Kate Quinn's Reviews > A Countess Below Stairs

A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson
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May 06, 2009

really liked it

"A Countess Below Stairs" is Eva Ibbotson's first book, and perhaps not as good as her others. But a four-star book from Eva Ibbotson is still better than most other books out there, so this is well worth reading, involving the usual mix of effervescent heroine, scheming villainess, and captivating supporting characters. Anna Grazinsky is an ebullient Russian countess, cast by the Russian revolution from luxury in St. Petersburg to poverty in London. To support her mother and brother, she takes a job as a maid in a classic English country house, and of course falls in love with its Earl, who is himself entangled with a nasty fiancee. The plot is conventional, and so are the two main characters: Anna the brave, and the Earl who is of course sensitive and intelligent and scarred from World War I. But Ibbotson's trademark humor transforms what could be a routine romance to a sparkling read, and her minor characters are unforgettable: a seance-holding dowager who can only seem to contact the most boring of ghosts, a weight-lifting footman with much-envied biceps, a handsome chauffeur trying to escape the attentions of five smitten ducal daughters, a stuffed grandmotehr residing in a chest, and the nastiest social-climbing villainess to be seen in a long time. A great start to a great writer's career.
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