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Rose: My Life in Service to Lady Astor

3.62  ·  Rating Details ·  1,819 Ratings  ·  246 Reviews
In 1928, Rosina Harrison arrived at the illustrious household of the Astor family to take up her new position as personal maid to the infamously temperamental Lady Nancy Astor, who sat in Parliament, entertained royalty, and traveled the world. "She's not a lady as you would understand a lady" was the butler's ominous warning. But what no one expected was that the iron-wil ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published December 27th 2011 by Penguin Books (first published 1975)
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Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all) Yes. There's no sex to worry about--the author (or at least her ghost writer) was too aware of the readership to put in anything even remotely spicy.…moreYes. There's no sex to worry about--the author (or at least her ghost writer) was too aware of the readership to put in anything even remotely spicy. How interested a young teen would be in the politics and WW2 reminiscences that lard the text is debatable.(less)

Community Reviews

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I started reading this just before Downton Abbey started up again in Australia for its 5th(?I think) season, so it was good timing to get me back into the mindset of those times. However, I haven’t noticed any of the lady’s maids in Downton Abbey being quite so forthright as Lady Astor’s maid, Rose, says she was in her time!!

I found it interesting that Rose’s mother suggested Rose become a lady’s maid because she had said she’d like to travel. And even more interesting that Rose was able to dict
Nov 09, 2016 Tracy rated it liked it
This was an interesting look into a real life story of an upstairs/downstairs situation. The book is full of anecdotes and stories of what Rose experienced and what her day to day life was like. Not exactly a gripping page - turner but I liked it and am glad I read it.
Rose: My Life in Service to Lady Astor by Rosina Harrison

I was interested in learning about what it was like to be a servant to a woman of power. Rosina Harrison’s book was interesting but I found it more interesting in the beginning, when it was about her as she began her life in service as a junior lady’s maid to her rise to lady’s maid. I wanted to hear more about her duties and her travels. I really did really care about Lady Astor so much but that’s what this book is ultimately about, and i
Susie Kelly
Nov 22, 2012 Susie Kelly rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
This memoir begins with Rose as one of four children of a Yorkshire stonemason, and his wife who took in laundry. Reading about Rose's day to day life is exhausting. She never seemed to have a moment to call her own, and that would stand her in good stead once she became Lady Astor's maid.

While it was a given that a person of her class would go into service, her dream was to travel. With the guidance of her mother she studied and trained so that she would be suited to the job of lady's maid in
Oct 20, 2015 Natalia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recuerdo cuando la gran novedad televisiva del año pasado fue ver todas las temporadas completas de Downton Abbey, coincidiendo con su temporada final, al mismo tiempo que también leía la historia de Lady Almina y la verdadera Downton Abbey de Fiona Carnarvon. Ver esta serie así como sus libros me abrió los ojos a cómo eran las cosas a principios del siglo XX, el modo de vida de las personas de clase alta y los más humildes, el rol que se esperaba de cada jerarquía y cómo la Primera Guerra Mundi ...more
This one, provided by netgalley, was published in the 1970s, so it might seem a little outdated, but I have to say, I really enjoyed it. It gave absolutely fascinating insights into the lives of the upper- and lower-classes in the first half of the 20th century, as told by a woman who saw it with her own eyes, and generally didn't lose her sense of perspective.

It reads like something your grandmother would say, full of wise words, bizarre admonishments and fascinating insights into a time long p
Feb 19, 2013 Lori rated it really liked it
I wanted to read this book because like other people, I am a fan of the show "Downton Abbey" ever since this series has come out i noticed so have a lot of books on the subject of in service employees for the big houses. This book was actually written in 1975 and was recently reissued. I am glad it was.Rosina Harrison was employed for over 35 years by the Astors. She was the personal maid to Lady Nancy Astor.She had also worked for two other families prior to working for Lady Astor. I found if ...more
Jul 23, 2008 Audrey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
This is not my normal read. I bought it among others at a flea market to put in our fishing cabin. Last month I picked it up and started reading it just out of curiousity and ended up reading the whole thing. It is about the personal maid of Mrs. Astor. What a life they lead and what a relationship was forged between these two. It was quite interesting and a slice of life that I am not sure exists any more. Maybe the Royal's still have such huge households of people serving them. I am going to s ...more
May 27, 2012 Wendy rated it really liked it
Biggest take-away from this book -- having your own personal ladies maid would be truly AWESOME! Unfortunately, it would seem that I am serving in the capacity of ladies maid to my children with all the picking up and fetching that I do for them.

