Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What We Are Reading Now...

Calling All Downton Abbey Fans! Having trouble waiting for series three and the continuing saga? Here are some good reads to keep you up to snuff.
Tells the story behind Highclere Castle, the real-life inspiration for the hit PBS show Downton Abbey, and the life of one of its most famous inhabitants, Lady Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon and wife of Lord Carnarvon who was famous for discovering King Tut's tomb. Drawing on a rich store of materials from the archives of Highclere Castle, including diaries, letters, and photographs, the current Lady Carnarvon has written a transporting story of this fabled home from the turn of the century through World War I and on in to the 1920's.

World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes
The companion book to the popular British series about the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants offers insights into the story and characters as well as background information on British society in the early years of the twentieth century.

Below Stairs: the Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir That Inspired " Upstairs Downstairs" and "Downton Abbey"  by Margaret Powell
Brilliantly evoking the long-vanished world of masters and servants portrayed in Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs. Powell first arrived at the servants' entrance of one of those great houses in the 1920s. Work started at 5.30am and went on until after dark. From the gentleman with a penchant for stroking the housemaids’ curlers, to raucous tea-dances with errand boys, to the heartbreaking story of Agnes the pregnant under-parlormaid, fired for being seduced by her mistress’s nephew, Margaret’s tales of her time in service are told with wit, warmth, and a sharp eye for the prejudices of her situation.
Wait For Me!: Memoirs by the Duchess of Devonishire (nee Deborah Mitford)
In this sparkling memoir, the Duchess (The Pursuit of Laughter) writes about her famously eccentric family and the upper reaches of the British aristocracy with whom she has mingled during her long life (she'll turn 91 in March). She was related to Winston Churchill's wife, Clementine, and to Prime Minister Harold Macmillan. In 1938, she met her future husband, Andrew Cavendish, and socialized with the Kennedy's. When her husband inherited his title, she became the mistress of Chatsworth. The Devonshire family estate dated back to the time of Henry VIII and contains fabulous treasures, including original Rembrandt paintings. Wait for Me! is a unique portrait of an age of tumult, splendor, and change.
Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
A profoundly compelling portrait of the perfect English butler and of his fading, insular world in postwar England. In a career that spans World War II, the novel's narrator, Stevens, is a perfect English butler who is oblivious to the real life that goes on around him -- oblivious, for instance, to the fact that his aristocrat employer is a Nazi sympathizer. Still, there are even larger matters at stake in this heartbreaking, pitch-perfect novel -- namely, Stevens' own ability to allow some bit of life-affirming love into his tightly repressed existence.

The Anglo Files: A Field Guide to the British by Sarah Lyall
A razor-sharp . . . wickedly insightful, decidedly biased account of everything British. Sarah Lyall moved to London in the mid-1990s and soon became known for amusing and sharp dispatches on her adopted country. Confronted by the eccentricities of these island people (the English husband who never turned on the lights, the legislators who behaved like drunken frat boys, the hedgehog lovers), she set about trying to figure out the British. Part anthropological field study and part memoir, The Anglo Files has already received great acclaim and recognition for the astuteness, humor, and sensitivity with which the author wields her pen.




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