Read The Real Life Downton Abbey: How Life Was Really Lived in Stately Homes a Century Ago by Jacky Hyams Online


Fans of Julian Fellowes' hit show can step back 100 years to the world of the pampered, privileged upper classes and take a look at exactly what goes on behind the magisterial doors of their favorite stately home Using the characters and setting of the popular television show as a point of reference for the reader, this is a closer look at the Edwardian period. They were tFans of Julian Fellowes' hit show can step back 100 years to the world of the pampered, privileged upper classes and take a look at exactly what goes on behind the magisterial doors of their favorite stately home Using the characters and setting of the popular television show as a point of reference for the reader, this is a closer look at the Edwardian period. They were the super rich of their times, pampered beyond belief—the early 20th century Edwardian gentry, who lived like superstars, their every desire or need catered to by an army of butlers, servants, footmen, housekeepers, and grooms. Class, money, inheritance, luxury, and snobbery dominated every aspect of the lives of the upper crust Edwardian family. While below stairs the staff inhabited a completely different world, their very lives dependent on servicing the rich, pandering to their masters' every whim, and rubbing shoulders with wealth and privilege. While privy to the most intimate and darkest secrets of their masters, they faced ruin and shame if they ventured to make the smallest step outside the boundaries of their class-ridden world. From manners and morals to etiquette and style, this book opens the doors to the reality of the era behind TV's favorite stately home....

Title : The Real Life Downton Abbey: How Life Was Really Lived in Stately Homes a Century Ago
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781843589556
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 240 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Real Life Downton Abbey: How Life Was Really Lived in Stately Homes a Century Ago Reviews

  • Rebecca Huston
    2019-04-09 15:37

    I really wanted to like this one, but unfortunately, the author's style and comments really turned me off of the book in the long run. He's snide about the upper class -- he refers to them constantly as Toffs throughout, and regards them as parasites. The lower classes aren't too well regarded, pretty much being too terrified to really do anything to improve their lot. There are far better books that tie into Downton Abbey out there, but this is not one of them. Overall, a not recommended and just barely three stars. For the longer review, please go here:

  • Chele Kispert
    2019-04-10 15:50

    great guide for those that want to go into domestic service in the early 1900's

  • Mona
    2019-04-04 18:50

    This was a sorry excuse for a book. The writing was horridly disjointed, like the editing process was skipped completely. Such a shame, as the info was quite interesting...which is the only reason it gets 2 stars, instead of one. It read like the notes were put on index cards (senior term papers, anyone?), thrown in the air, and then added to the book as they randomly fell.

  • Allison Smith steffenhagen
    2019-03-22 14:40

    While I did quite a few interesting tidbits, this book feels as though it was a paper written by a teenager, a poorly written paper at that. It is full of random facts, that do not really make sense together. Also the title of the book is quite mis-leading. The book would be be aptly named "What happened during The 20-30 years before Downton Abbey begins"

  • Sue
    2019-03-25 20:33

    I was just blown away by how interesting this was.

  • K
    2019-04-16 19:29

    It does seem that these days you need to throw in the words “English Manor” or “Downton Abbey” if you want to sell a book or video. The hit PBS series Downton Abbey has done so much to promote interest in another time and era just like Upstairs Downstairs did in the 1970’s. Many viewers are suddenly interested in reading about and watching the English manor life of the early 1900’s. This book, The Real Life Downton Abbey, tries to tell you how life really was for both the upstairs and downstairs people.As the author states in the Introduction “So who were these toffs and servants that hold so much fascination for us? How did they live, what did they wear, what did they eat, how did they play or form relationships – and how much – or how little – did they spend or earn? In this book I answer many of these questions and reveal, too, a lot more about what went on behind those huge front doors to the grand country house.” So I picked up this book to just find out what life was really like in the Edwardian era and how close does Downton Abbey come to portraying those lives.While I did read and learn much (and then applied some of that knowledge to Season 3 Downton Abbey to decide what was and was not possible) this book had just a bit too much detail. There were times I felt as if I was slogging through a thick mire of information. And some of that information would be repeated in another chapter. At the same time I am not sure I would call this book a scholarly piece of work. It falls in that in-between stage of easy reading and scholarly text. While the author does write in that light tone of voice it can’t always help if you feel like it is too much information. Anyway, I was struggling towards the end to just finish the book (I started to jump to chapters that sounded interesting). And this is from someone who loves to read non-fiction books that sometimes weigh more than a brick!Chapters are written around a basic subject. These include The House, Money, The Pecking Order, The Rules, Who Runs this House Anyway?, Relationships, Food & Drink, Entertainment & Sport, Getting Around, Morals & Manners, How to Wear It, and Health. And each chapter includes both the upstairs and downstairs life. As an example, the “Pecking Order” chapter starts with upstairs life by discussing The Father and The Mother (caps are the authors). Then it delves into the Servant Roles of Upper Servants (broken up into Butler, Housekeeper, Cook, Valet, Ladies Maid, Nursery Staff, and Chauffeur) and Lower Servants (again broken up by Footman, Housemaid, and Scullery Maid). To end chapters the author throws in some facts that sometimes are part of the chapter subject, and sometimes they are just facts.The London based Hyams is a journalist, editor, author, columnist and communications consultant according to her bio. She writes for many of the UK and Australia magazine and newspaper brands, writing on social and historical issues besides in depth profiles. Other books written before The Real Life Downton Abbey include the nonfiction titles written Time to Help Your Parents and Bombsites & Lollipops: My 1950’s East End Childhood. And afterward she wrote Jennifer Saunders: The Biography, The Female Few: Spitfire Heroines of the Air Transport Auxiliary, and White Boots & Miniskirts: A True Story of Life in the Swinging Sixties.

