Thursday, July 26, 2012

Olympics & Books (sort of not really)

It's not a secret I'm kind of fascinated with the history of the British Monarchy. The opening ceremonies as... odd ... as they may have been were for all intents and purposes me at least smiling if not laughing out loud during because it was so very British. Anyone who knows me knows I grew up in Children's Choirs and Private Schools (right?) but the thing that anyone who also grew up in either (or both) of those things knows is that singing Jerusalem is basically a weekly thing. I don't know why, but it is. It's also ridiculously fun to sing.

Either way, I've got a stockpile of reviews, and I decided to throw some of them them together in one big post about British-themed books. Except just throwing together some books actually kills the librarian in me, so these all have to do with Downton Abby (sort of mostly).

First up!

 Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey is a publicized tiw-in to Downton Abbey and was made to be a historical account of Highclere Castle (aka Downton Abby) (Crazy, right? I bet you had no clue I'd throw that twist in) and life therein. Written by the actual Countess of Carnarvon (no really) it gives an insiders view into life in the castle, the history of the Countess' husband's family. The book is well written, engaging and while obviously written by someone with a vested interest in the castle (and history) it was obvious that the Countess is a fan of the subject. Granted the book is more about the Lady Almina than the "real" Downton Abby it's fascinating look into the society of the time (over a more historical account.) (Though there is a kind of fascinating discussion on one blog I read about how this books is a 'woman's history' and if that affects peoples perception of it's historical value) (But that is on another blog. This blog is all about pretty book covers) (Interesting though, no?)



One of the most memorable things about this book to me is how funny parts of it was. I'm aware I should give you a summary, but I'm not going to because I'm sure that you figured out that it's a memoir of a kitchen maid. Because you're clever like that. In sharp contrast to the above book, this book is actually written by (ghost written? It's not actually clear) by a kitchen maid turned cook. Powell took a University course at 58, and wrote this book at 61 - fascinating because it broke the silence barrier that many servants feel the need to uphold (especially of that time). It presents a very "us and them" attitude, and admittedly she has a fairly negative slant it's fascinating because even though it was first written in 1968 it has an almost timeless memoir feel about it. I'm not actually sure about how I feel about this book. I mean, I'd say for sure give it a read but probably not push it to the top of your list.
 I don't think I can explain to you how much I wanted to love this book. The Astor families is one of those families that I have a fascination with - from Lady Astor's famous temperament to the fact Astoria Queens was named after them made this a book I loved. While I can't say I loved it as a book, I can say I loved it as a story. It read like you were having a conversation with Harrison. Again this was re-published from the mid 70's and while again it was a book published 30-odd years ago about 90 odd years ago it had a few time-warpy moments Harrison presents a very real picture of her employers and her time with them. Fascinating read - do yourself a favour and pick it up.

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