Downton Abbey Fever

Highclere_CastleSome of us have waited a year for the return of DA – and those of you we’ve nagged to watch it over the past 12 months are probably just as addicted. Season 3 starts this Sunday on PBS (they’ve even got a countdown clock), so our wait is over. At least, until we have to wait until Season 4 in 2014!

Oh, well. In case you want a Downton Abbey fix year round, here are some books and DVDs that might help. Most are set during the time period (early 1900s into the 1920s) and more than a few draw on the relationships involving the upper and lower classes. They might not have the zing of the Dowager Countess, the evil-plotting of Thomas and O’Brien, or the will-they-or-won’t-they of Matthew and Mary, but they just might intrigue you in other ways.



The American Heiress – Daisy Goodwin

  • Presents the story of vivacious Cora Cash, whose early twentieth-century marriage to England’s most eligible duke is overshadowed by his secretive nature and the traps and betrayals of London’s social scene.

Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks

  • After loving and losing a French woman from Amiens, Stephen Wraysford serves in the French army during World War I.

Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh

  • Set in 1920’s England, the story examines the wealthy Flyte family through the eyes of Sebastian Flyte’s less wealthy school friend Charles Ryder, who is eventually tempted into an extramarital affair with Sebastian’s sister, Lady Julia. The novel is a story of faith and disillusionment in a glamorous upper-class world.

The Buccaneers – Edith Wharton

  • The story of five wealthy and beautiful American girls who sail to England and marry into the aristocracy after being denied a place in New York Society.

Habits of the House – Fay Weldon

  • The award-winning writer for Upstairs Downstairs presents a first entry in a new trilogy about the shared lives of masters and servants at the turn of the 20th century, tracing the family life of Cabinet hopeful Lord Robert, who hopes to alleviate financial woes by marrying his son to a disgraced Chicago heiress.

The Fall of Giants – Ken Follett

  • Follows the fates of five interrelated families–American, German, Russian, English, and Welsh–as they move through the dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for women’s suffrage.

Glamorous Illusions – Lisa Tawn Bergren

  • After Cora learns she is the illegitimate child of a copper king, she travels with her new family, facing the hardships as well as the privileges of the family name and embarking on a journey of self-discovery. First in a series.

A Good Woman – Danielle Steel

  • Her life and family changed forever by the sinking of the Titanic, Annabelle Worthington flees New York for war-torn France, where, in a field hospital run by women in the midst of World War I, she finds her true calling in medicine.

The House at Tyneford – Natasha Solomons

  • To escape 1938 Vienna, Elise Landau, a Jew, accepts employment as a domestic servant at Tyneford, a family estate in England, where her involvement with the son of the master of the house changes her life in unexpected ways.

The House at Riverton – Kate Morton

  • Living out her final days in a nursing home, ninety-eight-year-old Grace remembers the secrets surrounding the 1924 suicide of a young poet during a glittering society party hosted by Grace’s English aristocrat employers, a family that is shattered by war.

Maid to Match – Deeanne Gist

  • When Tillie Reese is enlisted to help tame the behavior of mountain man Mack Danvers who now works as a footman at Biltmore Estates, the pair becomes attracted to each other while being entangled in a cover-up at the town orphanage. They could both lose their jobs–and their hearts.

No Angel – Penny Vincenzi

  • An overwhelming love for Oliver Lytton leads Lady Celia Beckenham to leave the confines of her upper-crust social strata and marry, according to her family, below her station. Nonetheless, the children that her marriage produces and the rare access she has to the publishing world through her husband, bring Celia enormous satisfaction. However, when Oliver returns from WWI, Celia finds that her marriage has changed drastically, and she must look for fulfillment elsewhere.

Park Lane – Frances Osborne

  • When Grace Carlisle arrives in London, she takes a job as a housemaid where she becomes caught up in the lives of its inhabitants–in particular, those of its privileged son and daughter.

The Portrait of a Lady – Henry James

  • When Isabel Archer, a beautiful, spirited American, is brought to Europe by her wealthy Aunt Touchett, it is expected that she will soon marry. But Isabel, resolved to determine her own fate, does not hesitate to turn down two eligible suitors. She then finds herself irresistibly drawn to Gilbert Osmond, who, beneath his veneer of charm and cultivation, is cruelty itself.

The Pursuit of Lucy Banning – Olivia Newport

  • Lucy Banning shakes up social norms by secretly attending university and trying to avoid marrying the rich banker that her family has picked, instead setting her sights on a young architect who is working on plans for the 1893 World’s Fair.

Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

  • Stevens, an elderly butler, hopes to rise to the top of his profession, and he remains stoic and unemotional at his father’s death and neglects the opportunity to pursue a relationship with a former housekeeper.

She Walks in Beauty – Siri Mitchell

  • As Clara Carter prepares to make her debut on the city’s social scene just before the turn of the century, she wonders if the celebrity spotlight is truly what she wants when she meets a man who seems to love her simply for who she is. First in a series.

The Uninvited Guests – Sadie Jones

  • While fighting to save their family home, Charlotte prepares for an elaborate birthday celebration for her daughter Emerald, an event that unexpectedly turns into a dramatic evening that forever changes all of their lives.

An Unlikely Suitor – Nancy Moser

  • When dressmaker Lucy Scarpelli befriends socialite Rowena Langdon, she visits the Langdon mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, and falls for a high-society man, while Rowena struggles with her upcoming arranged marriage.

The Winter Ghosts – Kate Mosse

  • Traveling through the French Pyrenees to process the horrors of World War I, Freddie meets a lovely young woman also in mourning with whom he exchanges stories that unravel a centuries-old mystery.



Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid’s Memoir That Inspired Upstairs, Downstairs and Downton Abbey – Margaret Powell

  • Chronicles the experiences of a 1920s maid working in the great houses of England, detailing the disparate lives of the upper class and their servants, the class struggles inherent in the relationship, and daily life as a servant.

The Beauty and the Sorrow: An Intimate History of the First World War – Peter Englund

  • A narrative history of World War I explores its impact on everyday men and women, drawing on diaries and letters by twenty individuals from various countries to present an international mosaic of perspectives.

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle – The Countess of Carnarvon

  • Tells the story behind Highclere Castle, the real-life inspiration for the hit PBS show Downton Abbey, and the life of one of its most famous inhabitants, Lady Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon and the basis of the fictional character Lady Cora Crawley.

The Perfect Summer: England 1911, Just Before the Storm – Juliet Nicholson

  • Chronicling four months during 1911, an evocative portrait of an English society on the brink of turbulent change describes such milestones as the crowning of a new king, strikes that paralyzed British industry, and the first London appearance of the Ballets Russes, from the viewpoints of a debutante, a suffragette, a trade unionist, a butler, a politician, the queen, and others.

The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family – Mary S. Lovell

  • A portrait of the Mitford sisters follows Jessica, a communist; Debo, the Duchess of Devonshire; Nancy, a best-selling novelist; Diana, who was the most hated woman in England; and Unity, who was obsessed with Adolf Hitler.

The Titled Americans: Three American Sisters and the British Aristocratic World into Which They Married – Elisabeth Kehoe

  • Set against the backdrop of Victorian and Edwardian society, a portrait of the three Jerome sisters–Jennie, Clara, and Leonie, American heiresses who married into the heights of British society–spans three generations, from their parents through their children, including Jennie’s son, Winston Churchill.

The World of Downton Abbey – 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.



The Forsyte Saga (also a book by John Galsworthy)

  • Drama of the family life and loves of an upper-middle-class Victorian family.

Gosford Park

  • Drama set at the country estate of Sir William McCordle in 1932, showing the lives of upstairs guests and downstairs servants at a hunting party weekend when one of the group is murdered. (Written by DA scribe Julian Fellowes.)

Secrets of the Manor House: Inside British Country Homes in the Early 1900s

  • Secrets of the Manor House looks beyond the fiction to the truth of how life was in these ancient British houses, and how mounting financial, political and social pressures were about to bring momentous changes to both the wealthy and their servants.


  • Brought to life by a stellar, award-winning ensemble cast and featuring stunning visual effects, Titanic is an extraordinary retelling of the doomed voyage that follows the destinies of the Titanic’s victims and survivors as their stories of passion, betrayal, and hope unfold amidst the tragic events of the ship’s final hours. (Written by DA scribe Julian Fellowes.)

Upstairs, Downstairs

  • It’s 1936, and six years since parlor maid Rose left 165 Eaton Place, when fate brings her back as housekeeper to its new owners: Sir Hallam, his wife Lady Agnes, and Maud, Lady Holland, his mother. Rose soon finds she has her work cut out as she recruits a new ‘downstairs’ family to help run the elegance and finery of the ‘upstairs’ world.


Annotations for books  are courtesy of NoveList Plus unless otherwise noted. Login to NoveList Plus with your Library card.

The DVD annotations are from the TFPL Catalog.

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