Related Reads: Downton Abbey
- The World of Downton Abbey, by Jessica Fellowes - the official companion book to the series; explores characters and history of the series to take you deeper into Downton’s world.
- The Chronicles of Downton Abbey, by Jessica Fellowes & Matthew Sturgis - including scenes and characters from season 3, the NEW official companion to the series is this updated title.
DVDs to watch
- Downton Abbey - catch up or relive your favorite episodes of the first three seasons.
- Secrets of Highclere Castle - "Step inside one of Britain's best-known manor houses" with this PBS special about the real-life history of Highclere, the house which has become "Downton" on-screen.
- Berkeley Square - follows three nannies in turn-of-the-century London; one of the families is headed by an Earl and his American wife.
- Duchess of Duke Street - serves up Edwardian menus, a rags-to-riches tale, and an unforgettable character in Louisa Trotter, based on the real-life Rosa Lewis, hotelier and chef to high society London in the years before the Great War.
- Gosford Park - screenplay by "Downton Abbey"’s Julian Fellowes - shows both above- and below-stairs schemes and intrigue during a weekend hunting party on an estate.
- Howards End - Based on the 1910 novel by E. M. Forster, follows members of three families at three different levels of society as they meet and entangle.
- Upstairs, Downstairs - the 1971-1975 series about the Bellamy household in London; dramatic events in the lives of servants and aristocratic family members in context of historical events 1903-1930.
- Manor House (on VHS only) - a BBC reality-television series designed to show what life was like for the household of a 1905-1914 country house.
- House of Eliott (on VHS only) - a BBC series from the creators of “Upstairs Downstairs” about two sisters in dire straits, who open a fashion house in London between the wars, creating costumes for the aristocracy and challenging views that women could not live independently.
- The American Heiress, by Daisy Goodwin -the story of the daughter of wealthy Americans (her name is even Cora) who marries the eligible Duke of Wareham at the turn of the 20th century
- The Crimson Rooms, by Katherine McMahon - love and mystery surrounding characters in 1920s London, still reeling from the effects of the Great War
- The Dressmaker, by Kate Alcott - a seamstress finds herself on the Titanic voyage, embroiled with two men of different status, she survives the sinking but does not escape the repercussions
- Fall of Giants, by Ken Follett - a saga of five families from all walks of life set against the drama of World War I
- The Go-Between, by L. P. Hartley - a summer on a great estate before-the-wars, containing a tragic love story, is remembered
- Habits of the House, by Fay Weldon - from one of the original writers of the "Upstairs, Downstairs" series comes this depiction of a household - family and staff - on Belgrave Square in London during the season of 1899. The Earl is facing financial concerns and an heiress arrives from Chicago in this first part of a trilogy.
- The House at Riverton, by Kate Morton - intrigue and romance on the grounds of a country house in the early 1920s
- The House at Tyneford, by Natasha Solomons - a young Jewish woman is forced to leave 1938 Vienna and become a parlor maid at a great house in England. In a changing world, a relationship begins with the son of the house.
- The Pursuit of Love, or others by Nancy Mitford
- Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro - though this novel is concerned with staff of a great house during World War II, a little later than our setting in Downton Abbey, you can see echoes of Carson in the main character Stevens, a butler with a fierce dignity and dedication to his profession in the face of changing times
- The Shooting Party, by Isabel Colegate - a witty and moving portrayal of the upper class in 1913 at a weekend shooting party on the estate of an earl
- Upstairs, Downstairs, by John Hawkesworth - the novelization of the British television series
- Penny Vincenzi's Spoils of Time trilogy follows the Lytton family - aristocrats in London and New York during the World Wars. No Angel, Something Dangerous, and Into Temptation.
- Books by Julian Fellowes who wrote the screenplay for "Downton Abbey" - these titles do not take place in the same time period as Downton, but have similar fun with the attitudes and mores of upper classes. Try Snobs or Past Imperfect.
Memoirs or Portraits from Above or Below Stairs
- The Bolter, by Frances Osborne - tells the story of Idina Sackville, who went from high society to a wild bohemian life when she ran off to Africa.
- Below Stairs: the Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir That Inspired “Upstairs, Downstairs" and "Downton Abbey” , by Margaret Powell - the true account of a woman who served in some of the great houses in Britain.
- Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey : The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle, by Fiona, Countess of Carnarvon - Tells the story behind Highclere Castle, the real-life inspiration for Downton Abbey, and the life of Lady Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon (inspiration for Lady Cora Crawley).
- Not in Front of the Servants: A True Portrait of Upstairs, Downstairs Life, by Frank Victor Dawes
- Rose: My Life in Service, by Rose Harrison - "recollections of life in one of England's grandest households by the personal maid to Nancy, Lady Astor"
For endlessly intriguing characters within the British upper classes in the first half of the 20th century, don’t look farther than the exploits of the six Mitford sisters.
