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?