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Rose: My Life in Service to Lady Astor Paperback – December 27, 2011


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Editorial Reviews

Review

 "An extraordinary document, realistic, candid, and a rare look from the vantage point below stairs at a nostalgically romanticized world." — Los Angeles Times

 “A delectable assortment of tales and details about the habits of overprivileged Britishers and the people who served them…. Rosina is a feisty, keen-eyed, no-nonsense observer of caste, class, and character.  And when she matches wills and wits with Lady Astor—a Virginia Belle by birth, a Member of Parliament, and mistress of a dazzling fortune, and of Cliveden, one of England’s most stately homes—the result is not only a crackling comedy of manners, but a sense of the way it was, firsthand.” — Newsweek

"Lady Astor's personal maid reveals her 'upstairs, downstairs' relationships with England's grandest family...Fascinating and deliciously readable!" 

The New York Times Book Review

About the Author

Rosina Harrison (1899-1989) served as Lady Nancy Astor's personal maid for over thirty-five years and was the author of two books.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 354 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (December 27, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143120867
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143120865
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (160 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #65,545 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

206 of 210 people found the following review helpful By Jill on December 27, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book, under a slightly different title, is a reissue of Rosina Harrison's 1976 memoir, Rose: My Life in Service Recollections of Life in One of England's Grandest Households. This is a repeat of my review for it:

Rose Harrison's memoir might be of interest to fans of Downton Abbey, even though her experiences occurred a generation later. Rose's longtime employer, Nancy, Lady Astor, was, like Downton's fictional Cora, an American heiress who married into the British aristocracy. Rose, who served as Lady Astor's personal maid for 35 years, was a Yorkshire girl, born in a village near the town of Ripon.

While much is left unsaid, Rose gives plenty of fascinating details of the daily working life of a lady's maid in pre-war, wartime, and postwar Britain. In the first chapters she describes her childhood, education and home life and motivation for her decision to go into service - service as a ladies maid in particular, and why, with that as a goal, it was not a good idea to start out as a housemaid or kitchenmaid. She started out as a "young ladies' maid" - serving the daughter(s) of a household in 1918, then moved up (in both status and pay) to ladies' maid. Her motivations for changing employers and how it was accomplished are also discussed (her account of taking leave of her second mistress, after 5 years, is stunning). She entered service to the Astor's in 1928 and retired with a pension in 1964, on Lady Astor's death.

She describes her duties in detail for all three employers (two prior to Lady Astor). Though Rose worked upstairs, she had duties that took her below stairs, and she ate her meals there.
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87 of 90 people found the following review helpful By Novel Chatter on February 5, 2012
Format: Paperback
Publisher's synopsis:
In 1928, Rosina Harrison arrived at the illustrious household of the Astor family to take up her new position as personal maid to the infamously temperamental Lady Nancy Astor, who sat in Parliament, entertained royalty, and traveled the world. "She's not a lady as you would understand a lady" was the butler's ominous warning. But what no one expected was that the iron-willed Lady Astor was about to meet her match in the no-nonsense, whip-smart girl from the country.
For 35 years, from the parties thrown for royalty and trips across the globe, to the air raids during WWII, Rose was by Lady Astor's side and behind the scenes, keeping everything running smoothly. In charge of everything from the clothes and furs to the baggage to the priceless diamond "sparklers," Rose was closer to Lady Astor than anyone else. In her decades of service she received one £5 raise, but she traveled the world in style and retired with a lifetime's worth of stories. Like Gosford Park and Downton Abbey, ROSE is a captivating insight into the great wealth 'upstairs' and the endless work 'downstairs', but it is also the story of an unlikely decades-long friendship that grew between Her Ladyship and her spirited Yorkshire maid.

My thoughts:

Rosina Harrison's 1976 memoir was re-issued in December of 2011, right in the middle of the frenzy surrounding our fascination with the BBC's mega-hit series Downton Abbey! Being a fan not only of Downton Abbey, but also Gosford Park and Remains of the Day, I wasted no time in requesting this e-galley through NetGalley!

I was prepared to like this book and the author did not let me down! I did keep reminding myself that Ms.
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46 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Y. Noh on August 11, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First of all, the book seemed to be an honest account by Lady Astor's "personal maid/secretary". Came to admire the author who is quite good at expressing herself. Finished the book in two days, so I guess I must have enjoyed it. An entertaining and a learning experience. I would have given it 4.5 stars if there was a way to do this. I actually ended up admiring Rose more than Lady Astor. :) I also thought that Rose was very tactful in not disclosing many things, yet giving good accounts to many aspects of Lady Astor's life. In my opinion, people who want to read about some juicy secrets will be disappointed, and I venture to guess that people who would enjoy reading this book are probably over 45 years old and like to read nonfiction rather than fiction books. People who like to watch today's "reality" shows will probably not like this book.

Since I am an old "fuddy-duddy" (according to my wife) guy who hates today's reality tell-it-all TV shows, I found this book to be a learning experience and enjoyable. Since my male testerone level is dipping as I get older, I even found the last pages of Lady Astor's death touching and shed a few internal tears. I found myself saying "A well-lived life, Rose".
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62 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 28, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am in love with the PBS series Downton Abbey right now, which led me to choose this book for my Kindle, mainly out of curiosity. It turned out to be a very special read. I was afraid it might be dry, like a history lesson. Especially when the author says right up front that she won't be "dishing any dirt" about the several ladies she served during her life. But it was told with such warmth, humor, and general good storytelling ability, it really kept my interest. You realize that Rose was not just "a maid," she was a true career person, worthy of a great deal of respect. What an incredible peek "behind the scenes" into some of the lives of England and America's rich and famous it is too!
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