Sunday, March 25, 2012
Review: Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle
Author: The Countess of Carnarvon
Length: 320 pages
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Genre: Historical non-fiction, Biography
Source: Goodreads Giveaway
Synopsis (from Goodreads): Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey tells the story behind Highclere Castle, the real-life inspiration for the hit PBS show Downton Abbey, and the life of one of its most famous inhabitants, Lady Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon and the basis of the fictional character Lady Cora Crawley. Drawing on a rich store of materials from the archives of Highclere Castle, including diaries, letters, and photographs, the current Lady Carnarvon has written a transporting story of this fabled home on the brink of war.
Much like her Masterpiece Classic counterpart, Lady Almina was the daughter of a wealthy industrialist, Alfred de Rothschild, who married his daughter off at a young age, her dowry serving as the crucial link in the effort to preserve the Earl of Carnarvon's ancestral home. Throwing open the doors of Highclere Castle to tend to the wounded of World War I, Lady Almina distinguished herself as a brave and remarkable woman.
This rich tale contrasts the splendor of Edwardian life in a great house against the backdrop of the First World War and offers an inspiring and revealing picture of the woman at the center of the history of Highclere Castle.
My Review: If you are looking for Downton Abbey in book form than this is not the book for you. I had a hard time with that at first. I was looking for the same feel of the Downton Abbey television series. I wanted the stories of both those living in the castle and those whose job it is to keep it running smoothly. There is obviously some of that in this book but as it is not a fictional story written for drama, it can not be the same.
It's well written and a good history. There are lots of interesting pieces of information and connections. I found both Lady Almina and her husband, the 5th Count of Carnarvon, very compelling subjects. The Count in particular played a large part in a wonderful, historical find of that time period. This story is not solely about Lady Almina and Highclere castle which I felt actually added something to the book.
However, I think I frequently got side tracked by the many names thrown out there not pertinent to the story. Names that were obviously important names in that time in English history, but since they were often not more than a mention it did as much, if not more, to distract from the book than it did to add to it. If you are interested in this time in English history I am sure you will enjoy this book.