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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Had me enchanted
Suspend your disbelief for this glamourous, romantic, fairy tale-like book about goodness and how it always wins against shallowness or selfishness.

If you want a realistic, gritty book about the Russian revolution, don't read this. Eva Ibbotson, although she does have some sadness in the book, is writing a cheerful book that will have you chuckiling to...
Published on 3 Aug 2008 by Ms. Emily R. Nabney

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars book as present
I purchased the book as a present.
when it arrived it was second hand and the pencil marked price was £1.99, but I was charged a lot more.
postage was more than the cost of the book.
Published 8 months ago by A M Shirsalkar


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Had me enchanted, 3 Aug 2008
By 
Ms. Emily R. Nabney (England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Secret Countess (Paperback)
Suspend your disbelief for this glamourous, romantic, fairy tale-like book about goodness and how it always wins against shallowness or selfishness.

If you want a realistic, gritty book about the Russian revolution, don't read this. Eva Ibbotson, although she does have some sadness in the book, is writing a cheerful book that will have you chuckiling to yourself days after you've turned the final page.

Even though it is a children's book, I think that a lot of adults will enjoy it too (my mum does). This is tribute to the author's quirky style, and the way that she doesn't dumb down like many kids' books. Instead, she gives us a glimpse into a lost world of glamour, nice food and lots of gorgeous dresses.

There is a huge range of fun characters, who all have tons of life and personality. In particular, the selfish, spiteful Muriel Hardwicke, the stubbon and perserviring Olive and Dr Lightbody, Muriel's self-satisfied and narrow minded friend.

Although it touches on some darker themes, overall it is an enthusiastic, joyful book that will light up any rainy day.

