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A Countess Below Stairs

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  18,625 ratings  ·  1,863 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background and takes a job as servant in the household of the esteemed Westerholme family, armed only with an outdated housekeeping manual and sheer determination.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
Paperback, 383 pages
Published May 10th 2007 by Speak (first published May 10th 1981)
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 ·  18,625 ratings  ·  1,863 reviews

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Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Final review, first posted on (not that this is a fantasy novel, but Ibbotson also wrote a lot of fantasy):

As a Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer enthusiast, I’m always on the lookout for historical novels in that mold, with manners, a little romance and lots of deliciously witty dialogue. I previously was familiar with Eva Ibbotson solely from her 1994 children’s fantasy The Secret of Platform 13, in which a magical door at Platform 13 of King’s Cross Station in London o
Jul 25, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Jan 12, 2009 rated it it was ok
The only reason it's 2 stars is because it was a semi-interesting plot. However...


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
Aug 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical, keeper

Nothing is more depressing then the dreaded "Reader Slump" that not even your favorite authors can pull you out of. That was me, just floating along after reading back to back amazing books, everything just sorta fell flat for me. That is by chance I stumbled on A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson. Taking place in a period I'm not very fond of (early 1900's) I was a tad leery of taking a chance. I'm so thankful that I did.
Ibbotson writes magic in her pages. True whimsical, nostalgic magi
This is one of my favorite romances with one of my all-time favorite authors.

No bodice ripping, panting, squirming lady parts, etc, just a sweet, witty, well-written and often humorous romance with a great hero and heroine and a cast of secondary characters that add depth to the story.

‘You will see, Pinny, it will be all right. Already I have found a most beautiful book in your sister’s room. It is called The Domestic Servant’s Compendium by Selina Strickland, and it has two thousand and thr
Paige  Bookdragon

Well, I must say this. I should thank Rane for recommending and giving this book such a nice review. If not for her, this book would still be in my to-read-list.

To be totally honest, I prefer books written in a conversational type (examples are Julia Quinn, Sidney Sheldon and Thea Harrison books) These books uses words that are easy to understand and can be used in everyday life.

On the other hand, this is the type of book where I have to pay attention every freaking word because the wordings a
Aug 19, 2009 rated it did not like it
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
Preeti ♥︎ Her Bookshelves
A solid 4.25 star book!
Such wonderful writing by this new to me author. I soaked in each and every word, every turn of phrase happily. She ought to be writing 'heavier' stuff. Not have her work placed along with the other contemporarily written anachronistic and modern HRs!

I read it about a month ago so won't delve too deep into the happenings. But let me say that the h, a poor and plain Russian emigre - a 'princess' turned maid - is one of the best and strongest character I've recently read abo
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Amber Gibson for

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
Lois Bujold
Sep 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 06, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Jun 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 29, 2010 rated it did not like it
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.
This was a sweet, feel-good read, which I was in desperate need of. I turn to these sort of books when I'm recovering from illness or surgery. You know, those books that are comfort food? This is one of them.

Anna, along with other Russian nobility, finds herself among the working class of England after the fall of the Tsar. Czar? I always mix those up. Anyhow, she is uncomplaining and determined to be happy in her circumstances. Anna is wise enough to know that the answer to most anything can b
Rachel Romeo
Jan 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: romance
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
Eva Ibbotson has some of the most beautiful prose I've ever read.

I feel like she is an amateur expert on everything. She could write about garbage disposals and I wouldn't care in the least. I don't think she could write an ugly sentence, I really don't.

On to the story: This is the most original of her adult books. All the others have the same two main characters. This is also the least offensive, which makes me a happy clam.

I'm constantly amazed that she can somehow write accents without chan
Mar 20, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: good-uns, historical, ya
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
Feb 23, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: romance
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
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
Aug 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
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
The Book Queen
This, ladies and gentlemen, is probably my favourite standalone novel of all time. If not favourite, then definitely in my top five. It's adorable and heartbreaking and beautiful and I've loved it ever since I first read it - and I've read it three times since.

It's not without its faults - Anna is a special snowflake, Rupert is controlling at times, and Ibbotson does have a problem with sentences - each one has about nine hundred separate clauses and fifteen adjectives - but to be honest, they'r
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
Apr 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Feb 02, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This story reads like a 'poor girl who really isn't a poor girl meets the young handsome lord and falls in love and lives happily ever after with the guy' kind of fairy tale. From time to time I have problem suppressing my disbelief but in the end...the good writing (love how the author describes things and her lovely prose) and the reasonable characters and the reasonable romance save this story for me.

I think it is a good story for teenagers, but if you wanted your book to have more to do with
Oct 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Fans of Sweet Historical Romance; Fairy Tales
Reviewed for THC Reviews
A Countess Below Stairs is a delightful romantic tale that's reminiscent of fairy tales like Cinderella or Anastasia. I thought it was a unique twist to read a story that's set in an English country manor house but told partly from the perspective of the servants below stairs. It gives the book kind of an Upstairs, Downstairs or Downton Abbey vibe. It takes place in approximately the same time period too, immediately following the first World War, which is another unique
Oct 27, 2011 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Amy by: Emily
Book deprivation is a very bad thing. It causes people to do crazy things…like, reading till 4:44 am on a Thursday night because they haven’t had fiction in their hands for such a long time. Which may or may not have just happened to me.
Be warned! If you’re sending your kid off to college, or are going to college, keep them/yourself at least occasionally supplied with something mindless!!! The repercussions are scary and may involve falling asleep in class the next day.

Once upon a time i
Jul 02, 2019 rated it liked it
This is Historical Fiction Romance. As most know, romance isn't a genre I spend a lot of time. I haven't read this author before. I loved that Davina Porter did the audio narration. She is one of my faves, so that added to the enjoyment of this story.

I liked the MC, Anna. She had interesting back story. She was also endearing and she wasn't afraid to do what needed to be done. Overall, I liked this one. I'd read more by this author, especially if Davina Porter is the narrator. Now with that sai
Sam! at the bookstore
Apr 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 4-stars
Rating: 4 stars

I think I'll always enjoy Eva Ibbotson's writing. It's the kind of style that brings you back to classics, while still with that modern flair that makes it able to be read without too much thought. The pictures she paints, the characters she develops, are all so wonderful. Her books are lovely.

When you're sad, my Little Star, go out of doors. It's always better underneath the open sky.

So let's forget for a moment how completely full of stereotypes this book was. From the angelic R
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
Sep 07, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: youngadult
Of the three of her books that I've read, this was by far the best. (The other two were A Song For Summer and The Morning Gift.) For the first time, I actually felt for her main female character, and the entire cast of characters in this book were wonderful and memorable.
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Eva Ibbotson (born Maria Charlotte Michelle Wiesner) was a British novelist specializing in romance and children's fantasy.

She was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1925. When Hitler came into power, her family moved to England. She attended Bedford College, graduating in 1945; Cambridge University from 1946-47; and the University of Durham, from which she graduated with a diploma in education in 1965.

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