Entertainment

OFF THE SHELF: Beyond the Abbey

The Chronicles of Downton Abbey:  A New Era by Jessica Fellowes and Matthew Sturgis.  - St. Martin
The Chronicles of Downton Abbey:  A New Era by Jessica Fellowes and Matthew Sturgis.
— image credit: St. Martin's Press

While Downton Abbey fans eagerly await the telecast of season three in early January, here is a selection of new titles that may help to fill the void:

– Habits of the House by Fay Weldon.  The latest work by the great English novelist Weldon takes us inside the lives of an aristocratic household in the last three months of the 19th century. It’s a time of riot and confusion, social upheaval, war abroad and shortage of money. Tea gowns are still laced with diamonds; there are still nine courses at dinner, but bankruptcy looms for the Dilbernes.

Whilst the Earl, gambler and man about town, must seek a new post in government; his wife Lady Isobel’s solution is to marry off their son Arthur to a wealthy heiress, and without delay. But how? It’s the end of the season, and choices are few. There’s Minnie O’Brien from Chicago - rich enough, but daughter of a stockyard baron, and with a vulgar mother and dubious past. Hardly suitable!

Weldon tells this tale of restraint and desire, manners and morals with wit and sympathy — if no small measure of mischief — as young Minnie and Arthur, thrown together by their parents, strive to determine their own destiny.

Weldon, who wrote the pilot for the original television series Upstairs, Downstairs, plans two more volumes in this Love and Inheritance trilogy.

Ashenden by Elizabeth Wilhide. Spring 2010, and when Charlie and Ros inherit Ashenden from their aunt Reggie a decision must be made. The beautiful eighteenth-century house, set in acres of English countryside, is in need of serious repair. Do they try to keep it in the family, or will they have to sell? Moving back in time, in an interwoven narrative spanning two and a half centuries, we witness the house from its beginnings through to the present day.

Along the way we meet those who have built the house, lived in it and loved it; those who have worked in it, and those who would subvert it to their own ends. Through good times and bad, the better we get to know the house, the more we care about its survival.

– Upstairs & Downstairs: The Illustrated Guide to the Real World of Downton Abbey by Sarah Warwick. This beautifully illustrated book takes the reader on a journey through the day in the life of the workings of homes during the Edwardian era, and reveals the secret histories of the people and the houses themselves.

– The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook: From Lady Mary’s Crab Canapes to Mrs. Patmore’s Christmas Pudding - More Than 150 Recipes from Upstairs and Downstairs by Emily Ansara Baines. Filled with classic English recipes inspired by the show, tidbits about the denizens of Downton and plenty of asides guaranteed to make a true fan smile and nod knowingly.

– The Chronicles of Downton Abbey:  A New Era by Jessica Fellowes and Matthew Sturgis. Following on the heels of last year’s The World of Downton Abbey, a companion book to the first two seasons of the series, this lavish, entirely new book picks up the story in 1920, at the opening of series three.  The characters are profiled individually, including examinations of their motivations, their actions, and the inspirations behind them.

 

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