Buy it, and you definitely won't regret it!
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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great book, 13 Jun 2007
By 
Anne Moore (Sutton, Surrey) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Secret Countess (Paperback)
Once again a great book by Eva Ibbotson. Buyers beware this is the same book as 'A Countess Under Stairs' and if you buy the special offer of these two books together, you are buying 2 copies of the same book!!I guess you could give one away to a friend like I did!
However, if you love old fashion romance of the type that you can't put down than buy this (or 'A Countess Under Stairs'!!) I am looking forward to reading the other re issues of Ms Ibbotson's books
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Secret Countess, 27 Jan 2009
This review is from: The Secret Countess (Paperback)
The Secret Countess by Eva Ibbotson was initially published as A Countess Below Stairs, which after reading it I think would be a better title. Eva Ibbotson was born in Vienna, Austria in 1925 but when the Nazis came to power, her family escaped to Britain. Many of her books allude to the struggles and loss experienced by people during the war and obviously she had first-hand experience of this.
The Secret Countess is the story of Anna Grazinsky, a Russian Countess who has to flee to Britain after World War I. Anna has come from a life of wealth and privilege, she was doted on by her father and had everything that she could ever have wished for. Her father is killed fighting and she and her mother make their way to Britain with Miss Pinfold, her governess. Anna's family has lost everything and she is too proud to live off the charity of Miss Pinfold and so she seeks a position as a housemaid at Mersham; family seat of the Westerholmes. Here she tries to fit in and works hard but it is clear to all that she has come from greater things. Ibbotson describes Merhsam in a very detailed way and the house is very much part of the story. Anna soon meets Rupert, the new Earl and he is totally mesmerised by her. However, Rupert has agreed to marry Muriel Hardwicke, an orphaned heiress who will provide the finances to secure Mersham's future. Hardwicke is the opposite of Anna; she is a snob and totally obsessed with Eugenics and the staff and Westeholme family members do not take kindly to her ways.
Rupert eventually finds out Anna's true identity and he is already in love with her, the situation seems hopeless with his impending nuptials fast approaching. However, the others surrounding Anna and Rupert devise a plan to save the future of both of them and also the house. The story is very reminiscent of Jane Eye except that Rupert has a much more affable character than Mr Rochester! I am so pleased that I have discovered Eva Ibbotson, her books have this fantastic romantic, fairytale quality to them but still have a lot of substance.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A light but sophisticated romance, 22 Aug 2010
By 
Sarah A. Brown (Cambridge) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Secret Countess (Paperback)
Anna, the secret countess of the title, is an impoverished aristocrat whose family has fled to England following the Russian Revolution. She takes a position as a housemaid with an aristocratic English family, but wants to keep her birth a secret. The son of the family has just got back from the war and is engaged to a bossy young woman who takes a keen interest in eugenics. (Pleasingly, the fiancé has a number of friends who don't match up to her racial/physical benchmarks.) Another reviewer noted parallels with Jane Eyre, which sounds convincing, but I was more aware of possible links with The Sound of Music, Georgette Heyer's `The Grand Sophy' and Flambards. As with the other Ibbotson novel I read, I felt this was actually more likely to appeal to the mothers of its target audience than to teenage girls themselves. There is something very appealing about Ibbotson's stories, although I wish her social views weren't quite so conservative and her heroines were a bit more feisty and a bit less `Ewig-Weibliche'.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eva Ibbotson's best yet, 8 Jun 2007
Eva Ibbotson uses a typical fairy-tale storyline; Anna, a saintly, impoverished Russian Countess flees to England in the year 1919 and must there make her living as a housemaid. After arriving at the English country home of Mersham, a whole new world which she bravely embraces, she duly falls in love with her master, the handsome but troubled Earl Rupert. Standing between them is the Countess's lack of fortune, and the delightfully deplorable Muriel Hardwicke, the Earl's fiancee. Far from being cliched, Ibbotson revitalises the much-used storyline with her sparkling and humourous potrayal and interplay of the varied cast of characters both noble and common, wittily demonstrating that no matter what their birth, people are people and there is no real difference between rich and poor. The storyline, despite being fairy-tale is down-to-earth and truthful, sometimes comical, sometimes poignant and always intruiging. There is also clever and dramatic use of echoes of Jane Eyre and other romantic novels, exploring the nature of love and romance. I think that this is Eva Ibbotson's best book, with close competition from 'Journey to River Sea' and would recommend it to any one from age eleven.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Courtesy of Teens Read Too, 24 May 2007
By 
TeensReadToo "Eat. Drink. Read. Be Merrier." (All Over the US & Canada) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Anna Grazinsky is a member of the Russian aristocracy, or White Russians, during the Russian Revolution. Her family is forced to flee from their comfortable life in Russia to England, where they are safe from the revolutionaries. But in England, the Grazinskys are left with nothing. Anna has a very resilient spirit, and instead of moping around and wishing for her old life, she is grateful for the safety of her family and secretly takes a job as a maid so that her little brother can still attend school. With her take-charge attitude, Anna proves that not all rich girls are snobby brats, like modern heiresses lead us to believe.

While many of the servants at the Westerholme residence are skeptical of the new foreign girl, Anna quickly charms her way into their hearts. With her deep curtsies, bright smile, and cheerful demeanor, Anna is beloved by all. She does each task assigned to her as best she can, never slacking on the job.

When the young and handsome Earl of Westerholme returns home from World War I, Anna is immediately drawn to him. And it seems that he feels a similar attraction to her. But Anna's identity as a countess is still a secret, and she does not have the social standing that she once held in Russia. Plus, the Earl is already engaged to the beautiful but vicious Muriel Hardwicke. Muriel nursed Earl Rupert back to health when he was wounded in the war, and he proposed to her. But that was before he met Anna.

In the weeks leading up to the wedding, Muriel begins to take over the Westerholme household, arbitrarily firing servants that do not fit in with her vision for Westerholme. None of the servants or neighbors are fond of Muriel, and as the wedding date approaches, all of Rupert's friends and family are leery of the impending marriage.

At the costume ball thrown prior to the wedding, Anna's true identity as a countess is revealed, and Anna and Rupert dance the night away. Everyone can see that they are a perfect couple, but can Rupert and Anna come to terms with their feelings for each other before his marriage to Muriel?

