Brian'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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's review
May 20, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: on-nook
Recommended to Brian by: nytimes book review
Read from May 16 to 18, 2012 — I own a copy

(3.0) I do see a lot of Downton Abbey here

Interesting topic: life of a kitchenmaid turned cook in early 20th century England. She's frank about her experiences, thoughts and perceptions as a domestic servant. She's also clearly intelligent and might've excelled in another profession if she'd been able to attend school. It was interesting to read, but would've been far more enjoyable if it were told as a narrative rather than reflections on memories from decades ago. More dialog, more in the moment narrative. Less commentary, synthesis and comparison with "nowadays". Much of her commentary centers around how much easier it is these days, with modern technology and much better working conditions and pay for domestic workers. This was less interesting to us, but understandably of great interest to her. I enjoyed learning that she returned to her studies late in life and became quite the intellectual. :)

I see some tidbits that might've been lifted for Downton Abbey, but certainly wouldn't've been unique to Powell's experience: a gay servant, unwed mothers getting kicked off the house staff, guests having inappropriate relations with the staff etc. Couldn't help but keep thinking back to Downton while reading. Not that that was unpleasant. Big fan.
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