A Countess Below Stairs
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A Countess Below Stairs

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3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  12,254 ratings  ·  1,369 reviews
After the Russian revolution turns her world topsy-turvy, Anna, a young Russian Countess, has no choice but to flee to England. Penniless, Anna hides her aristocratic background and takes a job as servant in the household of the esteemed Westerholme family, armed only with an outdated housekeeping manual and sheer determination.

Desperate to keep her past a secret, Anna is...more
Audio CD, 8 pages
Published January 1st 2007 by Recorded Books, LLC (first published May 10th 1981)
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Claire Scott
I love Eva Ibbotson, and I nearly always think her characters are delightful and her stories lovely. That was true for this book as well. I frequently recommend her books to my enthusiastic readers and to parents reading aloud with their elementary-aged children. She's my favorite of all the authors I've discovered in the last few years.

But I couldn't help my stomach churning at the unnecessarily nasty descriptions of the unpleasant family, the Herrings... these descriptions depended almost com...more
Adrienne
The only reason it's 2 stars is because it was a semi-interesting plot. However...

HOLY COMMAS, BATMAN!

The woman does not know how to write a normal sentence unless it's dialogue. She'd have these sentences with about 10 (no joke, I counted one) modifying phrases all contained within commas. It was so distracting that when I finally got around to the end of the original thought, I couldn't remember what she was talking about. So I'd have to read the beginning of the sentence, skip the crud in com...more
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Amber Gibson for TeensReadToo.com

Anna Grazinsky is a member of the Russian aristocracy, or White Russians, during the Russian Revolution. Her family is forced to flee from their comfortable life in Russia to England, where they are safe from the revolutionaries. But in England, the Grazinskys are left with nothing. Anna has a very resilient spirit, and instead of moping around and wishing for her old life, she is grateful for the safety of her family and secretly takes a job as a mai...more
Bronte
Okay. This book was kind of a dissapointment to me. I felt really disconeccted from the story and like it was to narrarative. Like the author was telling the story herself, not through her charecters.

I felt like I was getting a lot of uneccissery information about every body. And nothing was really developing in you mind as you read it, but it was all piled on you all at the same time. Like every time some one new came into the story, everything stopped while the author gave a biography on this...more
Rachel Romeo
This is a good romance novel without being too mushy, or containing a lot of raunchy scenes. It's about how a young Russian Countess flees to England after the Russian Revolution and earns her keep as a servant for a wealthy family. She tries to keep her past from her employers and their very attractive son, the Earl of Westerholme who is engaged to be married. His future wife believes in the science of Eugenics and only in procreating "the perfect species." Needless to say, there is an attracti...more
Lois Bujold
I enjoyed this... familiar romance tropes, but intelligently applied, and with a keen sense of time and place and detail from an angle less and less known, I suspect, to many younger 21st C. American readers. The tale does not feel to me to be about events of a whole century ago, but I realize somewhat bemusedly that they now are. The social setting, actually utterly alien-to-me in real life, is, as they say, still strangely familiar from dozens of beloved books, both from the period or attempti...more
Angie
What wordy, frothy fun Ibbotson's books are. Perfect going on a trip books. In fact, reading them makes me wish I was going somewhere, as her heroines always seem to be off somewhere new and exciting and exotic. But since I am not going anywhere (exotic or otherwise) in the near future, getting lost in them has proved a wonderful balm for my It's mid-March and Still Snowing blues.

Anna is a Russian countess whose family is forced to flee their wealth and their home after her father is killed in t...more
Fiona
With Eva Ibbotson, you can expect one thing: A fluffy feel-good read. I don't usually like fluffy reads, with Ibbotson I make an exception.

The good guys are always perfect, golden-hued flawless people who are gorgeous. The bad guys are usually horrible but never really truly evil. Everyone gets their happy ending.

That is what you get with Eva Ibbotson. She does it in the more forgiveable way. Each of her books are layered with cultural tit-bits, mostly musical. Many of her YA stories usually inv...more
Cassie
This book was one of those predictable, fluffy books that is still somehow a charm to read because of the language and characters. The heroine is too good, the rival is too evil and silly, but I found myself enjoying every page anyway. The portrayal of Russian royalty on the run from the Russian Revolution is absolutely believable, and Ibbotson’s descriptions make the world come alive. Russian history and culture are things I never really studied, but have always been interested in, so I found t...more
S.
I am emotionally winded by this book in the best possible way!

Whether it's the time of year and the bitter winter snow outside that made this book hit the spot the way it did I'm not certain.

But the poetic language, the sheer romanticism, the wit, the Shakespearean farce element, the astute social, historical, cultural, sexual, racial and class observations were all perfectly balanced to create one of the most richly feel-good romances I've read in years.

