If you missed the first post, check out my original post on ten books to read if you’re going through Downton Withdrawel. It was such a hit I decided to find more books that fans of Downton will enjoy. Again, I tried to include a variety of books: fiction, nonfiction, memoir and mystery.
The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson–our heroine, Beatrice is the new Latin teacher for the small town of Rye. She is mourning the death of her father, and wants to devote herself to teaching and studies. As she begins to adapt to her new life in Rye, the effects of war trickle into the lives of the townspeople. The writing is witty and sharp, and while Beatrice is unconventional and intelligent, she’s also likable, as are the supporting characters in her new life. This book is a delightful treat.
Rose: My Life in Service to Lady Astor by Rosina Harrison–a memoir of Rose’s experiences as the long time ladies maid to Lady Nancy Astor. This book is extremely candid, and told with the author’s wonderful sense of humor. Lady Astor lived an unusual life, being the first female member of Parliament, and was known for her outlandish and shocking personal beliefs and comments. Rose seemed to have just as strong of a personality, and the stories of her experiences are fascinating and entertaining.
Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey by the Countess of Carnarvon–Catherine is the daughter-in-law to Almina, the subject of the Countess’ prior book, and this is a continuation of the family’s saga. Like the first, it’s packed with pictures and letters from the archives of Highclere, which greatly enhance the story. It picks up around 1923, and goes up through 1945, telling the experiences of those that lived at Highclere, including the Earl and Countess, but also the many staff behind the scenes, and those that Highclere housed temporarily: evacuee children and teachers, and soldiers. Though much of the scandal is rooted in sadness, it does make for interesting reading.
The Secret Rooms: A True Story of a Haunted Castle, a Plotting Duchess, and a Family Secret by Catherine Bailey–I think this book is best suited for fairly serious history enthusiasts. I also feel like the title and cover blurbs are a little too melodramatic–it is the story of one aristocratic family’s experiences prior and during WWI. There is a coverup, and the historian herself must have been thrilled to discover the gaps in the family’s well preserved archives. So if you’re clear what the book is actually about, and you have an interest in the time period, give the book a shot. Readers who love the idea of digging through old papers, searching for answers to a decades old mystery will enjoy this book.
Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman by Tessa Arlen–this thrilling debut mystery is pure enjoyment to read. At Lady Montfort’s annual summer ball, her husband’s nephew is found murdered, and their son is the only suspect. Lady Montfort takes it upon herself to get to the bottom of the crime, and together with her practical housekeeper, they begin the search for the real killer. This is the beginning of a new series, and I’m anxiously waiting for the next installment from the library.
The Glitter and the Gold: the American Duchess–in Her Own Words by Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan–Consuelo Vanderbilt’s memoir is easy to read and surprisingly down to earth. She led an intriguing but sometimes unhappy life: moving in the highest circles of society, and marrying the Duke of Marlborough against her personal wishes, which ultimately ended in divorce. In time she remarried for love, and became involved in the women’s suffrage movement and other philanthropic causes.
Servants’ Hall: A Real Life Upstairs, Downstairs Romance by Margaret Powell–Powell’s second book is an excellent first hand look at what a life in service was really like. She writes in a candid, conversational voice which is enjoyable to read. The book ends rather abruptly, and not all the characters ride off into the sunset with happy conclusions. Despite that, it’s still a worthwhile read.
Do you have anything to add to my list?