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Life Below Stairs: True Lives of Edwardian Servants Hardcover – 15 Sep 2011

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Michael O'Mara; hardcover edition (15 Sept. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843176971
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843176978
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 45,582 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

Review

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.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 49 people found the following review helpful By S Riaz HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 18 Sept. 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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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Janie U VINE VOICE on 19 Sept. 2011
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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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Expat on 1 Jan. 2012
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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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a very unambitious little book where the publisher has obviously decided that in the light of the "Downton Abbey" craze, a newly-published book on the life of domestic servants would be a nice little cash-in title and so this quickly hashed-together book has been rushed onto the market.

The well-spaced 180-odd pages are liberally sprinkled with decorative little boxes and illustrations to pad it out further. The text itself is largely a brief and shallow look at various aspects of "below stairs" life and really is just a passable commentary stitching together quotes from several other, much more interesting books, largely memoirs of servants who have written far superior, first-hand autobiographies of their own.

I got through this thin little volume very quickly and whilst it looks pretty and seems good value for a hardback, there is really very little to it. If you want a very quick, light read giving you an brief overview of the served and the servants lifestyles in late Victorian/early Edwardian times, and you have never read any other book on the subject, then it might do for a diverting and mildly interesting few hours.

However, you'd be far better off reading one of the far superior books this cynical little book cribs from. If like me you've already read some of them, especially Margaret Powell's excellent memoirs, "Below Stairs", then you'll feel cheated as you'll have read all the quotes before, in their original context.

Books on this subject are not rare, and if you're interested you'll find almost any of the others are preferable to this one. Disappointing.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Easterchick VINE VOICE on 22 Sept. 2011
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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