I've always admired Eva Ibbotson for hitt...more
Alison
The only reason I gave this book a two instead of a one is because despite the horrible writing style, I still managed to want to read it through to the end. The story, although very predictable, was cute and happily ending, as to be expected. Also, the fact that I am currently very into the tv show Downton Abbey kept me reading, as I used a lot of imagery from the show to imagine Westerholme and it's inner workings. However, if grammar and sentence structure matter greatly to you, I would not r...more
Clare
Apr 16, 2009 Clare rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone and everyone
Recommended to Clare by: myself
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bailey
I found myself not really giving a shit what happened to Anna. It's frustrating when an author writes a completely perfect character - Anna was an unspoiled, gracious child, and is a captivating, gracious adult. Everyone cannot help but be drawn to her beautiful spirit and beautiful face. Except for the evil, sure-to-become-a-total Nazi fiancee of Anna's love interest. The romance kind of irritated me, too. I understand it is, at its heart, a romance novel, but how much interaction did she reall...more
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
This is without doubt one of the best YA novels I’ve read in a long time. Let’s say, ever. If I were to re-do my Top Ten YA Novels list, this would be on it. As soon as I finished it, I wanted to start it all over again (and now, trying to write the review about three weeks after finishing it, I definitely feel the need to re-read it – not because it’s forgettable, but because I’d like to do it justice.) The funny thing is, though, that like other favourite YA novels (such as The Book Thief), I’...more
snowplum
Jul 02, 2014 snowplum rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: sensitive, intelligent people who love music
Eva Ibbotson wrote five books for adults (or young adults) that clearly fit together -- A Countess Below Stairs, The Reluctant Heiress, A Company of Swans, The Morning Gift, and A Song for Summer. I was strongly considering giving one of them 5 stars in order to make certain that anyone who follows my reviews discovers just how special I think Ms. Ibbotson's writing is, but I couldn't decide which. It wouldn't be right to give all of them 5 stars, because that would double my total count of 5 st...more
Parvathy
Jul 23, 2011 Parvathy rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: romance readers, feel good book lovers
Recommended to Parvathy by: goodreads
It is the same repetitive formula which has been encountered in entertainment from time on. The English lord in this case an Earl, the kind and spirited housemaid and a disgruntled, cruel fiancee and an ever supporting and lovable background characters. Yes, the same old stuff but what makes this one worth a read is the way in which this same old story is presented. Eva Ibbotson's writing is very imaginative and captures one's attention from the very first page. Her description of simple unimpor...more
Claire
I did not like this book. There were several things wrong with it, of which, obviously, are my opinion.
First, it was too long. Second, it was boring. Third,it has too many characters. Fourth and last, it was not a romance.
The book is essentially about a countess who lost everything in the war. Her family is lucky to survive and relocates in England. To make money she takes a position as a housekeeper at Lord's Westerholme's estate.
Lord Westerholme, on the other hand, has just been released from...more
Chachic
Originally posted here.

I can’t believe I’ve never written a review for A Countess Below Stairs (also published as Secret Countess). This and The Reluctant Heiress (also published as Magic Flutes) are my two favorite Eva Ibbotson novels. I've recommended both of them to so many friends. There is just something about Eva Ibbotson's writing that makes her books feel good reads. A Countess Below Stairs is historical fiction but it has a fairy tale feel to it, with a Cinderella kind of vibe going on....more
Cara Marie
This was just lovely. I've never read Eva Ibbotson before, apart from the more junior Which Week?, and I really enjoyed it.

It was quite slow to get into, and written quite formally, but being as it was set at the beginning of the 20th century, it was appropriate. The story itself is quite old-fashioned, and also a genuinely heartwarming romance. I cried.

It was also well constructed: things would be mentioned that helped save the day later, without feeling unnatural. It was nice to have such a...more
Ann
I wavered back and forth while reading this as to if I should give it three or four stars. So, 3 1/2, but I'll side with four and list my reasons and hesitations.

Overall, I did like this book. For me, I really loved the beginning, and felt there was so much laid down in the first few chapters that I thought the story and characters were going to be really dynamic and realized. Then, about a quarter of the way through I began to realize that I was going to be wrong, and I started to loose some in...more
Kathryn
Anna, a Russian countess of considerable wealth before the Russian Revolution, must flee with her family to England in the aftermath of the war. Penniless, she takes a job as a servant at Mersham, an English manor house reeling from England's own war and the economic ruin it brought. When the young heir to Mersham returns from the war it it is not the son everyone expected to inherit the title--for the dashing eldest brother was killed in the war and it falls to the more introspective Rupert to...more
Allison (The Allure of Books)
Sometimes its good to read something purely for FUN, to remind yourself what reading is all about - enjoying yourself. That is exactly what you get with this one. The ending is, of course, predictable...but the journey to get there is so fun (and at times maddening)!

