Amy's Reviews > Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by Fiona Carnarvon
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's review
Feb 21, 2012

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bookshelves: 2012, learnin-stuff, non-fiction
Read from May 06 to 09, 2012

This books was less Downton Abbey and more WWI primer. That being said, it was an enjoyable read, and a fluff look into the lives of the aristocracy at the turn of the century. I also learned more about WWI in this book than I have in a long time!

The beginning of the book is actually quite a good look into the workings of Highclere Castle (aka Downton Abbey) - the kitchen garden alone was 5 acres! The TV show, with only a handful of staff running busily is barely the tip of the iceberg..I wish the book had focused a little more on the household - it *is* advertised as "the Real Downton Abbey", not as a "fluffy retrospective of an heiress".

Once the war starts, the story moves away from the goings-on at the house and follows the lives of the Highclere inhabitants through the war. Which in a way, is a bit of a disappointment - you don't learn how shortages and what not affected the house (as depicted on the TV program etc), you barely see the house suffer the loss of staff due to the draft or volunteering. In fact, one gets the impression that of the massess of staff, only the outdoor staff (gardeners/gamekeepers etc) were called up for duty, and the family suffered no more than slight worry over their staff members overseas.

All in all, an decent read, despite not being "as advertised", and the website link to Highclere Castle on the back cover has made me want to go visit.

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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Tiffany I heard her interviewed recently on NZ radio. She came across well. Sounds like the book isn't wonderful though, judging by your review. That's a shame. But I guess fact struggles to compete with fiction sometimes and the "fake" Downton Abbey was always going to win out. You should check out Julian Fellowe's books if you want more in the Downton Abbey vein.

message 2: by Amy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Amy It was a good read - but I think slapping a big "the REAL Downton Abbey" was a bit of a mis-label. Its the story of the woman who lived in Highclere at the time that Downton is set.... that's about all "REAL Downton" you get. So, if you're looking for Downtown-esque, this isnt it. But it is a good read about the tail end of the aristocracy.... I have since read that the author whitewashed some of the family's less attractive history... Regardless, it was interesting, and I liked it well enough.

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