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Below stairs by Margaret Powell
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Below stairs (1968)

by Margaret Powell

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Read for book club and really enjoyed it. ( )
  Pat_Gibson | May 28, 2017 |
It's a must-read for fans of Downton Abbey. However, I feel like I wouldn't have had any context to enjoy it without having watched Downton. I might not have been able to picture things as well if I hadn't. ( )
  beckyrenner | Dec 29, 2016 |
If you're an Upstairs, Downstairs or Downton Abbey viewer you should read this. it's a quick read, nothing earth shaking, but interesting as to what life was *really like belowstairs in the 20s. Margaret has a tart tongue, this was first published in 68 , and there's much about "nowadays versus then" like you might expect. Most people realize that the scenes from the shows are nowhere near accurate as to how servants actually interacted with their employers. Worth it for any fans of the shows, but the rest could probably live without it. She comes across as fairly well read, which was probably also not the norm for a kitchen maid back then. ( )
  cookierooks | Nov 16, 2016 |
The jacket quote describes Powell's account as "feisty," and I would agree! "Downtown Abbey" may have made domestic service look civilized and somehow elegant but Powell is straight-ahead practical and bluntly honest as she relates her experiences as a kitchen maid and cook. If you're going through "Downton" withdrawal, pick this up for a colorful rendering of the past and get ready to laugh. ( )
  Salsabrarian | Mar 17, 2016 |
I bought this book because Amazon recommended it (if you like Upstairs, Downstairs, you'll like Below Stairs). I didn't. A true life recounting of a woman who, having no alternative, is forced into service just after WWI. Published in 1968, the book (thankfully short) is a diatribe of bitterness against servitude and harping about how things are different "nowadays" (child raising, grocery buying, children's games, etc.). While I can understand her resentment over being intelligent but poor, she has a personality that is hard to like. She had tried a number of jobs before going into service and hated them all because everything was beneath her. Eventually, she became a cook and learned a few things, even finding along the way, employers who did NOT make servants feel as though they were second class citizens. There wasn't even a feeling that she had struggled through life and overcome all adversity to be a better person. Just not all entertaining and I'm disappointed that Amazon's recommendation let me down so badly. ( )
  Oodles | Feb 16, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
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To Leigh (Reggie) Crutchley

with gratitude and affection
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I was born in 1907 in Hove, the second child of a family of seven.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
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 Place.
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"A kitchen-maid's through-the-key hole memoir of life in the great houses of England--now a bestseller in the UK. At fifteen, she arrived at the servants' entrance to begin her life as a kitchen maid in 1920s England. The lowest of the low, her world was one of stoves to be blacked, vegetables to be scrubbed, mistresses to be appeased, and even bootlaces to be ironed. Work started at 5:30am and went on until after dark. In this captivating memoir, Margaret tells her tales of service with wit, warmth, and a sharp eye. From the gentleman with a penchant for stroking housemaids' curlers, to raucous tea dances with errand boys, to the heartbreaking story of Agnes the pregnant under-parlourmaid, fired for being seduced by her mistress's nephew, Below Stairs brilliantly evokes the longvanished world of masters and servants portrayed in Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs. Rocketing back on to the UK bestseller lists almost fifty years after its initial publication, this is the remarkable true story of an indomitable woman, who, though her position was lowly, never stopped aiming high"--… (more)

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