It’s that sad time of year once again when the current season of Downton Abbey is nearly over, causing Downton Abbey addicts to long for more of the popular PBS series. Well, I can’t really extend the season, but I can suggest some substitutes for Downton Abbey viewing that might appeal to fans craving more.
You could watch Manor House, another PBS series that gives viewers a look at the British class system of the early 1900s in a grand home much like Downton Abbey. Better yet, watch Secrets of Highclere Castle to learn more about the fabulous home where Downton Abbey is filmed. Highclere Castle has an incredible history of its very own. Highclere was once the social center of Edwardian England, for one thing. See how all the residents of Highclere lived, from the upstairs family to the below stairs servants. Meet the current owners, Lord and Lady Carnarvon, and learn what life is like in the castle today.
If the real world of Downton Abbey interests you, you may want to read the Countess of Carnarvon’s latest book, Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey. She continues the tale of the history of Highclere Castle with the story of Catherine Wendell, the sixth countess and daughter-in-law of Lady Almina. Lady Almina, the subject of the Countess’ previous book, inspired the character of Cora in Downton Abbey.
To learn more about the social changes and historical events affecting the Great Britain of Downton Abbey’s time period, try The Great Silence by Juliet Nicholson, a social history of Great Britain that begins with the end of World War I and ends with the birth of the Jazz Age.
If you would prefer to read fiction that evokes the world of Downton Abbey, there are many choices. A few recent titles to keep in mind are The Last Summer by Judith Kinghorn and Park Lane by Frances Osborne.
Kinghorn’s The Last Summer is set in July of 1914 at the great English country house of Deyning Park. Living the leisurely life of the aristocracy at Deyning Park are Clarissa Granville and her parents and brothers. But Clarissa has a problem; she is attracted to Tom Cuthbert, the housekeeper’s handsome son, a relationship her parents can only disapprove (shades of Lady Sybil and Tom Branson, the chauffeur). Then the war comes to Deyning, threatening to separate Clarissa and Tom, testing their love.
Frances Osborne’s Park Lane centers on 18-year-old Grace Campbell who searches unsuccessfully for a job as a secretary in London in 1914. Instead, she takes a position as a housemaid at Number 35 Park Lane, lying to her family about the job. Grace quickly becomes involved in the lives of the family at 35 Park Lane, particularly those of the son, Edward, and his sister, Beatrice, who is recovering from a broken romance that would have provided her with an escape from the lifestyle she finds so suffocating.
There are many choices available to keep that Downton Abbey feeling going after the end of the series this weekend. Stop by Groton Public Library and check out some DVDs or books to keep you satisfied until the new season of the show airs. It’s a long time between seasons; we Downton Abbey addicts are going to need all the help we can get to cope.
(I’m reading Ripper by Isabel Allende right now. What are you reading?)