Muriel, the "other woman" is ridiculous and cold-hearted, a little girl that lives in a neighboring home, 'Honorable Olive' will have your heart twisted in to knots, and...ALL the characters are just so fresh and enjoyable, no matte...more
Anel
Jan 29, 2010 Anel rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
Recommended to Anel by: I saw this in the library
I read the blurb and I thought the story was interesting. This was one of the worst books I ever read. First of all, too many unnecessary details about minor characters. I found myself constantly skipping over those parts. The main countess had no character development and it was very narrative. The main character was too perfect, the fiancee was "nasty", the love interest was "prince charming". There was too much description that was not needed. Ending was predictable.
Ellen
Very charming, which is not usually a word I use to describe books with subplots about eugenics.
Jemimah
It's Downton Abbey meets Anastasia...or perhaps the other way around. It doesn't really matter; what matter is that I have found a novel that's both historically and "plot-wisely" superb!

What I liked about it:
✓ Eva Ibbotson's lovely, classic-like writing.
✓ The setting: aristocratic post-revolution Russia and England in its post-World War I Edwardian Era.
✓ The riches to rags plot. And likewise, the rags to riches twist!
✓ Anna's character, her charismatic personality, the kindness she showed to ev...more
Zehra
*SPOILERS*
This is the second book I've read by Ibbotson, but her fist young adult one, the first being Journey to the River Sea. The reason I didn't like this book is its shallow characters and confusing sentences. The good guys are too good, annoyingly so. I found Rupert very annoying, and failed to see any connection transpire between him and Anna. From the beginning Anna was shown to be a model girl, beautiful, very kind, and all round perfect. When she first starts her work at the Westermhol...more
Beth Bonini
So often in Eva Ibbotson's novels there is a displacement, a shift in circumstances, which forces the protagonist to seek out a new home. The German take-over of Vienna in the 1930s forced Eva from her own ancestral home, and this was obviously a theme which never lost its emotional potency for her. In this novel, World War I and the Russian Revolution are the historical background. Anna, a young Russian countess, (and much-beloved by all who know her), becomes an émigrée in England. When her tr...more
Margaret
Oh, I am vastly grateful to Penguin's Speak imprint for reprinting Ibbotson's romances, which are lovely and were previously hard to find.

Anna is a young Russian countess who has fled to England from Russia with her mother and younger brother after the Russian Revolution. Needing to work and wanting to help support her family, Anna takes a position as a housemaid at Mersham, the home of the aristocratic Westerholme family. She conceals her background, of course, but it doesn't take long for the...more
Viktoria
Wohl eher 2 und ein halber Stern.
Eva Ibbotson hat wirklich etwas stark missionarisches in ihren Büchern. Obwohl es in dieser Geschichte nicht um den 2. Weltkrieg geht, bringt sie alles unter: Eugenik, Vorbehalte gegen Juden und Behinderte. Und das alles gebündelt in einer Figur, der Gegenspielerin der liebreizenden Anna, einer aus Russland geflohenen und verarmten Komtess. Die Figuren in "Sommerglanz" sind so einfach in gut und böse aufgeteilt, dass es langweilig ist. So gutmütig und liebenswert...more
Haley
Cute storyline. I liked the story being told in so many different points of view, and also that not much is told from Anna's and Rupert's point of view. In this way the author shows you how they fell in love. Again, love the vocabulary the author uses in her novels, and also that it is a completely clean romance, but also so much more than a romance story. I loved all the different characters!
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My feelings--Your feelings...Who likes this book? 32 135 Mar 19, 2014 12:30PM  
Your favorite Eva Ibbotson's book? 5 26 Mar 19, 2014 12:27PM  
Favorite character? 3 23 Dec 14, 2012 04:35AM  
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Eva Ibbotson (born Maria Charlotte Michelle Wiesner, 1925, Vienna, Austria) was a British novelist specializing in romance and children's fantasy. Eva Ibbotson was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1925. When Hitler came into power, Ibbotson's family moved to England. She attended Bedford College, graduating in 1945; Cambridge University from 1946-47; and the University of Durham, from which she graduat...more
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“And so they played some of the world's loveliest piano music - the exiled homesick girl, the humiliated, tired old man. Not properly. Better than that.” 84 likes
“Slowly, Anna put up a hand to his muzzle and began to scratch that spot behind the ear where large dogs keep their souls.” 71 likes
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