Friday, January 17, 2014

The World of Downton Abbey

Jessica Fellowes
St. Martin's Press
Reviewed by Nancy
5 out of 5 stars


A lavish look at the real world--both the secret history and the behind-the-scenes drama--of the spellbinding Emmy Award-winning Masterpiece TV series Downton Abbey

April 1912. The sun is rising behind Downton Abbey, a great and splendid house in a great and splendid park. So secure does it appear that it seems as if the way it represents will last for another thousand years. It won't.

Millions of American viewers were enthralled by the world of Downton Abbey, the mesmerizing TV drama of the aristocratic Crawley family--and their servants--on the verge of dramatic change. On the eve of Season 2 of the TV presentation, this gorgeous book--illustrated with sketches and research from the production team, as well as on-set photographs from both seasons--takes us even deeper into that world, with fresh insights into the story and characters as well as the social history.

My Review

As a huge fan of the Downton Abbey TV series, I was thrilled to find this book beckoning to me from the library’s front desk display.

It’s a lovely book with gorgeous photos and historical information about British life during the World War I era. It shows the contrasts between the wealthy Crawley family and the servants below stairs and goes into detail about the servants’ duties and the hierarchy within the staff. There are also tidbits about the people and places that inspired the series.

There are sections devoted to family life, romance and marriage, house and furnishings, clothing styles, war, and the lives of the servants.

In the section on hunting, there is a description by Ernest King on how he cleaned his master’s hunting clothes:

“From horse and rider perspiring, from a fall in a muddy ditch or field, they can come back in a pretty mess, especially the coat tails. When in this state we would ask the housemaid to save us the contents of the chamber pots, at least a bucketful. It was truly miraculous in getting the dirt out. That was immediately followed, I hasten to add, by brushing with clean water. I’ve often wondered if all the smart and fashionable hunting folk ever knew of the means taken to keep their coats so smartly turned out.”

The last section gives a glimpse behind the scenes – historical details, camera work, hairstyles and makeup, military uniforms and war scenes. At the end is a list of books for further reading.

If you enjoy the series, this is an excellent companion book.

Also posted at Goodreads.

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