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Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir That Inspired "Upstairs, Downstairs" and "Downton Abbey" Hardcover – January 3, 2012
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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
“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 the Paperback edition.
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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.
Life at Downton Abbey and the way they cared about their servants and their lives is apparently not your usual relationship. I enjoyed this realistic glimpse into a life of wealth. Another book has been written to add to this memoir, which also might be worthwhile reading.