Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir That Inspired "Upstairs, Downstairs" and "Downton Abbey"

By Margaret Powell
Binding:Hardcover
Publisher:St. Martin's Press, (1/3/2012)
Language:English



Average Rating:
Very Unleashable
4.67 out of 5 (3 Clubie's ratings)


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Brilliantly evoking the long-vanished world of masters and servants portrayed in Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs, Margaret Powell’s classic memoir of her time in service, Below Stairs, is the remarkable true story of an indomitable woman who, though she served in the great houses of England, never stopped aiming high. Powell first arrived at the servants' entrance of one of those great houses in the 1920s.  As a kitchen maid – the lowest of the low – she entered an entirely new world; one of stoves to be blacked, vegetables to be scrubbed, mistresses to be appeased, and bootlaces to be ironed. Work started at 5.30am and went on until after dark. It was a far cry from her childhood on the beaches of Hove, where money and food were scarce, but warmth and laughter never were. Yet from the gentleman with a penchant for stroking the housemaids’ curlers, to raucous tea-dances with errand boys, to the heartbreaking story of Agnes the pregnant under-parlormaid, fired for being seduced by her mistress’s nephew, Margaret’s tales of her time in service are told with wit, warmth, and a sharp eye for the prejudices of her situation. Margaret Powell's true story of a life spent in service is a fascinating “downstairs” portrait of the glittering, long-gone worlds behind the closed doors of Downton Abbey and 165 Eaton Place.

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karen - PST book club's thoughts on "Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir That Inspired "Upstairs, Downstairs" and "Downton Abbey""
updated on:6/10/2014

Our June bookclub reviewed this book and all agreed it was interesting reading. The early part of her career was particularly interesting to our group - the matter-of-fact way of facing what we would see as a life of hardship surprised our group. The discussion questions regarding the lack of privacy for both the servants and the "masters" was thoughtful. The resulting TV series was definitely more upscale!

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Silver's Reviews's thoughts on "Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir That Inspired "Upstairs, Downstairs" and "Downton Abbey""
updated on:12/23/2012

What a delightful book even though the subject of being a kitchen maid in a wealthy household was far from delightful.  The author had a sense of humor that made the book fast paced, funny, and interesting.

This book was the memoir of a "real" kitchen maid.  It definitely was not a pleasant life, but the author kept the book light and factual.  The household staff would work from sunup to sunset with no conveniences that we have today in the kitchen or for cleaning to a shine.  
The staff would have to fire up the coal stove early in the morning, cook and cleanup nonstop all day and with no appreciation from their employer.  All food had to be made from scratch, but the food definitely was not healthy, though.   Households used a lot of butter, eggs, and cream and other fat-filled ingredients.

The author explained the drudgery and hardships of the maids and household staff in a wealthy household and how the majority of the staff were from poor families that couldn't  keep their own young children in their household because they had no money and not enough food to feed them.

It definitely was not a glamorous job, and there was even a class structure within the staff.  I wonder if it is still like that today among household staff.  I would guess yes.  The author also talked about how she never had a good self esteem because of how early she had to begin work and how she was treated for the majority of her life.

Despite the difficulty of this job and what it does to people's lives emotionally this is most definitely a book to read if you enjoy the lives of the English and any household that has a staff for their everyday living. 

I give this book a cleanly scrubbed and well cooked 5/5.  ENJOY!!

My son bought this book for me because he knows I enjoy learning about the lives of English household staff members.  This is ONE of my Christmas presents for him.....he wanted me to read this by the end of the year.  :)  I am glad I did.

Merry Christmas, Mark.  :) 


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sheenashyla's thoughts on "Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir That Inspired "Upstairs, Downstairs" and "Downton Abbey""
updated on:4/21/2012

First it must be said this book was written in 1968 and republished now that all the downton abby series is popular.
This author writes about life from perspective of the maid.
And it appears she didnt like domestic duty very much but felt due to her upbringing and lower class, she had no where else to go.
She moved around alot from house to house as it appears many were miserable but there were funny stories.
"Them" used to talk about their staff and let them go for silly things. and no one expected a cooks maid to READ when she asked to borrow a book. A good behind the scenes book

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"Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir That Inspired "Upstairs, Downstairs" and "Downton Abbey""
By Margaret Powell

Average Rating:
Very Unleashable
4.67 out of 5 (3 Clubie's ratings)


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