This Audio CD (or rather set of 8 audio CDs) is described in the blurb as a novelisation of the 70s TV series. It is certainly based directly on the TV series, thus for example the description of the butler, Hudson, is a description of the actor, Gordon Jackson. It is a bit of a stretch, however, to describe this as a novel. It is more a set of short stories about the owners and servants in an Edwardian House. In fact, surprise surprise, it reads just like a series of TV episodes.
This is a cosy world where those upstairs are basically noble and humane, those downstairs know, and are happy in, their place, and any who seek to challenge this feudal existence are either malicious, self-serving malcontents or misguided children of noble families who will eventually grow out of it.
All is safe and fairly predictable, the stern but decent Butler, the homely cook, the flighty housemaids, the quiet but tragic girl, the rebellious daughter, the serious but loving father. This is a world into which danger can raise its head, but which is quickly avoided and soon forgotten. The passionate, marriage threatening, affair is brought to an abrupt halt by a few wisely chosen words of wisdom about the importance of loyalty, the sexually predatory artist with the spirited but innocent girl at his mercy, suddenly becomes decent and chivalrous, the dangerous revolutionary with whom the scion of the noble Bellamy family is infatuated , turns out to be from decent stock, enormously talented, and perfectly willing to become a Tory MP.
That is not to say that there is anything particularly bad here. As an exercise in nostalgia, or as an unchallenging way to while away a long journey (or given the episodic nature, series of journeys), these CDS are perfectly fine.
As with the content, the reading, by Jean Marsh who played Rose in both the original TV series and in the recent BBC updating, is reasonably good. Her accents are sometimes a little inconsistent, with characters often drifting between their native tongues and Marsh's RP. Also her cockneys often have bizarrely mangled vowels reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn's Eliza Dolittle. That said, she reads with a warmth and affection which it is easy to enjoy.
So if we put aside the fact that that this is a shameless example of the BBC cashing in on its updated series, these CDS are reasonably enjoyable and mostly harmless, like a cut price Isabel Colegate (The Shooting Party) without the acidic edge.