6 Must-Read Books for ‘Downton Abbey’ Fans
I admit that I’m obsessed with “Downton Abbey” on PBS’ Masterpiece Classic. If you haven’t yet tuned in, you must. It’s an irresistible period drama set during the start of WWI in the English countryside, and it follows the lives of the nobility and their servants in a grand estate, much in the style of another PBS favorite, “Upstairs, Downstairs.”
Julian Fellowes has created unforgettable characters and plot twists, full of passion; unrequited love; duplicitous dealings and jealous maneuvers; unexpected family and servant relationships; and that magnificent manor itself – breathtaking Downton Abbey. You’ll be drawn in by the drama that befalls the benevolent Lord and Lady Grantham and their three grown daughters -- there’s the complicated angle of the inheritance, as well as much heartbreak and plotting. And delve into the delicious world of the staff with their alliances, romances, and backstabbing behavior. And to further intrigue you, everyone in the house is keeping plenty of secrets.
If you’re taken with the drama, history, and romance in this series and are craving more, I suggest you try to capture that feeling in book form; it lasts longer than an episode and will transport you just the same. Start with Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey, the true story of Highclere Castle, where "Downton Abbey" is filmed, and the real-life inspiration for the hit PBS show. Then explore these three English period dramas and two exceptional WWI history books.
Parade’s End by Ford Madox Ford
Set in England during World War I, this tetralogy explores the world of the English ruling class as it descends into the chaos of war. An officer from a wealthy family finds himself torn between his unfaithful socialite wife and his suffragette mistress. It’s recently been adapted for BBC TV and is coming to the U.S. at a future date.
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
Published to critical acclaim, this intensely romantic yet stunningly realistic novel spans three generations and the unimaginable gulf between the First World War and the present. It’s been recently adapted for BBC TV and is coming to PBS’ Masterpiece Theater April 22 and 29, 2012.
Howards End by E. M. Forster
This classic is about an English country house and its influence on the lives of the wealthy and materialistic Wilcoxes; the cultured, idealistic Schlegel sisters; and the poor bank clerk Leonard Bast. Bringing together people from different classes and nations, Howards End addresses the question "Who shall inherit England?"
Missing of the Somme by Geoff Dyer
Part travelogue, part meditation on remembrance, this book is completely unlike any other about the First World War. Through visits to battlefields and memorials, Dyer examines the way that photographs and film, poetry and prose determine the way we remember the war.
Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy by David Cannadine
A significant tome: At the outset of the 1870s, the British aristocracy held the lion's share of land, wealth, and power in the world's greatest empire. By the end of the 1930s they had lost not only a generation of sons in the First World War, but also much of their prosperity, prestige, and political significance.