  • Zoe
    2019-03-27 15:41

    This is a book that exists solely to ride the popularity of Downton Abbey. Don't waste your time on this. Read one of the books I recommend at the end instead. I've been reading a lot on the subject of Edwardian England lately, both fiction and non, and this is simply a conglomeration of facts stated in other books, very few of which couldn't be gleaned by a careful watching of the show. An immediate flag is the use of casual and language incorrect for the time: "toffs" for aristocrats (I think - it's never explained), "boss" instead of master or mistress when describing the servant-master relationship, "WAG" regarding fashion (still not sure on that one), servant gossip as the "social network of the day," and so on. It's always annoying when the author talks down to the reader in this manner, as if they have no imagination of their own and need it directly connected to their own lives, however erroneously, to make sense of a concept. The use of the present tense throughout the book is an unnecessary and confusing conceit. The author makes broad statements that have no place in nonfiction, such as assumptions about the personality traits of "conceited footmen" and "controlling housekeepers." Sure, they may have needed to have pride in their appearance and good managerial skills, respectively, but that is how it should be expressed. The book jumps back and forth and around in circles on subjects, going between the aristocracy and servants with no consistent through-line. The Kindle edition is poorly formatted and desperately needs a copy editor. For a better written and edited look "behind the scenes" into the real lives of people of the era, I recommend: Over a Hot Stove by Flo Wadlow (a short account from an actual cook in one of the houses, slightly later date); A House Unlocked by Penelope Lively (slightly later but of the same class of house); To Marry an English Lord: Or How Anglomania Really Got Started by Gail MacColl and Carole McD. Wallace (focuses on the marriage of rich American debutantes to English aristocracy); Life Below Stairs: True Lives of Edwardian Servants by Alison Maloney (also trying to ride the Downton wave but better written). For a fictional perspective on the upper-middle class of the period, The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy is great. If I come across more and better I'll try to remember to come back and update.

  • Meredith Allard
    2019-04-04 21:28

    As I’m continuing my quest of reading books inspired by Downton Abbey, I found my way to The Real Life Downton Abbey by Jacky Hyams. The Real Life Downton Abbey is a good summary of what life was like for the British upper and lower classes during the time of the beloved television show (early 20th century), and, as you might expect in a book with this title, Hyams uses Downton Abbey as a springboard, often referencing the show as she illustrates the lifestyle at the time. She talks about the Titanic, for example, and shares a menu of an eleven-course meal that would have been prepared by the French kitchen staff. Before the ship went down, of course.The Real Life Downton Abbey is a concise summary of the lifestyle surrounding the television show, but having already read Up and Down Stairs by Jeremy Musson, along with several other books about the era, I felt The Real Life Downton Abbey was a lot of retelling of what I already knew. I can’t say I learned anything from this book, though I did enjoy Hyams' easy, conversational tone as she talked about the extravagant upper classes and the poverty of the servants. For example, even butlers made only 50-100 pounds per year for their trouble, and the hardest working servants, the youngest ones who did the most labor-intensive jobs, often the scullery maids, made as little as ten pounds per year. American readers may be put off by Hyams’ use of Britishisms, but she’s British so she can get away with it. Since I watch a lot of British television and read a lot of British literature, I feel comfortable saying I speak conversational British English and I wasn’t bothered by the British words. Context clues work very well when translating from British English to American English, and if you’re reading the book on a Kindle or other e-reading device you simply have to press on the word and the definition pops up. I found the definition for “Toff” to be as follows: a stylishly dressed, fashionable person; part of the upper classes. Not too hard. For Downton Abbey fans who are beginning their journey into reading about the era, then The Real Life of Downton Abbey, with its general overview, is a good place to start. If you’ve already read about the class distinctions in the early 20th century and have a firm grasp on the subject, then you may not get as much out of the book.

