Top positive review
Well researched, explicit social history
on July 5, 2014
You do not have to be a fan of Downton Abbey to appreciate the meticulous research and presentation of social history which appears in this book. It is in fact social history and has very little to do with Downton Abbey other than the fact that the latter does play upon the social class distinction so explicitly explained in this- book. Maybe I was enthralled by the book because I have ancestors who were "in service" and the author supported their statements about how their young lives were affected by class distinction in the UK of their times. As an example, one of them actually said to me that they were slaves to their master; that they got little pay with one afternoon off a week and an occasional Sunday, that they worked extremely long hours, and that she took a job as a housemaid after WWI only to help support her many siblings and parents who were farmers. She was well educated but could find no other work at the time. Another was a governess for the same titled family and yet another a groundsman. In the book,the author openly states and confirms that being in service was in fact comparable to leading the life of a slave to a master. (For clarity, I must inject here that we all are aware that the terminology "slave" conjures up the slave of American history which is more severe than what is intended by its usage here.)
For me, this was a very fascinating presentation of the Edwardian era and the years to follow. It was extremely well written and easily read. In fact, I had trouble putting this book down.
In retrospect as well, I came to recognize that all classes were slaves to the demands of the time for even the masters had to adhere to challenging expectations that society demanded if they were to survive during the years of extreme class distinction. Many struggled to keep up financially and eventually estates were taxed so heavily that they were destroyed because they were no longer affordable. Class distinction continued for some time after the Edwardian era in the UK, and can still be found today at times or in individual personages, and this book cleverly explains all aspects of it.