Downton Abbey: books to ease your withdrawal
Now that Downton Abbey has come to an end, fans are left without their beloved Crawleys, servants, and stories of deceit and loyalty. Have no fear, though: Here are 12 books with similar themes, characters, and twists to ease your withdrawal.
Below Stairs by Margaret Powell
Perfect for: Fans of Mrs. Hughes, Anna, and the maids of Downton
This nonfiction memoir is the true story of one woman’s life in service to the great houses of England. As a kitchen maid, Powell saw firsthand the raucous vagaries of the aristocracy and the tragedies of the underclass, and reports them both with empathetic detail.
What the Butler Winked At by Eric Horne
Perfect for: Anyone who wishes Mr. Carson had a wild side
One of the few memoirs that can give readers an intimate and page-turning peek into the scandalous lives of the fabulously wealthy in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Eric Horne’s recounting of his decades as a butler for British aristocracy provides secrets that are all the more scandalous because they are true.
A Room with a View by E.M. Forster
Perfect for: Downton fans who will miss its complex love stories
Dubbed E.M. Forster’s most optimistic work, A Room with a View follows Lucy, a young girl growing up in early twentieth century England and Italy, as she is forced by a strict society to refuse herself of the true love of the lower class George in favor of the materialistic and rude Cecil. As Lucy struggles with what to do with her life, the reader explores in-depth how society functioned in Edwardian England.
The Habits of the House by Fay Weldon
Perfect for: Fans of Downton Abbey’s interplay between personal dramas and world-shaking historical background
One of the primary writers of the original Upstairs, Downstairs series also wrote a trilogy of novels about the travails of an English household staring down the barrel of the twentieth century. Sound familiar? The first book in the series kicks off with the arrival of a beautiful Chicago heiress, who might just change the Dilberne estate’s fortunes.
Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford
Perfect for: Those who want more social-climbing marriage stories
Romance and scandal in high society make up the bulk of Nancy Mifdord’s Love in a Cold Climate, in which beautiful and wealthy young debutante Polly is bored by her numerous suitors much to her hoity toity mother’s annoyance. The novel follows the hidden drama that courses like blood through the veins of the aristocratic Montdore manor in early twentieth century London.
No Angel by Penny Vincenzi
Perfect for: Lady Edith and Lady Mary devotees
This novel retains Downton Abbey’s epic scope, zooming in on aristocratic heiress Celia Lytton and the ways her headstrong decisions affect the lives of those around her.
The Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard
Perfect for: True history buffs
Set in London around the World War II era, Howard’s series goes inside the Cazalet family, exploring the inner thoughts of the three generations of Cazalets as well as their friends and servants. While the stories are deeply personal, they also investigate the effects WWII had on families from numerous perspectives. The book series was adapted into BBC mini-series The Cazalets in 2001.
Longbourne by Jo Baker
Perfect for: Viewers who knew that all the real action happened downstairs
This retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice shows the events of the Bennet household from the servants’ perspective. Austen neglected the servants in her stories, but Jo Baker amends that here, proving that their stories are just as dramatic and witty as those of the rich dilettantes.
Servants by Lucy Lethbridge
Perfect for: Those who prefer downstairs to up
Downton fans wanting for more of a lesson in the Mrs. Patmores and Mrs. Hugheses of the world should look no further than this history of the help, ranging from the eighteenth century to the modern times. The books also offers detailed explanations for each position, just in case you don’t actually remember what a footman is supposed to do but are afraid to ask.
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Perfect for: Those who ship Carson and Mrs. Hughes
As 1989’s Man Booker Prize for fiction winner, Ishiguro’s third novel follows a butler’s (Stevens) unresolved relationship with a former housekeeper (Miss Kenton). Told through diary entries, the beloved book flips between themes of dignity, desire, and loyalty in pre-World War II-era Britain.
The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy
Perfect for: Fans who don’t need a likable protagonist
Galsworthy epic spanned five volumes — three novels and two interludes — and examined the life, loves, and obsessions of Soames Forsyte, a moneyed man whose financial success never manages to satisfy him. The story is told across years and generations, as Galsworthy explores what money actually means to those who have lots of it. Plus, since the works are old enough to exist in the public domain, they’re free to read.
The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton
Perfect for: Those who love to hate Lady Mary Crawley
In Edith Warton’s 1913 novel, midwesterner Undine Spragg is in over her head when she uproots her family to move to New York. She marries a has been socialite Ralph Marvell and in hopes to raise her own social standing, devolves into high-ish society. Downton creator Julian Fellowes has cited the book as a major influence on him and the show, and traces of Undine show up in various characters in Yorkshire.