Watching the PBS series “Downton Abbey” is a guilty passion. Although at times self-centered and pompous, the aristocrats portrayed in the television series are effortlessly elegant, delightfully witty, assuredly cultivated and endlessly entertaining. The Friends of the Lititz Public Library are sponsoring an opportunity to step into this fairytale world through a bus trip to Winterthur Museum’s Costumes of “Downton Abbey” exhibit on Tuesday, June 24th 2014. Details are available at www.lititzlibrary.org.
In the meantime, feed your “Downton Abbey” passion. Visit the library to find novels set amid the British aristocracy during the early part of the twentieth century and learn the facts behind the fictional stories with companion nonfiction books.
The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin (novel)
At the turn of the twentieth century a beautiful and vivacious heiress travels to England in search of an eligible, titled bachelor.
To Marry and English Lord by Gail MacColl and Carol McD. Wallace (nonfiction)
From the Gilded Age until 1914, more than 100 American heiresses went to England and traded dollars for titles.
Before I Met You by Lisa Jewell
A young woman learns about her beautiful and charismatic grandmother’s life as one of the Bright Young People in 1920s London.
Bright Young People: The Lost Generation of London’s Jazz Age by D.J. Taylor (nonfiction)
In reaction to the losses of World War I, privileged young people created a sensational social scene in London that flaunted excess, money and notoriety.
The Last Summer by Judith Kinghorn
In July of 1914, a young woman lives in idyllic isolation in a grand English country house while the winds of war brew in Europe.
The Real Life Downtown Abbey: How Life was Really Lived in Stately Homes a Century Ago by Jacky Hyans (nonfiction)
The Edwardian gentry were pampered by an army of butlers, servants, footmen and grooms whose lives could be ruined if they took the smallest step outside the boundaries of their class-driven world.
The House at Riverton by Kate Morton (novel)
Told in flashbacks, this story follows a 14-year-old girl who enters service at an elegant manor house just before WWI and becomes attached to the family as they endure the trauma of war and its aftermath.
Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by the Countess of Carnarvon (nonfiction)
The 5th Earl of Carnarvon’s ancestral home’s splendor was preserved by the dowry of a wealthy industrialist’s daughter who later opened the castle to tend to the wounded of World War I.
Netherwood by Jane Sanderson (novel)
Lord Netherwood relies on the considerable wealth earned from three coal mines to run his splendid estate, dress his wife and daughter in the latest fashions and keep his charming heir out of trouble.
Lady Catherine, the Earl and the Real Downton Abbey by the Countess of Carnarvon (nonfiction)
Daughter-in-law to Lady Almina, American-born Catherine Wendell and the 6th Earl of Carnarvon enjoyed a privileged life until World War II when Highclere Castle became a troop training ground and sanctuary for children fleeing the bombing of London.
The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons (novel)
In the spring of 1938, a young Jewish woman realizes her only means of escape from Vienna is to advertise her services as a domestic servant in England.
Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth Century to Modern Times by Lucy Lethbridge (nonfiction)
A window into British society from the Edwardian period to the present time explores the complex relationships between the server, the served and the world they lived in.
The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott (novel)
A spirited young woman survives the sinking of the Titanic only to find herself embroiled in the tumultuous aftermath of that great tragedy.
Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage: The Titanic’s First-Class Passengers and Their World by Hugh Brewster (nonfiction)
Original research intertwines the ship’s demise with the lives of the rich and powerful including fashion designer Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon, artist Francis D. Millet, and the wealthiest man in America, John Jacob Astor IV.
Originally published on April 18, 2014 in the Lititz Record Express.