Books To Read If You Like Downton Abbey

by Lissie

Can't get enough of Downton Abbey - check out some books written about that era of English history

Long before the Internet was going to destroy people's ability to read, TV was the villain of the piece. Yet I am pretty sure I read my way through the Edwardian and Victorian British history sections of the local library, because of a TV series - Upstairs, Downstairs,

Nothing much as changed, except you can at least revisit Downton Abbey on DVD. But still fans crave more from the world of Downton Abbey. If you are looking for books similar to Downton Abbey - you are in luck. There are quite a number of books which are either biographies and autobiographies of those who lived in the great houess of England in the early 20th century. There is also a large number, of almost forgotten fiction set in the period, published long ago. The demand for "books like Downton Abbey" has seen many long out of print titles being brushed off, getting a new cover and a new audience.


Lady Amina and the Real Downton Abbey

Fiona, Countess of Carnavon

Although Downton Abbey is a work of fiction, it would appear stranger than fiction, that Highclere Castle, where the upstairs scenes were filmed, did in fact have a Lady whose real life had some resemblance to the fictional Lady Cory Crawley. Lady Almina who was married to 5th Earl of Carnavan, was also an outsider, not American but of French Jewish extraction, and most shockinglin - probably illegitimate. Like Cora she was very rich, generous, used the house as a hospital during World War 1.

Elizabeth and Her German Garden

Elizabeth von Arnim

This is the book that Molesley gives to Anna, when he is trying to tempt her away from Mr Bates. Published in 1898 it was a very popular auto-biographical novel by an Australian-born women who married a Prussian aristocrat.

 For today's reader its a fascinating insight to just how far women have come in a little over 100 years. Elizabeth struggles to adapt to life on a huge German estate, where she is bound by the conventions of society, expected to "keep up appearances" but make do with very little actual cash.

Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir

Margaret Powell

Below Stairs - may well have inspired Julian Fellowes, Downton Abbey's creator, but this book was published long before the TV series - 1968 originally. The author, now long dead, was the real-life Daisy - and this is her auto-biography of being a working-class girl working as a servant in London houses, between the Wars. 

Originally very popular in the UK, and claimed to have inspired the long-running Upstairs, Downstairs, series = this new edition (the cover is all that's changed) seems to be charming Downton Abbey fans as well. This is the real deal - what it was really like, not convenient plot devices included!

Parade's End

Ford Madox Ford

Now for the man's point of view. As is obvious to any fan of Downton Abbey male and female's lives were very different during the early years of the 20th century. Parade's End is a re-issue of four books written by Ford based on his experiences during World War 1, include the infamous Battle of the Somme. This is not the Hollywood version, Ford survived the war, but suffered from shell shock and lung damage due to his front-line experience. 

Although Downton under-plays the horrors of the trenches (as indeed did many of the men who came home) - it is the pivotal event in 20th century British history - and pretty much was responsible for the collapse of the class system and great houses that Downton is based in.

Downton Abbey is a British television period drama series, produced by British media company Carnival Films for the ITV network. The series is set on the fictional estate of ...

Loving; Living; Party Going

Henry Green

Never heard of Henry Green? Me neither, but when this book was published pre-World War 2 it was hit and the author a sensation.

This edition includes three short novels, or novellas. The first one, Loving, is set in an Irish Protestant monied family which reflects a very similar lifestyle to that of Downton Abbey's Crawleys. Written in 1945 this book was described by one reviewer as making him stinted understand "the difference between a head houesmaid and a lady's maid" One suspects that Jullian Fellowes HAS read Green.

The Forsyth Saga

John Galsworthy

A British classic, this epic series of novel The Man of Property (1906); the interlude (a short story) "Indian Summer of a Forsyte" (1918); the novel In Chancery (1920); the interlude "Awakening" (1920); and the novel To Let (1921). All following the rise to fortune of the Forsyte family. Soames Forsyte is very definitely "new money" - not Upper Class like the Crawleys. This classic series (which was a TV series a very long time ago) is well worth a look for those fascinated by the British class system during the early days of the 20th century

The Forsyte Saga (Oxford World's Classics)
Oxford University Press, USA
$14.2  $12.5

Prefer to Watch Rather Than Read?

Can't get enough of Downton Abbey? While you are waiting for the next season check out these recommended movies and DVDs for Downton Abbey fans.
Updated: 02/16/2012, Lissie
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Are You a Downton Abbey Fan? Have You Read Any of These?

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Lissie on 02/02/2012

Even my partner is a fan! We never watch live TV though - we have a hard-drive recorder - and we watch at our convenience, not when the schedulers want us to view!

MarenEliz on 02/02/2012

Thank you for this, Lissie. All my friends say that I would LOVE Downton Abbey, but I can't fit it into my schedule (I do not do much TV watching.) With books, I can squeeze it in. I will bookmark this article.

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