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The Real Life Downton Abbey: How Life Was Really Lived in Stately Homes a Century Ago Paperback – January 6, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Jacky Hyams is a freelance journalist and editor who regularly writes for the Evening Standard.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: John Blake (January 6, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843589559
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843589556
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.2 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (121 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #527,156 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

253 of 294 people found the following review helpful By ElizabethD on May 19, 2012
Format: Paperback
The author of The Real Life Downton Abbey, Jacky Hyams, makes two mistakes in this book.

One, the author refers to Camilla Parker Bowles as the Princess of Wales. While the Duchess of Cornwall is indeed married to Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, she is not the Princess of Wales simply because she is married to him. Because of intense support and love for Diana, the Princess of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall's participation in the demise of the marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, public sentiment was grossly against Camilla being named Princess of Wales. Even though the Duchess and Prince Charles were married some years after Diana's death, public sentiment remained high in support of Diana's memory. Camilla was created Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Cornwall, by Queen Elizabeth II upon her marriage to Prince Charles, Prince of Wales.

The second blunder Hyams makes is the unmistakable envy in her writing tone towards those she continuously calls "The Toffs" and gives no explanation where the slang terms comes from. Her envy and dismissal of the privileged class is evident throughout the book and reads like a persuasive essay for Tax the Rich and Distribute the Wealth campaigns than a book about how life was lived by servants in the Downton Abbey years.

I bought this book because, like most, I am a fan of Downton Abbey but was very disappointed by it. If you read To Marry an English Lord, you will have a far more entertaining and objective read and you will not have the obvious liberal Pay Their Fair Share liberal slant of Jacky Hyams.

This book would have garnered a better rating if Hyams had left her political opinions out of it.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By KraftyKat on December 20, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I found most of the information interesting, but seemed like the book needed some editing. One of the previous reviewers mentioned Camilla being referred to in the book as the Princess of Wales, which may or may not be her correct title. I also noticed once occurrence in the book where the character played by Maggie Smith was referred to as the Dowager Countess of Crawley. Crawley is her family name, not part of her title. Her correct name and title is Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham. Due to these errors, it made me wonder how accurate was the remainder of the information in the book. I also, as an American, would have appreciated it if when money was mentioned it would have also been converted to US dollars, at least once for reference, rather than just stated in British pounds and adjusted for inflation.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Cbryce on May 12, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
The worst part of this book for me was that each anecdote provided to illustrate a point was a commonly known one, to anyone who has studied this era at all, and some are probably exaggerated or only half-true anyway. There was nothing in this book I had not read before. The next worst part was the constant use of the term "toffs" to refer to the masters, mistresses and their families of the great houses. It comes off as the author being envious and reverse snobbery at the same time.

Also everything is repeated within the book. Either she did not have enough material to fill this relatively skimpy book or just latched onto facts and data and tended to state them in one place and expand on them in another. I cannot count how many times she mentions how servants did everything in order of their "place" within the workings of the servants hierarchy. Okay we get it.

If you have only seen the show and do not know much or anything about the Edwardian era, then this book will be useful and entertaining. But if you have read up on the subject, especially biographies about Edward VII and other luminaries, you will not find anything new.
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36 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Susanna G. on November 24, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
After having finished watching the first two series of Downton Abbey (for the first time), I was curious to know more about the life style. This book was written just for that purpose. It is not a scholarly approach-the author writes in a breezy, informal style. She covered everything I thought to wonder about and then some. She does make occasional refences to the characters in the show, as a means of illustration, but not often. I was not looking for anything indepth or too detailed-the few topics I wanted to explore further (mostly real life people she used as examples), I was easily able to find on the web.
Because the author is British I had to look up a few of her terms, for example toff, which she uses throughout the book. According to my dictionary it is an informal British term for a fashionable upper-class person. A fun word that exemplifies the entertaining aspect of this book.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By P. Randall on November 25, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Downton Abbey is an amazingly effective portrayal of life in stately homes with servants at the turn of the century and around the time of the First World War when life as they knew it began to change forever. This book further explains that life, how it could exist and why it had to change. The fictionalized Downton was hardly fiction and was portrayed very well as this writer tells us the real account of the life above the stairs and downstairs. It is a fascinating read! One can picture the characters in Downton as you read of the butlers and housemen and maids in the Hyams book.
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