This book was released in the US earlier this week; I received my copy today and spent a couple of hours this afternoon looking through it. I wanted to review it right away in case anyone is considering buying it as a present for a Downton Abbey fan. It's a beautiful book and one that I'd have been thrilled to get as a gift. It's printed on thick, high quality paper and the photography is stunning. I would note that as Series 2 has not yet aired in the US, if you want to see the show without knowing anything in advance, some of the text is spoilerish here and there. The first instance that I found came at the end of Chapter 2, "Society." The photos are from both Series 1 and 2. There are also a number of "behind the scenes" photos. There are no extensive profiles of or interviews with the principal actors, if you are particularly interested in that, just short (1-2 sentence) snippets, and quotes now and again. There is some history to provide context for the fictional world of Downton (American heiresses marrying into the aristocracy, including Julian Fellow's inspiration for Cora, for example) as well as some information related to the series' production and filming. I did learn things from this that I hadn't heard before, and particularly enjoyed Julian Fellow's stories about ancestors of his who (unknowingly) inspired or gave him ideas for scenes and characters. Fans who have researched and read a lot about the Edwardian era will not likely learn anything new from the text, but I bought the book mainly for the photographs and information about the series, particularly so was not disappointed at all. In summary, I can't imagine any Downton fan not liking this book! The suggestions for further reading are good, though the section on life below stairs could be more extensive.Read more ›
This is a handsome book, whether or not you have seen the Downton Abbey series or not - it will make you want to. One can see how this series has enthralled and enchanted many. It contains sections on family life, society, change, life in service, style, house and estate, romance, WWI and behind the scenes. The writer, Julian Fellowes pens an eloquent introduction that sums up the series and book perfectly..."the shadows of what used to be". A page of portraits introduces us to the characters.
This is a story not only of the filming, but a way of life - in fact two ways of life - the aristocracy and those in service. It is well explained, in an interesting manner, the difficulties and advantages both classes had. We learn how and why American heiresses became the wives of many of the English aristocracy and what the differences in philosophies of the two were.
The social history is described, again of both classes and why they behaved as they did. There are historical pictures and inserts that are relevant. We learn so completely what this period of Edwardian history was like and also how the filming of this series was accomplished. The creating of the costumes is thoroughly detailed. There are some comments from the actors themselves, but the star of this book is the era itself.
This is a book for Anglophiles, fans of Downton Abbey, those interested in English history especially of the Edwardian- WWI period and a social commentary on the English classes, It would be appropriate for anyone interested in filming and costume making also - a book that absolutely countless readers would enjoy.
From the robin's-egg blue of the actual book, to the luminous dust jacket, to the fonts, and really, the entire book design, everything looks very elegant and Edwardian. If you've followed my blog Edwardian Promenade for a while, or read books about the Edwardians, some of the historical content isn't exactly new per se, but Fellowes does a great job of placing the cold, plain facts of the era in the context of Downton Abbey's inhabitants. The book kicks off with a forward by Julian Fellowes, where he discusses his philosophy towards the series and continues to share his deep love affair with the long-gone society that inhabited the English country house.
Fellowes (Jessica, that is), takes us literally through the world of Downton Abbey, starting with family life, touching on society and its changes, life belowstairs, fashion of the age, the function of the country estate, romantic relationships, and war. Last but not least is the chapter devoted to behind the scenes of the series, though the entire book is interspersed with tidbits of the actual production. The amount of work that goes into creating this incredible high drama is astounding, and without pictures of the sets and costumes and crew I would find it difficult to believe this wasn't pulled together with the wave of a wand.
Best yet are the mini-interviews from the cast and crew, whose interesting-and sometimes entertaining-recollections of filming series one and two (based on the synopses I've placed on the site, the book hints at happenings up to the second or third episode) are a treat. The one that stands out to me is historical adviser Alastair Bruce's conversation with Sophie McShera (Daisy), who complained that she never got to see the house since, as scullery maid, Daisy rarely left the kitchens!Read more ›