Stephanie's Reviews > Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir That Inspired "Upstairs, Downstairs" and "Downton Abbey"

Below Stairs by Margaret Powell
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Feb 07, 12

bookshelves: historical, nonfiction
Read from February 05 to 07, 2012

This was an entertaining, if not exceptional, book. It reads more like a long monologue than a narrative, and I kept imagining the author (some random older English woman) was sitting on a couch in front of me and just reminiscing. The structure isn't the tightest, and neither is the writing, but it's still very enjoyable because her voice is so strong.

I very much enjoyed Margaret's kind of snarky sense of humor, and I even appreciated her diatribes on the fairness (or lack thereof) of the servants' social position and the gap between the wealthy and their servants. I think her views are completely reasonable. And I loved the part where she argues that women should be socially allowed to visit male prostitutes the same as men are (were) allowed to visit female ones. It's a good point, if unexpected from this prim and, at the time of the writing, basically elderly woman.

She was also a self-proclaimed realist, and that comes across well here. She doesn't romanticize or exaggerate her experiences, good and bad.

Overall, this book is not very successful storytelling, but for what it is as a memoir and a character study of sorts, it's worth reading.
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