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Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir That Inspired "Upstairs, Downstairs" and "Downton Abbey" Kindle Edition
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|Length: 221 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
|Page Flip: Enabled||
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Top customer reviews
I particularly loved her descriptions of life in service without the use of vulgar language thrown in gratis by most modern authors. I would like to give a few examples that sum up her thoughts, at least as I see them.
1. "...when you see an economic recipe and they say you can't taste the difference from the original, [normally this meant substituting margarine for butter] well probably you can't if you've never eaten the original." P96
2. In speaking of her disdain for employers always being practical, "At Christmas we got presents of cloth to make things with, aprons and horrible sensible presents." P98
3. One of the cutest stories about sex without using the word was told about the upstairs parlor maid Gladys and her family, "According to Gladys, her father drank like a fish and he came home most nights roaring drunk and incapable. I used to think he couldn't have been SO incapable, otherwise her mother couldn't have had nineteen children, could she?" :)
4. In describing her regular Spring cleaning chores at one household she says, "During these four weeks I got up at five o'clock each morning and I worked until eight o'clock at night. Then I had to get supper for the servants after that. We all worked those hours, but of course, I remember mine in particular because it was mine that made me tired, not theirs." P121
5. In describing an outhouse still used at one home Margaret says, "And it had one of those seats with two holes. The sort for Darby and Joan who couldn't bear to be separated. Talk about two hearts that beat as one! Heaven knows it was lethal enough when only one had been in. I shouldn't think two could have come out alive." :0
5. In discussing the advantages that employers gave for paying low wages and stressing what the servant would learn, she says, "When I left domestic service I took with me the knowledge of how to cook an elaborate seven course dinner and an enormous inferiority complex; I can't say I found those an asset to my married life." P191
6. To explain poverty and sex she said, "...when I was a child I'd lived on a street where most babies were born as a result of Saturday night reveries. They were known as beer babies." P193
I really liked this little book which can easily be read in one very long sitting or several shorter ones. It kept my interest throughout, and the lack of any vulgar language was a refreshing change. I would say it is a safe book for middle aged kids, although they may ask what some of the anachronistic terms mean. I highly recommend this book to all.
Upstairs/Downstairs and Downtown Abbey portray the master's family and the house staff both as mainly admirable people who respect each other and hold affection for one another, though within the bounds of social class (mostly).
You won't find any of THAT in this book. Everyone hates each other along class lines and the usual characters emerge:
The employers are self-important idiots. The staff hates them and just wants out. The author is often sullen and bitter about her circumstances and almost in every case thinks she is being taken advantage or, should be paid more, etc.
But I was most interested in the work they had to do and how they did it (shudder). Also in the preparation of food. Good information about the life of common people in the countryside and how they lived. Overall very interesting, though I am not sure I came to really like the sullen Margaret Powell any more than the selfish, pompous dolts she served.
It felt like a lot of bitterness without thought or consideration of what life would have been like if other paths had been chosen. If life as a shop or laundry person had been the path, who would be complained about for not making their lives better?
I can't put my finger on exactly why but I didn't like the book, didn't like the protagonist, just didn't like it.
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