I tried to love this book. I kept it by my bedside for a month or so, but couldn't get into it even though I really wanted to.The best thing about this book is the binding, paperstock and printing: Beautiful & expensive. Just having it rest along my bedside made me feel aristocratic! I can tell a lot of love went into the book. Perhaps better editing, more pictures, more humor would have made for a better read. Downton Abby had characters that suffered, triumphed & lived through turmoils of life and overcame them to varying degrees. Emphasize this and any dull historical treatise on life in the 19th century can be gripping. For similar period pieces, I suggest "Mr. Selfridge" on DVD and "The Secret Rooms" by Catherine Bailey.
English country life for the Downton Abbey / Brideshead Revisited set was destined to crumble in the upheavals of the last century. We think of this milieu in terms of rigid adherence to social conventions, yet this narrative deals with the homosexual Lord Berners who lives openly with Robert, his "mad boy," in Faringdon House - a lovely stately home in Oxfordshire. They regularly entertain the likes of Evelyn Waugh, various Mitford sisters, Cecil Beaton, Igor Stravinsky, and other leading lights of the era. The book is as much a biography of the house as it is of the cast, and the unlikely chronology of inheritors (first mad boy Robert, and then the author) form the structure of the narrative. Despite the interesting personalities, though, the book fails to grip. It is plainly well researched, but without a lot of insight into what made them all tick. And it doesn't help that none of them are particularly likeable.
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