Although A COUNTESS BELOW STAIRS has a very fairytale-like romantic plot, Anna is far from the typical princess. She has a feisty spirit and genuinely fun personality that immediately draws you in. Eva Ibbotson does a great job in breathing life into the generic fairytale plot. Anna's story is very similar to what much of the Russian aristocracy experienced during the communist revolution, and Ibbotson shows that even though life is unpredictable and rarely kind, if you embrace all opportunities and make the most of your situation, you will find happiness.

Reviewed by: Amber Gibson
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Secret Countess - Eva Ibbotson, 29 Aug 2010
This review is from: The Secret Countess (Paperback)
Another gem of a book by this fairy tale author! As always, the plot is sneakily intertwined, weaving together a beautiful story of love, freedom and spirit.

Anna Grazinsky is a young Russian countess, living a life of pleasure and luxury, when the revolution starts to tare country apart and so, the family and herself must escape - before its to late. Anna runs with her governess to England, now penniless and living of the generosity of her governess. Not happy with doing so, Anna sets out to find a job and soon becomes a servant for the aristocratic Westerholmes. After the death of his elder brother George in the war, Rupert is the, some what reluctant owner, of the family home. Returning home after himself being injured, he announces his engagement to the nurse that took care of him , Muriel Harwickle. Soon though he finds him self enchanted by the small serving girl, Anna, whose true identity he has no idea . . .

Although as always, the eventual outcome is guessed before one opens the page, the magic with Eva Ibbotson is the way in which she gets there. The book takes you on a joinery, back 80 years, to Russia, to England, and where ever else the story cares to go!

This, along with Magic Flutes, in my opinion, is the best of her teenage books. A light read in the fact the story is light a fluffy, but it does need concentration due to the large number of characters and plots!!

Happy Reading!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a must read, 11 May 2010
A Kid's Review
This review is from: The Secret Countess (Paperback)
I love this book. When I first started reading it I wasn't that sure about it but, after reading the first few chapters, I was completely hooked and nothing could have made me put it down. The characters in it are completely believable and feel very real which, combined with the fact that the writing is very good, makes a really good book. The only thing that I would say is that the plot is a bit predictable (although the story was still good) and it does take a little while for you to get fully into the story. However, if you get past these small things the overall story is really good and a definite must read.

One thing you might want to be careful about, though, is that `a secret countess' was first published as `a countess under stairs' so you might want to be careful not to buy the same book twice.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a jolly good read., 16 Jun 2009
By 
Ms. N. James "south east" (london) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Secret Countess (Paperback)
I have read this book, several times, and enjoy it everytime.There are lines in it that make me shout out with laughter. I have bought if for my sister, my niece, and my best friend and business partner.As costumiers we both appreciate the trouble Mrs Bunsford has, with the set of a sleeve!
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5.0 out of 5 stars the best book ever entitled 'the secret countess', 29 Dec 2007
This review is from: The Secret Countess (Paperback)
The secret countess is book so brilliant, so capturing that it's hard to describe.
You read and feel breath-taking moments, you feel the adrenalin running through Anna's veins. You read of the hardship of being a maid, of those who think they are above you, of those who are not your friends.
But The Secret Countess is not about sadness, it is about happiness and you feel, as Anna did the kindness of those who care for you, the happiness of seeing someone you haven't seen because he was fighting in the War.
And all this, you feel, right where you are reading whether its in your room or your house or a friends house, a bus stop, in a ship, a plane, a train, a car, no matter what, you still read the same words that so many others enjoyed. So read this romantic, humerous book.
Cry and then laugh barely one minute after. I would and did pay much more than this price to get my copy of the secret countess, but I don't regret because if you payed ten million pounds to just read this book it would be worth it because I can assure you The Secret Countess is the most amazing book you will ever read in your whole life and that is 100% true!
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A Countess Below Stairs
A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson (Paperback - 3 Nov 1994)
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