from the show and explains the real history behind the actions. The factual text explains how and why people acted and reacted the way they did. The chapters also contain sidebars about the show's real-life counterparts: American "buccaneers" in search of titled husbands, servants, women, etc. As a history nerd I especially enjoyed meeting the inspirations behind the characters. The chapter on style is my favorite. The behind the scenes chapter is also especially fun. I loved learning about the making of the show though some may feel it ruins the magic a bit. I learned a lot about the time period in an entertaining way. The amazing photographs provide a detailed, in-depth look at the house and the costumes. The photos alone are worth the price of the book. I recommend this book to all fans of Downton Abbey and the Edwardian age. This is a must-have book for your bookshelf! Just drool a bit over the sample on Amazon and you'll be hooked.


Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey : The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by Fiona, Countess of Carnarvon -- Memoir

Almina Wombwell was just nineteen when she married the 5th Earl of Carnarvon in 1895. With her marriage, Almina solidified her status in society making her one of the leading hostesses of the day. Almina's mother, Marie Wombwell, was a French woman who was separated from her wastrel husband. Almina's father was likely Alfred de Rothschild, a wealthy Jewish financier. He never publicly acknowledged Almina as his daughter, but claimed her as his goddaughter and always treated her with love and indulgent kindness. For all intents and purposes, he was, in modern language, her dad. With Alfred's money and Almina's charm, the shy young Earl (he was 29) was happy to claim his bride. Over the next 30 years Lady Almina cut a dash through society, hosting lavish parties for illustrations guests such as The Prince of Wales and the Duke and Duchess of Marlbourough (Counsuelo Vanderbilt), and redecorating her home Highclere Castle. Lady Almina's true passion was nursing. Most of the book is dedicated to the World War I years when Lady Almina turned her home into a hospital for wounded officers and later opened a hospital in London. Lady Almina ensured her patients would not only have the best care but the most comfortable place to stay. She believed that comfortable surroundings would aid in recovery. She loved her husband and was always by his side in sickness and in health. The Earl of Carnarvon had a passion for fast machines (cars and airplanes) and antiquities. His passion led him to Egypt and an archeological expedition that would transform Egyptology and change his archeologist partner's life forever. This book is more of a memoir of a family than a history of the home. The current Countess has put together this memoir from archival sources. It reads like a conversation. The writing is simple and easy to read. The Countess has chosen to focus most of the book on World War I and the affect it had on the Earl, the Countess and their families. Those chapters are a bit gruesome and grim. I was hoping for more on the glittering pre-war society and the history of the house The book made me want to learn more about the house though, especially since Lady Almina's decorative touches still stand in the state rooms. (Which you can see on the show). I enjoyed reading about Lady Almina, the Countess of Carnarvon and those she loved. I learned a bit about Edwardian society, a lot about World War I and Egyptology. I would recommend this book to those who want to know about the real Countess who inhabited the real house during the first two decades of the 20th century.

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