Friday, January 4, 2013

Downton Abbey

Well, the new season of Downton Abbey is almost here.  If you haven't jumped on the bandwagon of reading books---fiction and nonfiction---set in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Britain, well you certainly should.  There's a wealth of good reading!  (And lots of great movies too).

I started off by reading the real story of Highclere Castle, the estate where Downton Abbey is filmed--a fascinating story about the marriage of Lady Almina, Countess of Carnarvon and her husband, Earl Carnarvon.  Well traveled and well heeled, they provided solace to wounded officers during WWI and helped  fund the expeditions that discovered King Tut's tomb.  Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey : The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle written by the current Countess of Carnarvon was a fascinating read. 

If you haven't read Edith Wharton, give her a try.  The library has her books in print and audio versions, as well as movie adaptations.  Both the Age of Innocence and The Buccaneers are great reads and are set in the Victorian era, full of gossip and relationship trials and tribulations.  The Buccanners, like Lady Grantham of Downton, are noveau riche Americans who go abroad to find husbands among the cash poor Brits.

An author I discovered just a couple of years ago, Kate Morton, may also quench your thirst for Downton  like reads.  Ms. Morton seems to have perfected the ability to write stories with twists and turns and yet keep the story plausible.  The Forgotten Garden was the first of her books that I read.  A real page turner, this book keeps you guessing as you follow the story of three women in different time periods and learn of their connection at the end of the tale.   Her other books The House at Riverton and The Distant Hours I can both highly recommend.  Her newest The Secret Keeper is still on my list of "to reads" but I expect it to be every bit as enthralling as her other works. 

I must admit that I've not read The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro but I've seen the movie starring Anthony Hopkins and it is wonderful.  The plot revolves around the butler, Stevens, who sacrifices his personal life to rise to the top of his profession. 

There are a multitude of other titles, just a few listed below, that just might satisfy your need for all things Downton.  Check them out at the library while you await the much anticipated arrival of season three.

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett - The first book in Follett’s Century Trilogy follows five families as they navigate the tumultous years of World War I, the Russian Revolution, and woman’s suffrage.

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin – Like Cora, the Countess of Grantham, The American Heiress’ heroine is a wealthy American that marries a Duke in need of money. Of course, she soon discovers being a Duchess might not be all she wanted or needed.

The Forsyte Sage by John Galsworthy --As the nineteenth century draws to a close the upper middle classes, with their property and propriety, are a diminishing section of society. The Forsytes are deliberately blind to this fact, surrounding themselves with a self-righteous conventionality and a determination to maintain the status quo.

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

Happy reading while you wait.

Dawn S. @ Warrenton

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