Rummanah Aasi
  Like many people, I'm enraptured with the television show Downton Abbey. Every Sunday I tune into the show and can't wait to discuss it with fellow fans at work. While it's sad to see Season 3 come to an end and  to theorize what the cliffhanger that we will all agonize over, I didn't want to leave the world of Downton Abbey just yet. There have been a slew of books written and published about the era of the television show, a sheer marketing ploy to ride on the curtails of the show's popularity. Some are incredibly horrible while others like the Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey is insightful and informative.

Description (from the publisher): Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey tells the story behind Highclere Castle, the real-life inspiration for the hit PBS show Downton Abbey , and the life of one of its most famous inhabitants, Lady Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon and the basis of the fictional character Lady Cora Crawley. Drawing on a rich store of materials from the archives of Highclere Castle, including diaries, letters, and photographs, the current Lady Carnarvon has written a transporting story of this fabled home on the brink of war. Much like her Masterpiece Classic counterpart, Lady Almina was the daughter of a wealthy industrialist, Alfred de Rothschild, who married his daughter off at a young age, her dowry serving as the crucial link in the effort to preserve the Earl of Carnarvon's ancestral home. Throwing open the doors of Highclere Castle to tend to the wounded of World War I, Lady Almina distinguished herself as a brave and remarkable woman. This rich tale contrasts the splendor of Edwardian life in a great house against the backdrop of the First World War and offers an inspiring and revealing picture of the woman at the center of the history of Highclere Castle.

Review: Fans of the extremely popular television show, Downton Abbey, will love this book that profiles some of the real nobility who lived in Highclere Castle in its grand day in the late 1890s through to the end of the Great War as well as provide historical and social context to the show. For those of you familiar with the show, you can see where Julian Fellowes, the television show creator, got his inspiration for story ideas for Seasons 1 and 2 of Downton Abbey after reading this short biography of Lady Almina, the Countess of Carnarvon. Lady Almina lived in Downton Abbey during the early 1900's to 1922 with her husband, the famous Earl of Carnavon who financed Howard Carter's Egyptian discoveries, particularly finding tombs of famous pharaohs  Unfortunately, her life story in this book stops after the death of her husband in 1922 when her son became the next Earl of Carnarvon and she thus had to move out of Downton Abbey, the family home.
  While I initially took the book out because it was associated with my favorite television show, I actually learned a lot about the important topics the show touched upon, particularly of the arrangement of the downstairs staff and why certain positions were move coveted more than others. I also gained a great deal of insight of World War I and the efforts people took to take care of wounded soldiers. Unlike World War II, I don't really have a clear grasp and the implications of why the war occurred  The book also does a great deal of name dropping of famous, rich people of the time as well as intricate details of the parties given and gone to and monies spent on these entertainments. Informative and engrossing, I highly recommend picking up Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey if you like the television show or if you're just curious as to what has drawn so many people about the show.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for teens and adults interested in

If you like this book try: The World of Downton Abbey by Jullian Fellows, Up and Down stairs: History of the Country House Servant by Jeremy Musson, Rose: My Life in Service to Lady Astor by Rosina Harrison
3 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    RUMMANAH!!! I think I'm the only person who hasn't seen Downton Abbey, what is wrong with me? I really need to get the first season on DVD or Netflix or something so I can be in the loop, and then I can get this book and read all about the real Downton Abbey:)

  2. I have only watched the first couple of episodes of this show and I really need to get back to it. I just never have time to watch tv these days with two busy kids.....This sounds like a good solid read and I am like you, I know little about WW1 so I would like to know more! THanks for the recommendation!

  3. I haven't even watched a single episode of Downtown Abbey despite all the hype. I'm interested to find out though which staff positions are more valuable than others and why.

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