Margaret Powell 2011
Brilliantly evoking the long-vanished world of masters and servants portrayed in Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs, Margaret Powell’s classic memoir of her time in service, Below Stairs, is the remarkable true story of an indomitable woman who, though she served in the great houses of England, never stopped aiming high. Powell first arrived at the servants' entrance of one of those great houses in the 1920s. As a kitchen maid – the lowest of the low – she entered an entirely new world; one of stoves to be blacked, vegetables to be scrubbed, mistresses to be appeased, and bootlaces to be ironed. Work started at 5.30am and went on until after dark. It was a far cry from her childhood on the beaches of Hove, where money and food were scarce, but warmth and laughter never were. Yet from the gentleman with a penchant for stroking the housemaids’ curlers, to raucous tea-dances with errand boys, to the heartbreaking story of Agnes the pregnant under-parlormaid, fired for being seduced by her mistress’s nephew, Margaret’s tales of her time in service are told with wit, warmth, and a sharp eye for the prejudices of her situation. Margaret Powell's true story of a life spent in service is a fascinating “downstairs” portrait of the glittering, long-gone worlds behind the closed doors of Downton Abbey and 165 Eaton PlacePersonal Review:
I love Downton Abbey and I thought I should give this book a try. I was fascinating, it was written in such a way that it kept moving at a great pace. Not pausing too long at one thing. It noted how different life was then and now. It also talked about how different employers could be. Anywhere between kind and very strict. She talks about how necessary it was then for women to have multiple talents. She left her house at thirteen for the service. She became a cook st eighteen. More than I could hope to achieve. She talked about fleeting work and friends. It's quite sad about how hard it was too keep a friend when moving from house to house. She also talks about how your employers would guilt trip you into staying. Overall I really liked it.
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P.S. Sorry, internet down couldn't post.