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Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir That Inspired "Upstairs, Downstairs" and "Downton Abbey" Hardcover – January 3, 2012

3.9 out of 5 stars 350 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Below Stairs Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The popularity of Sunday school among the working classes had less to do with religion than parents’ much-needed private time, according to Margaret Powell. Such revelations are rampant in Below Stairs, a fascinating and feisty memoir of Powell’s life as a kitchen maid and cook in 1920s England. Originally published in the UK in 1968, it’s again a best-seller there after the debut of the Emmy Award–winning series, Downton Abbey, which, along with Upstairs Downstairs, took inspiration from the book. Powell writes conversationally, offering cutting and humorous insights. She piles on the details of a domestic servant’s day—up at 5:30, work enough for six people, and don’t forget to iron the bootlaces—but stops before she falls into self-pity. Running through it all is the divide between the servants and Them, manifesting itself in everything from the sad parade of practical Christmas gifts to the employer’s order that nothing be served from a servant’s bare hands. Powell reminds readers that these things shouldn’t be forgotten, and she is an honest, saucy, and skilled storyteller. --Bridget Thoreson


"Margaret Powell's sharply observed memoir... stands out in the tradition of literature about servants for being a true account of a life spent in domestic service, although the incidents it relates are as vividly entertaining and disturbing as anything found in fiction."--Wall Street Journal
"What makes Powell such a credible narrator is the fact that she’s never reflexively bitter or nasty. When she worked for a family that treated her with kindness and without condescension, she was deeply grateful and desperate to please... All these years later, “Below Stairs” retains its peculiar fascination."--The New York Times
"An irresistible inside account of life “in service” and a fascinating document of a vanished--if fetishistically longed-for--time and place.“--Kirkus Reviews
Anyone who enjoyed Downton Abbey or Upstairs Downstairs will relish this feisty memoir.”--Dame Eileen Atkins, co-creator of Upstairs, Downstairs
“Margaret Powell was the first person outside my family to introduce me to that world, so near and yet seemingly so far away, where servants and their employers would live their vividly different lives under one roof.  Her memories, funny and poignant, angry and charming, haunted me until, many years later, I made my own attempts to capture those people for the camera.  I certainly owe her a great debt.”--Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Below Stairs (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; Unknown edition (January 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250005442
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250005441
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (350 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #472,552 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

on January 5, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
66 comments| 183 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on January 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover
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on January 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover
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