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Friday, March 15, 2013

Below Stairs...Review

About the book:
Brilliantly evoking the long-vanished world of masters and servants portrayed in Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs, Margaret Powell’s classic memoir of her time in service, Below Stairs, is the remarkable true story of an indomitable woman who, though she served in the great houses of England, never stopped aiming high. Powell first arrived at the servants' entrance of one of those great houses in the 1920s.

As a kitchen maid – the lowest of the low – she entered an entirely new world; one of stoves to be blacked, vegetables to be scrubbed, mistresses to be appeased, and bootlaces to be ironed. Work started at 5.30am and went on until after dark. It was a far cry from her childhood on the beaches of Hove, where money and food were scarce, but warmth and laughter never were. Yet 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.

Margaret Powell's true story of a life spent in service is a fascinating “downstairs” portrait of the glittering, long-gone worlds behind the closed doors of Downton Abbey and 165 Eaton Place.

There has always been a fascination between the classes and the differences between the upstairs and downstairs lives of those living in the great houses of England.  I'd seen Below Stairs pop up here and there as Downton Abbey grew in popularity and I was curious to read it.

Margaret Powell's story is honest and straight forward.  She writes simply with no embellishments and no pretenses.  Just the story of her life told in a forthright, honest manner.  People entered service because they had few options. It wasn't an easy life and the differences in service life between houses is as strong as the differences between the servants and their employers.  Some employers treated their staff poorly and others were more generous.  A nice social commentary of the time (early 20th century).

There's a blurb on the back of this book that is written by Julian Fellowes, who is the creator of Downton Abbey and he speaks of the inspiration that this book provided him when he began to write Downton Abbey.  It's very easy to see similarities between Margaret's story and situations in the show.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.  You can purchase your own copy here.

* * * *
4/5 Stars


  1. Oooh I need to read this! Thanks for the review!

  2. I have a feeling my mom would love this one!

  3. I've seen good reviews about this one. Didn't know it inspired Fellows for his Downton Abbey script.

  4. This sounds like an interesting social commentary for the time.
    I've never watched Downton Abbey but people have raved about it.
    Great post!

  5. Oh this sounds good. Will look for it.

    New Follower =3

    Lisa @ When She Read