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Life Below Stairs: True Lives of Edwardian Servants [Hardcover]

Alison Maloney
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
RRP: £9.99
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Book Description

15 Sep 2011
Last year, the telly-watching public was gripped by Downton Abbey - the most successful British period drama in years and the number-one most-watched new drama programme of 2010. Captivated by the secrets, the scandal and the servant-master divide of an Edwardian household, viewers religiously watched in their millions. In Life Below Stairs, bestselling author Alison Maloney responds to the public's desire to know more, going behind the scenes to reveal a detailed picture of what really went on 'downstairs', describing the true-life trials and tribulations of the servants in a gripping non-fiction account. Thoroughly researched and reliably informed, it also contains first-hand stories from the staff of the time. This charming and beautifully presented volume is a must-read for anyone interested in the lifestyle and conduct of a bygone era.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Michael O'Mara; hardcover edition (15 Sep 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843176971
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843176978
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 20.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 118,764 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alison Maloney is a journalist and author, whose books include the Number One bestseller THE MUMS' BOOK. As well as a long stint on The Sunday Post newspaper, she worked as a children's book editor for two years. Alison lives in Kent with her husband and two children.

Product Description


Fascinating (Daily Mail)

A fascinating slice of British History (Readers Digest)

a fascinating new book (Daily Express)

a captivating snapshot of a different world and time (Sainsburys Magazine)

All you need to know about life below stairs (The Countryman)

About the Author

Alison Maloney is a journalist and author whose books - for both adults and children - have included the Number 1 Sunday Times bestseller The Mums' Book. As well as a long stint on The Sunday Post newspaper, she worked as a children's book editor for two years. Alison lives with her husband, also a writer, and two children in Kent.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
49 of 49 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Life Below Stairs 18 Sep 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Domestic servants are now rare indeed, but over one hundred years ago domestic service was the largest form of employment in the UK. In the 1911 census there were 1.3 million people who worked below stairs, usually in middle class homes. As other job opportunities became available, such as working in factories or as typists, the idea of working in service became far less attractive - unsurprisingly, as it entailed extremely long hours and little personal freedom. By the end of WWI, the end of the golden age of domestic service was over.

This book gives a good overview of this era - looking at the relations between the servants, their jobs and status, life in a country house, etc. On the downside, if you have read other books on this subject, there is really nothing new in here. The book is liberally peppered with quotes from books such as the excellent Lost Voices of the Edwardians: 1901-1910 in Their Own Words: 1901-1910 in Their Own Words, Not in Front of the Servants: A True Portrait of Upstairs, Downstairs Life (National Trust classics) and Keeping Their Place: Domestic Service in the Country House. In a way it is just a collection of quotes which have been repackaged. So, if this is the first book you are reading on the subject, you will almost certainly enjoy it, but otherwise you have probably read it before.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This book is very well presented with the information being gathered together in chapters in a way that makes it very easy to read.
It has less than 200 pages so is quick to read - not a bad thing as the author is prone to repetition occasionally due to the overlap between the subject areas.
Throughout there are many quotes from memoires and also from people who have researched this period in depth, including several involved with "Downton Abbey". This successfully makes the book feel very human.
I would suggest that anyone who is interested in this period is not going to find out much that is new in this book. Although there is an extensive section for further reading and, having been tempted with snippets from these books during the read, there are a few pointers for more in depth information.
If you do not know much about this time and, having watched the recent TV programmes, would like to know a bit more then this is a very good place to start.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A slender title 1 Jan 2012
By Expat
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is an appalling book. While claiming to be "true lives", it has all the realism and grit of old episode of Blue Peter. No historical research has gone into this beyond reading a few books and watching bad television period dramas. Stereotypes are liberally mixed in with trite sayings (how many times are the housemaids to be described as "up with the lark"?), and any "nastiness" is brushed under the carpet as not the norm. If you yearn for he days of jolly, humble, well-meaning servants, without any attempt at looking into the lives of real people, this is the book for you.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Old material rehashed 22 Sep 2011
By Easterchick VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I love Downton Abbey and have long been fascinated with 'life below stairs'. I remember reading Margaret Powell's memoir, 'Below Stairs' as a teenager, having found it on my mum's bookshelf.

'Life Below Stairs' isn't really much more than a collection of second hand quotes interspersed with the occasional illustration, and reads a little bit like a literature review. It relies very heavily on a small number of sources, to the extent where you start to wonder if you're better off just going to read the sources (The Margaret Powell book is one of them).

The illustrations are also a little dull, limited to the infrequent line drawing. You only have to type 'Edwardian Servant Image' into a search engine to see that there are lots of photos of the era about - which sort of begs the question, why aren't there any in this book?

It is an average read, at best - probably worth a read if you want a basic, easy to read text. But personally I recommend the Margaret Powell memoir as a far better first hand account.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
By Petra "I love to read" TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Life Below Stairs: True Lives of Edwardian Servants by Alison Maloney, I thought was an interesting book based on what life was like for servants who worked in middle and upper-class homes during the Edwardian era. Not only did I learn about the lives of the servants during this period of history, I learned about those upper and middle class homeowners who employed these people and why they employed them. I always thought they employed them just to get the work done in their home but a lot of the servants were employed for appearances sake, which when I was reading it I was thinking even in those days it was a case of "Keeping up Appearances" and "Keep up with the Jones". Therefore no matter what era we lived in, certain things will never change and one of them is worrying what other people thought.
This is a short read giving small details in different subjects connected to the servant life during this era. Some of it is interesting and other parts are less so. If you are looking for a in-depth book of the servant life during this period this book is not for you as it is mainly short notes throughout. Though the author has researched the subject and she has included a lot of the books she used to get her information, you could use this book as a guide to further literature which could lead you to a more in-depth study.
I think though this would be a nice gift for people who enjoy programs like Downton AbbeyDownton Abbey - Series 1 [DVD] etc as this would give them a basic guide to the servants who actually lived these lives that the actors are portraying on television.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
did not read it myself however the wife was engrossed
Published 20 days ago by D. J. Bailey
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
did not read bought as gift
Published 1 month ago by Edward Mason
5.0 out of 5 stars enlightening
However, it makes for very sad reading to think that these servants worked so so hard, for very little reward.people, some people, don't realise how lucky they are!
Published 1 month ago by Helga Charman
4.0 out of 5 stars Upstairs Downstairs
Interesting and descriptive of the sometimes appalling experiences of life in service. It employed thousands but life was exhausting and hard.
Published 4 months ago by NJ
2.0 out of 5 stars More like a job description than a story
This book is too disjointed I expected a story instead it's like a job description flicked through the last few chapters as it was boring
Published 5 months ago by Helen Dolan
3.0 out of 5 stars Back in the day
Quite an informative little book, this. Never realised just how tough and yet sort after was the work below stairs. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Raymond S. Pritchard
5.0 out of 5 stars Life below stairs
Exactly what I was looking for - description of how it 'worked' downstairs. Lots of details and real servants describe their experience working for aristocratic families.
Published 7 months ago by Marcela Kovarova
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting
\i have found this book, so far to be very interesting and enjoyable reading. I love history and find it fascinating.
Published 8 months ago by carlg
4.0 out of 5 stars Life below stairs. True Lives of Edwardian Servants.
Cannot really give you much help over this book, as again it was given as a surprise present to a friend of mine.
Good service.
Published 9 months ago by Mrs Dianne Ellard
3.0 out of 5 stars loved it
really pleased with it a must for everyone who likes to know things about the past and how the other half used to live
Published 10 months ago by Janie2367
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