Downton Abbey read-alikes

If you are like me and a great many of my friends, you are currently obsessing over Downton Abbey. (That’s the PBS link, because that’s where Americans can watch streaming episodes, but of course it’s a BBC show.) It’s a soap opera that makes you feel smart! It’s a BBC show that doesn’t look like it was filmed in your grandma’s living room with a handicam! And oh sweet holy goodness the dresses.

Seriously, though, I think the show does a brilliant job of exploring — or at least addressing in passing — the myriad of things going on in England immediately pre-WWI and during the war. The show seems to have the same sort of conflicted attitude about the economic and social inequality that I imagine (based on things I’ve read, not any personal experience) many modern English people have. Lord Grantham is a benevolent dictator of a beautiful home, and it’s easy to see Downton as a sort of wish-fulfillment paradise, but we never forget that Grantham is a dictator, and that any decent lives his servants or children have is entirely due to his indulgence. In other words, we know this social structure is horribly imbalanced and wrong, but oh my goodness the dresses.

I could go on and on about this show, and probably will at some point. But this is supposed to be about books. Staircase Wit posted this intriguing list of Downton read-alikes, divided into fiction and non-, adult and YA. Can’t wait to try some of them!

I’d like to add The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, by Laurie R. King: Older Sherlock Holmes and his young sidekick Mary Russell team up to solve mysteries in WWI England. Utterly delightful.

Any other suggestions?


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6 Responses to Downton Abbey read-alikes

  1. Sam says:

    @Vinnie —

    Mary Russell SPOILERS

    I read your Goodreads review and I don’t disagree. But the thing about Monstrous Regiment is that it’s the fanfic book. King set up these characters in Beekeeper’s, and then wanted them to get together, but I think wasn’t quite sure how to do it believably — and possibly was so swept away by her own characters’ romantic tension that she couldn’t do it believably. So Monstrous Regiment (or the second half, anyway) is her fanfic about her own characters. After they’re married, they get back to detecting. (Beekeeper’s is still by far my favorite of the four I’ve read, but mostly I think that’s because it’s the one where Mary’s a teenager. Books entirely full of grownups weird me out. :) )

  2. Sam says:

    @Robin — Good call on the FitzOsbornes! I cataloged them, thought, “That looks interesting!” and then promptly forgot about them.

    @Martha — I haven’t heard of Kate Morton. (Probably ’cause she, you know, writes books for grownups.) I’ll add her to my list!

  3. Robin says:

    Definitely add the Fitzosborne trilogy by Michele Cooper. The second is the one that has more Downtown overtones, and I expect the third, FitzOsbornes at War, will be as well. Marvelous books and rather unusual.

  4. Martha Patten says:

    Ooh, I just saw another list of DA readalikes on a mailing list! I would definitely add Kate Morton (adult fiction); I read and really liked The House at Riverton, which was told in flashbacks from the perspective of a maid at a country house during the same era, about what happened to the sisters who lived there – a lot of overlap with Downton, more of a tragedy I think. And Brideshead Revisited, maybe? I love that one.

  5. Vinnie Tesla says:

    I’m starting to feel like a freak for not loving the Mary Russell series. I picked up the second volume, A Monstrous Regiment of Women, and found it intensely disappointing, with a feminist surface and an anti-feminist heart.

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