Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir That Inspired "Upstairs, Downstairs" and "Downton Abbey"
Brilliantly evoking the long-vanished world of masters and servants portrayed in Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs, Margaret Powell’s classic memoir of her time in service, Below Stairs, is the remarkable true story of an indomitable woman who, though she served in the great houses of... show more
Brilliantly evoking the long-vanished world of masters and servants portrayed in Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs, Margaret Powell’s classic memoir of her time in service, Below Stairs, is the remarkable true story of an indomitable woman who, though she served in the great houses of England, never stopped aiming high. Powell first arrived at the servants' entrance of one of those great houses in the 1920s. As a kitchen maid – the lowest of the low – she entered an entirely new world; one of stoves to be blacked, vegetables to be scrubbed, mistresses to be appeased, and bootlaces to be ironed. Work started at 5.30am and went on until after dark. It was a far cry from her childhood on the beaches of Hove, where money and food were scarce, but warmth and laughter never were. Yet from the gentleman with a penchant for stroking the housemaids’ curlers, to raucous tea-dances with errand boys, to the heartbreaking story of Agnes the pregnant under-parlormaid, fired for being seduced by her mistress’s nephew, Margaret’s tales of her time in service are told with wit, warmth, and a sharp eye for the prejudices of her situation. Margaret Powell's true story of a life spent in service is a fascinating “downstairs” portrait of the glittering, long-gone worlds behind the closed doors of Downton Abbey and 165 Eaton Place.
Publish date: January 3rd 2012
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages no: 212
Edition language: English
This is a memoir that reads like a polished transcription of an audio interview. The colloquialisms and patronizing language remain intact, but it should be noted that the book was originally published in 1968 and Margaret Powell was already 61 years old by then. If it reads in your grandmother's sc...
When Powell was one of seven children, and pretty much starving, everything was better and had more flavor. Not like the rubbish you get nowadays (ie., 1968). She has a strong voice but lacks perspective on everything. She tells the reader that her parents could enjoy sexy times in privacy only when...
I'm almost tempted to call this a quick read, but that would be misleading. It is indeed a short book, readable almost in one sitting. And the author's voice often comes across as a bit breezy. But it's not a 'lite' book.Margaret Powell went into service as a kitchen maid at the age of 14. She eve...
I enjoyed this, both for her insights and descriptions of what being in domestic service meant, and for the fact that she never took to it blindly and subserviently-- the memoir emphasizes her having her own independent thoughts, and seeking out situations where she could be treated fairly. Also, se...