- Wait For Me! by Deborah, The Duchess of Devonshire
- The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters, ed. by Charlotte Mosley
- The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family , by Mary S. Lovell
Don’t forget those rich Americans - like Cora - who married into the British aristocracy. “I’ll give you my family’s money to help your floundering estate; you give me your title to lend my nouveau-riche family some class.” Get all the juicy details about how these arrangements worked out.
- The Titled Americans: Three American Sisters and the British Aristocratic World into Which They Married, by Elisabeth Kehoe
- To Marry an English Lord: Or How Anglomania Really Got Started, by Gail MacColl and Carol McD. Wallace - Julian Fellowes told the NY Times that this was really the book that inspired the countess’ character in Downton Abbey.
- Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt: The Story of a Daughter and a Mother in the Gilded Age, by Amanda Mackenzie Stuart
- Or read Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan's autobiography The Glitter and the Gold
What might Lady Sybil have been reading while waiting for her chauffeur? Lady Edith while dreaming of someone finally to notice her?
- E.M. Forster - try Howards End
- John Galsworthy, author of the many volumes in the Forsyte Saga, about an upper-class Edwardian family and social change - start with The Man of Property
- W. Somerset Maugham - try Mrs. Craddock
- Vita Sackville-West- try The Edwardians
- Rebecca West - try the posthumously-published Sunflower, about an actress in the 1920s with society connections
- Edith Wharton - try her Pulitzer-winning Age of Innocence for a glimpse of society on this side of the pond
- P. G. Wodehouse - for much-lighter fare satirizing the fops and bimbo heiresses of pre-War London society, look no further than Wodehouse. Try any of the Jeeves and Wooster tales or Blandings Castle.
The Great War and its Effects
Downton Abbey serves as a war hospital and the lives of all its inhabitants are touched in many ways by World War I. Read the following for an understanding of just how far-reaching the war’s effects were on British (and others) lives.
- All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque - the epitome of a World War I novel, shows that life in the trenches was brutal for both sides.
- Regeneration, by Pat Barker - based on the real experiences of Seigfried Sassoon, this novel details a military psychiatric hospital and the lives of its shell-shocked soldiers. Try also his novel Life Class.
- Three Soldiers, by John Dos Passos - shows the toll of the war on three American soldiers.
- Johnny Got His Gun, by Dalton Trumbo - this pacifist National Book Award winner from 1939 tells the story of a severely-wounded soldier’s recovery.
- Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf - while the title character shows us the life of society between the wars, the character of Septimus Smith shows us the tragic plight of a shell-shocked veteran.
And while you’re wallowing the muck of the trenches or recovering in the arms of a nurse, don’t forget the classic WWI novels: A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway and Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Celine.
Mysteries with this Setting
- The Shape of Sand, by Marjorie Eccles
- Broken Music, by Marjorie Eccles
- The Uninvited Guests, by Sadie Jones - At a 1912 country house, a family struggles with class issues and ghosts
- Weekend at Blenheim, by J. P. Morrissey - a gothic mystery with lots of intrigue set at a weekend party in 1905 at Blenheim Castle, peopled with historical figures like Consuelo vanderbilt, John Singer Sargent.
- The Strange Fate of Kitty Easton, by Elizabeth Speller - After the Great War, at a manor house: a young girl went missing thirteen years ago and now a young maid disappears. Lots of details, secrets, and layered relationships.
- The Bess Crawfordseries, by Charles Todd - start with A Duty to the Dead
- The Maisie Dobbs series, by Jacqueline Winspear - start with Maisie Dobbs
- English Country House Murders, with stories by Agatha Christie, Conan Doyle, G.K. Chesterton, et al.
Isn’t it charming when Lady Mary calls their house “a bit cramped”? Explore for yourself the great English country houses in the following.
- Historic Houses of Britain, by Mark Girouard
- The Good Country House Guide, by Lydia Greeves
- Life in the English Country House: a Social and Architectural History, by Mark Girouard
- The English Country House: A Grand Tour, by Gervase Jackson-Stops and James Pipkin
- Home Comfort: a History of Domestic Arrangements, by Christina Hardyment - aided by the National Trust, Hardyment details all the tasks that would have to be done to keep up a great house.
Other books to find beyond JMRL:
- What the Butler Winked At, by Eric Horne
- The Dandy Gilver series of mysteries by Catriona McPherson
- Countess Below Stairs, by Eva Ibbotson
- The Last Summer, by Judith Kinghorn
- Ashenden, by Elizabeth Wilhide
- Park Lane, by Frances Osborne
- Crossing on the Paris, by Dana Gynther