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A recent article from the New York Times points to a new publishing and bookselling frenzy around books related in any way to the BBC series ‘Downton Abbey.’ Can you blame fans? Apparently, viewers tuning into PBS for tales of an Edwardian-era aristocratic family (as well as their clever and sometimes vindictive servants) are also avid readers – and will pull out their wallets for anything like it. There’s something about sprawling British estates, the secret lives of house maids and valets, and the romance and tragedy of World War I that catches readers’ fancies (and money) on both sides of the Atlantic.
We might as well admit it: we are also fans of the Golden Globe-winning series here at Naperville Public Library, and we can offer some of the Times‘ recommended titles free of charge. Check them out if you can’t get enough of the Crawleys! (Synopses from our catalog).
1. Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by the Countess of Carnarvon;
Much like her Masterpiece Classic counterpart Lady Cora Crawley, Lady Almina was the daughter of a wealthy industrialist, Alfred de Rothschild, who married his daughter off at a young age, her dowry serving as the crucial link in the effort to preserve the Earl of Carnarvon’s ancestral home.? Throwing open the doors of Highclere Castle to tend to the wounded of World War I, Lady Almina distinguished herself as a brave and remarkable woman.
2. A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd;
A battlefield nurse during World War I, Bess Crawford, returning to London for a well-earned Christmas leave, finds her holiday fraught with mystery and murder when she agrees to help a bruised and battered woman return to her small village in Sussex.
3. The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes.
A companion book to the popular British series about the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants offers insights into the story and characters and background information on British society in the early years of the twentieth century.
And while we’re at it, we simply must throw these titles into the mix:
4. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro;
Stevens, an elderly butler who has spent 30 years in the service of Lord Darlington, ruminates on the past and inadvertently slackens his rigid grip on his emotions to confront the central issues of his life.
5. ‘Upstairs Downstairs‘ by Heidi Thomas (BBC);
After a new family moves into the house belonging to the Bellamys, the former housemaid hires a new staff for the family and the aristocrats and their servants try to find a way to peacefully share their living space.
6. Anything by P. G. Wodehouse in the Jeeves and Wooster series.
Bertie Wooster attempts to solve his personal problems on his own, but at last is forced to turn to his butler, Jeeves, for help.
With 2011 now in the history books, many of us have enjoyed a good look back on the year. Here at the Naperville Public Library, we’re not experts on celebrity divorces, royal weddings, entertainers and visionaries we’ve lost, or even the progress (or not) in Washington, but we do get excited about the year in books. Elaine Szewczyk of Kirkus Reviews has compiled a compelling list of bestsellers and general best-reads in fiction of 2011. Take a look, and happy mid-winter reading!