My rating: 5 of 5
ebook, 128 pages
Published November 25th 2014 by St. Martin’s Grifin
Available on: Kindle, Hardcover
What they say:
This book tells you everything you need to know about working below stairs in the grand estate of Downton Abbey.
What I have to say:
If you, like me, are a Downton Abbey fan and you’re waiting for the first episode of the show’s last season like a kid awaits Santa on Christmas, this book is a must read for you.
The cover of this book is so Downton Abbey and appropriate. Even though the manual is meant for readers of the downstairs clan, the regal blue and the gold lettering in the cover make this book look like it could graciously fit in the luxurious book shelves of the upstairs libraries, as well as in the shelves of fans of the show.
Downton Abbey: Rules for Household Staff is a short and little in appearance house manual, but for fans of the show it is a wonderful voyage to the downstairs Downtonian world. Being that is was written by Mr. Carson himself, it is impossible not to feel like you can hear him reading the book to you as you read.
The manual contains a series of instructions, directions and guidelines for those who aspire to perform correctly their duties as butler, housekeeper, valet, lady’s maid, cook, assistant cook, kitchen maid, footman, and housemaid, with dignity and efficiency.It gives you an insight on how Downton Abbey runs thanks to the downstairs team. The infinite set of tasks and the detail of how they have to be performed. The book also comes with illustrations that are impeccably and very detailed hand drawn, adding more enjoyment to the readers’ experience with this book.
Even though this manual is for running a fictional household in the 1920’s, some of these instructions and procedures can be adopted in our modern times. Things like how to store and care for items of fine silver, how to store wines in a wine cellar, the basics of wine and food pairing, how to clean and take care of silk, hair growth lotions, how to make coal burn longer, how to kill flies without poison, etiquette, how to fold napkins, a recipe for apple and onion pickle, and how to restore cut flowers are some examples of things you can learn from this manual, that are still current and are good to know.
What I liked about the way Mr. Carson wrote this book was that it reminds the reader of the meaning of the word servant. “Improvers of Life” is what Mr. Carson calls them, men and women who feel proud that the goal of service is to smooth the paths of others. He reminds us that being in charge of improving someone else’s life is a noble calling and an honorable chosen career. A job that like any other, must be performed with the highest standards to the satisfaction of both the employer and employee.
Mr. Carson also reminds us that running a household is a team work:
Lord and Lady Grantham take great pride in their estate, and servants are expected to show that same pride when carrying out their work because they are part of the estate and its ambassadors among servants from other households. Above and below stairs, we all share the duty of keeping the house in good order, something we expect to be passed on to generations to come. It is only by everyone understanding their role and discharging their daily duties efficiently that this will be achieved.
He also reminds us of the respect, admiration and gratitude one must have for one’s patrons. This in my opinion is what has been forgotten and what has given the negative connotation to the profession as time goes by in the “topsy turvy” world we live in.
As a fan of the show, I must confess that I’m more a team upstairs (Lady Mary is my alter ego), but reading this book gave me a wider and more clear idea of what the downstairs team does and how valuable and irreplaceable they are for Downton Abbey.
Downton Abbey: Rules for Household Staff is a must read for Downton Abbey fans. It is the perfect book to read while we wait for the final season premiere. It is definitely a remedy for the Downton withdrawal symptoms every fan is suffering from. Season 6, it will be bittersweet but I can’t wait. Julian Fellowes, if you ever read this: thank you. 🙂
- Derison: noun. Contemptuous ridicule or mockery.
- Shirk: verb. Avoid or neglect (a duty or responsibility).
Some quotes regarding food and wine pairing:
Oysters require the lightest possible still moselle hock or Chablis. A sweet or sparkling wine will overpower the flavour of the oysters and one glass is sufficient unless, of course, another is asked for.
After hot soup, the palate is alive and therefore it is important to serve the finest quality wine while the soup plates are being removed. A glass of sherry, madeira, Hungarian tokaji, or even a rich champagne would be appropriate.
…champagne after fish is a disaster (dry champagne should only be served with the roast). A fine claret served after pudding tastes tart and is a grave error.
This is how they did it! Finally figured out how to avoid wearing the same thing as other guests! ha ha ha! Oh and I want to live in a house where there are rooms for different and specific tasks! 😀
Guests’ luggage shall be unpacked in the luggage room. At this point, it is imperative that Maids compare dresses planned to be worn, lest anything too similar be worn at the same time.
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