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Life Below Stairs: True Lives of Edwardian Servants
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Life Below Stairs: True Lives of Edwardian Servants

3.16 of 5 stars 3.16  ·  rating details  ·  929 ratings  ·  169 reviews
Last year, the telly-watching public was gripped by Downton Abbey -- the most successful British period drama in years and the number -- one most-watched new drama programme of 2010. Captivated by the secrets, the scandal and the servant-master divide of an Edwardian household, viewers religiously watched in their millions.

In Life Below Stairs, bestselling author Alison M...more
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published September 15th 2011 by Michael O Mara Publications
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Community Reviews

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I have to say that I was quite looking forward to reading this book, as the second series of Downton Abbey begins on TV. I thought it would make an interesting and detailed companion to the show, unfortunately as I was reading I soon realised that it wasn't going to be as entertaining as first thought.

Rather than specific, detailed accounts from real people, the book is actually a broad view of the lives of servants in the Edwardian period. The true life accounts actually come in VERY small sni...more
Downton Abbey is so hott right now. The life of a British Earl, his family, and staff- utterly delightful. Through in his upper middle class cousin, yessir! I thoroughly enjoy reading about class roles in Victorian and Edwardian England but Life Below Stairs is not one of those reads. It is not as boring as other readers may it out to be but it definitely lacked in some areas. It is like the writer stops mid way through an idea. She gives these wonderful real life examples of servants but never...more
I impulsively picked this up in my local library, as it was on the "Featured Titles" table. A slim, light read that I finished in two sittings, I suspect its publication is directly related to the commercial success of the Dowton Abbey television programme. Which I've been meaning to watch, but I find soap operas dull and not sure the handsome valets and Edwardian costumes will be enough to overcome that, but people assure me that it's worth a peek and so I do intend to watch it. Someday.

As ent...more
DeLace Munger
I think a more appropriate (but lengthier) title for this book should be "Lots of People Wrote About Their Lives as Servants and Nobles and Here's the Best Stories From Those Books So You Don't Have To Read Them".

This makes a great little source of extra information on servants in the Edwardian era for anyone who is curious (most likely Downton Abbey fans) or anyone who might happen to be an Anglophile. It was clear, concise and referenced many other works which allows the reader to do more rese...more
Every since Downton Abbey I have been interested in reading about what it is like for servants and staff who are "below stairs" this book mainly focuses on life for servants during the "Edwardian" time. which is the very late 1890s and early 1900s. the staff in one of these "big houses"can count on very long hours. especially for the scullery kitchen help and the maid who in on the lowest rung of pecking order. this was before modern conveniences so just about every thing had to be done by hand....more
For fans of Upstairs, Downstairs & Downtown Abbey (ME!), comes Life Below Stairs. It's a fabulous, fascinating look at the true lives of servants who served the rich and fabulously wealthy.

It's definitely written towards fans of the two mentioned series - it's a rather light look, doesn't get into a lot of details, and doesn't hit upon any of the negative aspects of being a servant - like 80 hour work weeks for no pay or sleep or freedom. Anyone who really knows the time period well, or the...more
Unlike the Downton Abbey fans, I think I picked this up via the Indiana Digital Media consortium after reading several novels set in Edwardian/Victorian times & I wanted to get a look at the servant experience. It's a bit lightweight (less than 200 pages) and the reading level seemed pitched at maybe high school level.

The book is well-researched, but was much more general than its subtitle suggested, more an overview of servant life with occasional rememberances and tidbits thrown in than a...more
I have mixed feelings about this one. Basically, it's a decent overview of how large houses were run and how the servants lived during the Edwardian era. It was definitely broadly done; there's not a lot of depth to any of the subjects. I found some of the language and phrasing a bit confusing or distracting, but overall, it's a fairly good introduction to the subject if you're not expecting a great deal of detail. If you already have more than a passing familiarity, you might want to get someth...more
What is this book missing?

An editor to focus on grammar. I know this is petty, but I expect an author or editor to understand when -- and when not -- to use a comma.

Illustrations. Endless descriptions of various servants' uniforms are so much easier (and more interesting) to follow with pictures.