This account by Lady Astor's maid painted an interesting picture of life in service, as well as an intimate look at the Astor family from her unique perspective. I enjoyed reading and learning more about this period of time in England. I had read Five Si
Aug 07, 2013 Maxine rated it liked it
"Rose: My Life in Service to Lady Astor" is an interesting read. Not a compelling page-turner, but interesting enough, especially if you like imagining what the "Upstairs" and "Downstairs" environments were really like in an era that has vanished.

As the author points out, not many people have a desire to "go into service" these days. Once upon a time, being in service (as a lady's maid, butler, footman, or even a "lower" servant) was a desirable position. Having secure employment, with room, bo
Jenny GB
Sep 16, 2012 Jenny GB rated it liked it
A really interesting look into a woman's life as a lady's maid. It's told in a very personal and conversational style as a series of recollections from her years in service. The tidbits are interesting and really kept me reading it quickly to see what would happen next since Lady Astor was quite the character. Rose really has a great attitude about her work and life. It's a joy to read about her and read her arguments with Lady Astor. You feel as if you knew her when you are done.

I'm not sure wh
Diane S ☔
Feb 23, 2012 Diane S ☔ rated it liked it
3.5 Fascinating glimpse of a world gone by, of the very rich, and their many extremes of behavior. Loved reading about Rose and her early life, her family and the support she received from her mother who helped her become a ladies maid. The hierarchy of the servant class placed a ladies maid nearer to the top, but it was still hard work. Lady Astor, who was the first woman elected to parliament was by all accounts very difficult, a difficulty that Rose had to learn to negotiate in order to perfo ...more
Feb 05, 2012 Karen rated it really liked it
Publisher's synopsis:
In 1928, Rosina Harrison arrived at the illustrious household of the Astor family to take up her new position as personal maid to the infamously temperamental Lady Nancy Astor, who sat in Parliament, entertained royalty, and traveled the world. "She's not a lady as you would understand a lady" was the butler's ominous warning. But what no one expected was that the iron-willed Lady Astor was about to meet her match in the no-nonsense, whip-smart girl from the country.
For 35 y
Sep 18, 2012 Heather rated it really liked it
In the foreward of this memoir, author Rosina "Rose" Harrison professes that her story is a simple, perhaps uneven retelling of events as she saw them during her many years of service to Nancy, Lady Astor. She humbly warns that she "does not have the words or education" of those other observers to have written about Mrs. Astor. I must say that in finishing this keen insider story, Rose has words and education aplenty. She probably provides one of the most honest views of this American-gone-Briti ...more
Sarah Beth
May 28, 2012 Sarah Beth rated it liked it
I received a promo galley of this book from Net Galley. 3.5 Stars.

This book piqued my interest because of my recent obsession with Downton Abbey. It is the memoir of Rose, lady's maid for 35 years to Lady Nancy Astor. This book reads as if you were sitting down for a conversation with Rose - she is frank and open about her opinions and feelings. Because of her honesty, she is able to portray a very realistic image of what life was like for the serving class in the early twentieth century.

Rose h
 Gigi Ann
Jan 17, 2013 Gigi Ann rated it really liked it
This is a memoir by Rosina (Rose) Harrison, it is a behind the scenes look at the life of Rose as she ministered to Lady Nancy Astor. Not knowing much about Lady Nancy Astor I googled her and read more about her history. She was one of the leading ladies of the early 1900s.

I found this book and interesting book about Rose a lady's maid for 35 years to Lady Astor. I think I especially found it interesting because of my interest in the TV show, "Downton Abbey."

Rose recalls many memories of the Ast
Anna Pieracacos
Feb 12, 2017 Anna Pieracacos rated it did not like it
well, to be frank, I picked up this book with very little knowledge of Lady Astor. what I researched vs what I read was atrocious. also, where was the proofreader for this? the sheer number of grammatical and spelling errors made trudging through this far more difficult. pass.
Hillary Waldbaum
Feb 22, 2013 Hillary Waldbaum rated it liked it
Shelves: biographies
I really enjoyed this book as I love the time period. After visiting Rhode Island and seeing the Beechwood Mansion of the Astor's, I wanted to know more about this family. I have also read the book written by Margaret Powell titled "Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir That Inspired "Upstairs, Downstairs" and "Downton Abbey" which I did not enjoy as much. So when I found this book I was timid. However the information in the book as seen through the eyes of Rose who was for35 years a L ...more
Aug 30, 2012 Katie rated it liked it
I have this friend who I lent the Downton Abbey DVDs to.