  • Lori
    2019-04-07 21:50

    I am a big fan of the, Downton Abbey. I have been interested in reading about real life below stair servants and staff ever since. This book gives a lot of good information about the lives of staff during the Edwardian era. which is the very late 1800s to around the start of World War One. It also gives information about the rich aristocratic families who owned these Stately homes. I liked how they started with the lowest position and worked up to the butler and head housekeeper and described each one of their duties, hours worked and pay. It was interesting to read that there was snobbery between the upstairs staff and the below stairs staff.the book went on to describe many topics of living during those years, the long hours worked, the food the rich ate and what the staff had for food. the outfits the rich wore often changing four or five times a day. what the rich did for entertainment. the gossip amongst the staff of what happened upstairs. the scandals that occurred with the rich. and many other topics. A good read. I learned quite a bit about this era. and those big houses and the staff and rich who lived there.

  • stormhawk
    2019-03-30 22:43

    AwfulRemember in 1984, when Winston Smith is writing in his journal, copying from a children's book written by the Party? The one that tells how things were long ago when the rich few oppressed the many poor, and how it's so much better now that the Party watches over is and makes sure that we all have a proper ration of chocolate and a well ordered life and we've always been at war with Eastasia? That's kind of what this book is like. The writing is simplistic, and the author comes across as having a very class conscious chip on his shoulder.

  • Cyn (RaeWhit)
    2019-03-31 18:25

    I thought this book lacked organization, or perhaps I just didn't understand/see the reasoning behind how the material was presented. The book could've been shorter, as there were many cases of the same information being dispensed more than once.The part about the Titanic was very interesting, as well as the tracing of the beginnings of the NHS. As I suspected (the author did point this out), the servants at Downton Abbey fare far better than most country estate in-service staff.

  • Helen Dunn
    2019-04-12 14:23

    Informative but dry dry dry. I was hoping to assuage some of my sadness after the end of Downton but this did not help.

  • Karyn
    2019-04-03 20:21

    While interesting, this book felt like it had been thrown together quickly in order to get in on the "Downton craze".

  • Stephanie
    2019-04-19 17:48

    Overall the book was okay but there were a few places that I know the author was just relaying misinformation. It sort of ruined the credibility for me.

  • Renee Baldi
    2019-03-22 22:45

    The facts were quite interesting, but Hyams's childish writing style made it hard to take the book seriously. She has the information repeated constantly in the book but in different sections, as if trying to fill a page quota. It would have been nice to have more stories of those who worked as Servants, or to have followed one family a bit more in detail. Jacky's EXTREME overuse of the word 'toffs' is highly unprofessional, it is a slang insult that doesn't sit well with a nonfiction book of a history-briefing nature (it would have if it had been in historical context). Overall, I would have loved to have seen more research and an advanced writing style but the facts were undoubtedly interesting and still made it a fairly quick read.

  • Margaret Attwood
    2019-04-16 19:30

    Good on facts.I was expecting more of a factual 'story line' and as I knew most of the true facts of life above and below stairs in this era I shall have to opt out for the book on Dow ton Abbey. Mind you, somewhat shocking in parts.

  • David Szatkowski
    2019-04-04 14:30

    A fun, light read about the Edwardian period. Using Downton Abbey backdrop to the era, the author gives a sense of how both upper and lower class servants lived. Also the author shares how the upper class lives differed.

  • Kristine Sprunger
    2019-04-15 19:37

    Inhaled this in a day.

  • Nancy
    2019-03-24 18:41

    A wide range coverage of the period.

  • Teresa Westwood
    2019-04-14 15:47

    Really enjoyed this book, factual and enjoyable.

  • Cheryl Menchaca
    2019-04-21 21:34

    Pretty interestingInteresting but a little dull. Taking advantage of the Downton Abbey popularity. Good chapter on clothing of the wealthy and the servants.

  • Alison
    2019-04-04 17:43

    If you enjoy(ed) the Downton Abbey PBS television series, you will enjoy a behind the scenes look at how the masters, mistresses, children and servants lived in real English manors and estates. It's not an easy read as you learn about the very long days of the servants, the inequality between male and female servants, the caste system amongst servants (the "uppers" and the "lowers"), and how many masters never learned the names of the "lowers". Servants were expected to not be seen nor heard, not make eye contact with the master of the house if they were suddenly to find themselves in the same room, nor were they to get entangled in romantic relationships with other servants, and if they were lucky, they were able to visit their own families once a year. Male servants were most likely given their uniform, females were expected to show up on their first day of work having purchased their own uniform. How many times do you change your clothes each day? In the stately manners it might be up to six times a day, and horrors if you put on the wrong outfit for tea or dinner. The book presents details: how the rich traveled, how the old money disliked the ways of new money, what was used for medicines, shopping lists, menus, how children were cared for, what time of day the Lord and Lady of the house saw their children, what the master ate and what the servants ate, and, horrors, what happened if a servant did fall in love and/or found themselves pregnant, or if the lady of the house wanted a divorce? The servants of Downton Abbey had it easy compared to the rigors many servants faced in real life.