Primary research. I felt like much of this book was the author's regurgitation of other surveys of Edwardian and Victorian service life. I realize there aren't any former servants from this time period a...more
A great read for anyone who's as fascinated as I am with BBC series like The Grand, The Duchess of Duke Street, Berkeley Square, and Downton Abbey. I haven't gotten into Upstairs Downstairs yet, but I bet I would love it too.

This book is an easy eBook read offered from LFPL that delves into the lives of the servants in grand and middle class homes, especially detailed about the Edwardian era. I really, really liked it! It's a great companion read to those great BBC series involving servants.
Leah K
Life Below Stairs: True Lives of Edwardian Servants by Alison Maloney
192 pages


This sounded like such a fascinating book to me when I checked it out at the library, at least for a history geek like myself. But I was highly disappointed. It reads so much like a text book, a poorly formatted one at that. Everything is put into subcategories such as “How a butler dresses”, “How a house maid dresses” “Hiring of servants”, etc…some being only a paragraph or so and it just ended up feeling repetitive...more
My fault... I thought it would be more of a story. I thought it was slow and not what I expected. I felt that I was watching the staff get their work schedules and job description's explained to each person.
On the other hand, it gives you an insight as to how the house staff lived their lives. So many different layers of jobs that I had never given any thought to before reading this.
Absolutely lazy. Relies on long quotes from others and illustrations (which were often pointless or hard to make out) to fill up the narrow pages. Repeats itself with great regularity and contradicts itself occasionally. Reminds me of a lazy student doing a term paper. So clearly an attempt to cash in on "Downton Abbey." Even quotes people from the series as experts!
Beth Gordon
If you've watched a few episodes of Downton Abbey, there's nothing earthshaking in this book. It's a very general book; when there is something specific, it's from one of a handful of sources. It was a very quick read and did synthesize a bit of the downstairs culture that you observe when watching Downton Abbey or something similar.
Tracey Allen at Carpe Librum
Life Below Stairs - True Lives of Edwardian Servants by Alison Maloney is a fabulous little book rich in detail about the life of servants in the Edwardian period, 1901 - 1910.

The book is broken down into the following chapters to cover the different segments of a servant's work in their master and mistress' house:

1. Social Background
2. Household Structure
3. Pay and Conditions
4. A Day in the Life of a Country House
5. Toil and Technique
6. Special Occasions
7. Code of Conduct
8. Hiring and Firing
Jun 16, 2013 A rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
This is a rather light volume that gives an overview of servant life in the Edwardian era (with some info pertaining to the Victorians). I believe it's oriented toward fans of "Downton Abbey" and those TV fans who want to get more of a feel for context, without spending too much time on it.

My own purposes in reading it was to catch up on some much-needed research for a novel. I have future society where the wealthy elites consciously model themselves on the old European aristocracy and the heigh...more
I have seen one episode ever of Downton Abbey, but I used to watch Upstairs, Downstairs back in the day,and I'm a fan of Gosford Park. Those sources are the reasons I read this, but I found this book, perhaps due its somewhat short length, not terribly enlightening. The lives of servants sucked, it's always worse than you think, and I'm glad this system was killed by war. While some of the details were cool, there was not enough depth here to make this relatable.
There is something to be said about a book that can present facts without being dry. Unlike biographies, which come as a story naturally, many non-fiction fall into the pit of "And this happened and it was like this" and "That happened and 234,271 people were affected". Life Below Stairs manages to take a bunch of what could potentially be a bunch of meaningless numbers and facts and presents it with telling anecdotes that breath life into the history.

There is an obvious tie-in with Downton Abb...more
A perfectly fine collection of did-you-know facts and anecdotes about life below stairs in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods. Clearly published to take advantage of the success of Downton Abbey and to provide a little more info on the subject.
What interests me most about this book is not the book itself, though, but how its reviews are affected by people's expectations. Several of the negative reviews of this book complain that the book was bought for research purposes and is insufficien...more
Although this book is written in an expanded 'senior English project' style, it had thorough research on the topic and gave me a lot of insight into the details behind some of the other books/shows that I've been watching and reading recently on the time period. The details are explained very clearly here and the book has quotes from people who lived this life, making it very interesting.

