Top positive review
180 people found this helpful
Charming. Delightful. I wanted to read more!
on January 5, 2012
I bought this book solely on the basis of the second half of the title - "The Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir That Inspired 'Upstairs, Downstairs' and 'Downton Abbey'". I am a far bigger fan of Downton Abbey than I was of Upstairs, Downstairs, but never mind that. What a charming and delightful memoir!
The book's notes say that the first volume of Margaret Powell's memoirs were first published in 1968. That would also be consistent with the declaration that this book helped inspire Upstairs, Downstairs which I think originally ran from 1971-1975. I am assuming (but I may be wrong), that this book is the compilation of her original memoirs. Since the author passed away in 1984, she couldn't very well have added anything recently unless the family came across additional writings which she might have done.
Anyway, onto the book itself which is charming and written in very British English. I had to resort to the dictionary a few times to find the meaning of a British term with which I was unfamiliar, but who doesn't love learning some new words? It tells Margaret's story in her own words, from childhood through older age when she was finally able to return to school. It was so easy to put myself in her place as the story unfolded, trying to imagine what I might have said or done in the same circumstances which she describes as first a kitchen maid in service and then a cook.
One thing I might want to point out to potential readers who are expecting to read something with a storyline like Downton Abbey's multilayered saga - This is Margaret's personal story. Other characters enter and exit, but it is essentially Margaret's struggle to survive in service during the early part of the 20th century. She describes in first person a bygone era which we now watch on television. I can't always agree with her opinions or decisions at times, but I greatly respect the journey which she took as well as the ultimate thirst for life and learning which she embodied.
The only reason this book received four stars instead of five is a very personal one. I loved reading the novel from beginning to end, but I wish it had been a little more detailed in places. I would have liked to have known what happened to the author's family, for example. I would have liked to have known a bit more about how she met and courted Albert the milkman. I would have loved to have heard about the rest of her personal life, but I suppose there are only so many pages in a book. Either way, the lack of one star does not mean a lack of quality in the book. Reading this book is like sitting down and listening to the tales of a beloved relative with tales to tell. It's an opportunity you don't want to miss.