  • Katie
    2019-04-02 17:50

    I always mean to read more of these kinds of books, the books that tell me what it was really like in the historical periods I like to watch and read fictionalized versions. And yet . . . I don't feel like this one really taught me anything new. (Though, granted, I guess it might have if I hadn't already read The World of Downton Abbey and Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir That Inspired "Upstairs, Downstairs" and "Downton Abbey" this year.)It was also written with too modern a viewpoint. Some of that was probably unavoidable, but, to people of that time, their life was just their life. It's not like they could compare it to how we lived now and complain about how badly they have it!Also, the upper class is usually referred to as "toffs," which I understand is not the nicest word!

  • Lorraine
    2019-04-02 14:43

    Finally finished this book. It's not a difficult read by any means but lately I have only been reading during my daily commute. Even then I could have finished earlier but reading it in this fashion made me lose interest after a while. I guess what I'm saying is you might enjoy this book more than I did if you simply sit and read it rather than nibbling at it like a carp. Anyway, it's a fun read filled with lots of fun facts and vignettes. I really liked it when Hyams would specifically point out scenes or characters from Downton Abbey and explain how fiction differed in most ways from real life - particular in terms of how well the Granthams treated the health needs of their servants. The Earl is quite a bit more generous than the men on which is character is based would likely have been. Two criticisms I have of the writing: 1. Her repeated use of the word "toffs" in reference to the ruling class was annoying. 2. I would have preferred to see some references so that I could investigate some of the author's assertions for myself. But I'm just picky that way.

  • Linda
    2019-04-14 20:48

    We know that the "reel" world of Downton Abbey is nothing like the real world was at that time. The show gives us some glimpses into trials and tribulations like the dangers of childbirth and the illnesses that swept through areas but this book by Jacky Hyams takes us further behind the green baize door.It's true on either side, the toffs have their own hassles and problems in life. But it's the servants who really do the heavy lifting and often have little to show for it. Hyams examines all aspects of life for the Edwardian era and beyond. It's interesting and gives you a better basis for the series.My favorite fun fact: hostesses entertaining the King at a house party had to not only make sure the monarch's latest mistress was in a nearby room, there had to be a roast chicken on the nightstand in case His Majesty got hungry during the night. Who knew?

  • KeAnne
    2019-04-16 16:27

    I love books that delve into what it was really like to live in a certain era and on that front, this book did not disappoint. However, I was put off by the author's obvious disdain for the nobility (understandable but it lent a tone to the writing) and more importantly, the lack of attention to detail that kept her getting the Grantham's title wrong. I'm sure they would have loved a ducal promotion as they received several times in this book but they are in face earl and countess. I received the impression this book was written quickly and without thorough editing in order to capitalize on Downton enthusiasm.

  • Jody
    2019-03-25 16:38

    I thought this novel would give me more information about the Masterpiece Theatre series, a more in depth analysis of the characters and plot of the previous seasons. It is an indepth look at how life was during the era, looking at it from the perspective of the royalty vs. servants, as it's title implies. Chapters are designed from these two perspectives, i.e. what did the servants eat vs. royalty, medical care, uniforms,etc. It was interesting and seemed well researched. I will look at the next season of MT more closely looking at the differences between the upper and lower levels of servants.

  • Lynda
    2019-04-12 21:39

    This book was ok to me. It seems pretty thorough in going through each character on the show Downton Abbey, providing the actual details of the average person in that lifestyle during that time period. It compares the television character's life to actual, specific people of that time period. I did learn alot but at times it lacked cohesion and just seemed like a list. Perhaps that was because I have an emotional attachment to the characters on the show as I am a fan. I do recommend this book though and it is a pretty quick read.

  • M
    2019-03-27 22:35

    An interesting, if biased, account. Journalist Jacky Hyams assembled this book in a rush-to-press manner, it seems to me. Much material is repeated to pad the slim volume. Hyams is highly contemptuous of the upper class country estate "toffs", deriding their extremely luxurious lifestyle. Admittedly the economic divide between the "haves" and the poor majority of the country is vast, as it is today in American society. World War I, industrialization and David Lloyd George put paid to the lavish lifestyle, as English society began to move toward the welfare state following World War II.

  • Mary
    2019-03-31 17:29

    A great companion to the Downton Abbey series! It explains a lot of the nuances that I often wondered about while watching the series such as the social status of maids, housekeepers, valets and butlers in and around the manor. I enjoyed the off-topic notes that the author included so the reader could envision other homes than the fictional Downton. I wish the author would have included more about where the money came from to run these stately houses and pay their staff and how the rules of society had changed over the years. However, the writing was good and well researched.