With all of the interest in Downton Abbey, this is a perfect book to enhance one's understanding of life in Edwardian times. Having been a fan of "Upstairs, Downstairs" in the 1970's I had an appreciation for those who gave their lives in service to the English upper class, but this details each position on staffs of the privileged from the laundresses to butlers. Service work was a way for young men and women to rise above their lower class backgrounds, often making it possible for them to have...more
Davina Mcfarland
So this is from someone else's review but it' pretty much sums up my thoughts on this book : " I think a more appropriate (but lengthier) title for this book should be "Lots of People Wrote About Their Lives as Servants and Nobles and Here's the Best Stories From Those Books So You Don't Have To Read Them".

This book collates references from several other books written by people and their experiences with or as servants in the period. A good introduction to the subject, an easy and interesting read. Probably not a good choice for someone who has already read other books on the topic. However I enjoyed it, especially the tables with typical schedules and pay grades.
Life Below Stairs is a brief but charming overview of the "downstairs" servant society of the Edwardian era, as seen recently in the Downton Abbey series. An easy, one-evening read, Life Below Stairs outlines the various positions and their duties, benefits and pay, and a few anecdotes, advertisements, and illustrations that give the reader a glimpse of the lives of those in service in 19th century and early 20th century England. This is not an exhaustive work, rather it presents snapshots of th...more
This book was little bit similar to Powell's other book however seemed to go by a little bit slower than the last one and she sort of repeated some of the same stories from her last book. Still it was a great book and I enjoyed learning about her friend Rose and her romantic dreams of moving up in life
A fun, quick reading overview of the everyday life and responsibilities of those in domestic service. This work uses a lot of quotes from various memoirs of those in service as well as popular books of the day including the oft quoted Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management. It was a little scattershot – hopping from one topic to the next – but that made for a light and entertaining read. I found a few other books quoted here that I’d like to read.
This book provided an interesting glimpse into the serving class of pre-War times. It's hard to imagine how hard servants' lives must have been, but the book gives a lot of details. I especially liked the excerpts from newspaper advertisements of the time.
Succinct, information about the life of servants and the phasing out of servants as well. Not a ton of details but a nice little introduction for someone (like me) who does not want to read an entire major book about the subject.
Life Below Stairs gives a good impression of what life was like for people in service in the early 1900s, featuring job descriptions, daily schedules, a few recipes and discusses pay and conditions. Unfortunately, the book is very short and it reads more like an essay than a book. I was disappointed to find that there was not a single photo included and the author used only snippets of first-hand accounts from other books. A lot of readers will be familiar with most of the contents from watching...more
Fine overview of servants' lives in Edwardian England. There are quite a few quotes from primary sources, so if you are really interested in getting a first-hand view of the servant's life, check out the bibliography.
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Mansfield Public ...: Life Below Stairs Review by Pat Cornell 1 1 Aug 09, 2013 08:02AM  
  • Up and Down Stairs: The History of the Country House Servant
  • The Real Life Downton Abbey: How Life Was Really Lived in Stately Homes a Century Ago
  • Rose: My Life in Service to Lady Astor
  • Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth-Century to Modern Times
  • The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy
  • Upstairs & Downstairs: The Illustrated Guide to the Real Life of Masters and Their Servants from the Victorian Era to the Second World War
  • A Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert, and the Death That Changed the British Monarchy
  • Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage: The Titanic's First-Class Passengers and Their World
  • To Marry an English Lord: Or How Anglomania Really Got Started
  • Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management
  • Servants' Hall: A Real Life Upstairs, Downstairs Romance
  • Hunting Evil: The Nazi War Criminals Who Escaped and the Quest to Bring Them to Justice
  • The Edwardians
  • Life in the English Country House: A Social and Architectural History
  • Serving Victoria: Life in the Royal Household
  • Shooting Victoria: Madness, Mayhem, and the Rebirth of the British Monarchy
  • Crown and Country: A History of England Through the Monarchy
  • Victorian London: The Tale of a City 1840-1870
Alison Maloney is a journalist and author whose books include The Moms' Book and Things to Do with Mom.
More about Alison Maloney...
Bright Young Things: A Modern Guide to the Roaring Twenties Colin Firth: The Biography The Moms' Book: For the Mom Who's Best at Everything Things to Do With Mom: Lots of Fun for Everyone: Lots Of Fun For Everyone One Lucky Duck

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