She has since purchased many books based on: Downton Abbey.

I have four of them sitting at my house right now.

Some of them I couldn't even get through the first paragraph.


This was the least daunting.

It did have some parallels to Downton Abbey: the home being used during WWII, the flower show, class systems, etc.


It wasn't at all like a soap opera.

Which, let's face it, is kind of one of the reasons it's so popular and I'm counting
Oct 15, 2012 Sara rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed reading this little gem. I've read some reviews that wished the author had used a ghost writer but I completely disagree. Rose, the personal maid to Lady Astor, is full of personality and Yorkshire character that would be completely lost with a ghost writer. Her unique and old school turn of phrases add so much charm to this story (ex: "never judge a sausage by its casing" LOL).

It is really worth a read if you enjoy Downton Abbey types of settings - I'm glad I picked it up at t
Michelle Gray
Sep 05, 2016 Michelle Gray rated it really liked it
This was a really interesting look into the life of a Lady's Maid. I really enjoyed Rose's stories and even got a few chuckles out of some of them. Being a Downton Abbey fan, this gave me a more indepth look at what working in a large home like theirs was like. Very enjoyable on audio!
Feb 19, 2012 Stef rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, memoir
This was one of those "if you like Downton Abbey, you'll love this..." recommendations in a New York Times article. I liked it! It's as if a nicer version of O'Brien wrote a memoir of 30+ years of her life. Lady Astor is an interesting character, not always likable, but the relationship between Rose and her ladyship is fascinating. I also really like her descriptions of all of the details behind huge parties, international travel, and visits with the royals. This is a really fast, easy read that ...more
Jul 13, 2012 Ria rated it it was amazing
Brilliant story and fascinating to hear of Lady Astor's life from the perspective of her maid. A wonderful historical record with great flow throughout and told with charm and humour and a great sense of loyalty through even turbulent times during her employer's life.
A colourful narrative charting not only the life of Lady Astor but also Rosina (her maid's) background history and also important key events of British history and the war.
Feb 18, 2012 Sephie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: auto_biog
This was a lucky find and a joy to read. I liked the major part of the book when Rose is maid to Lady Astor as the Astors had a huge influence in my home City of Plymouth and my Mother remembers her well. The wartime chapter was particularly poignant as Plymouth was utterly devastated during the blitz and both my parents experienced, and survived, that too.
Jan 25, 2012 Francine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a great little book, written in 1975. Well written and great for fans of Downton Abbey and say, Jane Austen books! It is both enlightening if you don't know the history of the time and entertaining as well. The author, lady's maid to Nancy, Lady Astor, must have been a great lady in her own right!
Feb 17, 2012 Bev rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent companion piece to "Downton Abbey" and "Upstairs, Downstairs" -- this recollection of her thirty-five years of service to Nancy Astor by personal maid Rosina Harrison was a fascinating story. The photos that accompany the text are great too. Now I'm interested to explore more about the life of Lady Astor and those who lived "upstairs" in the first half of 20th century Britain.
Mar 10, 2014 Nora rated it really liked it
I've been enjoying reading the true Downton Abbey stories lately. This was one of the best. The historical time period was very interesting, since you know the names and backgrounds of a number of the tertiary characters.
Pam Johnson
Dec 30, 2011 Pam Johnson rated it liked it
I'm in the midst of Downton Abbey and this book was the perfect complement. I enjoyed reading about the life of a lady's maid. I know a little about Lady Astor but not a great deal, so I did have to refer to Wikipedia a few times to get the backstory on some situations, characters and locales.
Jan 31, 2017 Candace rated it liked it
3.5 stars, really. It was interesting to hear Rose's perspective on class and working and opportunities. It made me re-think the career of "service"; it seems antiquated but I don't think it's much different than what working class people face today in actuality.
Hannah Mitchell
Sep 18, 2015 Hannah Mitchell rated it really liked it
I enjoy reading this book. I love it how Rosina "Rose" Harrison wrote about her experience as a lady's maid to a difficult yet interesting woman. It is something that opens one's eyes on how difficult life can be for a servant, even a high ranking one like a lady's maid.
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Rosina Harrison (known as Rose) was born in Aldfield, North Yorkshire, in 1899. Her mother was a laundry maid and her father a stonemason. Rose became a lady's maid in 1918, and she was later lady's maid to Lady Astor for 35 years. She later retired to Worthing where she died in 1989.

- from Random House
More about Rosina Harrison...

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