Today, we're reviewing the Lady Catherine, the Earl and the Real Downton Abbey. This is the second book in Lady Fiona Carnarvon's series toward detailing the lives of the women who lived at Highclere Castle (a.k.a Downton) before her.
Non-Fiction Tuesday is where we review the latest and greatest non-fiction titles!
Paperback, 368 pages
Published October 29th 2013 by Broadway Books
Synopsis via publisher:
The couple presided over Highclere Castle, the grand estate that serves as the setting for the hit PBS show. Following the First World War, many of the great houses of England faded as their owners fortunes declined in the new political and social world of the 1920s and 1930s. As war loomed, Highclere’s survival as the family home of the Carnarvons was again in the balance—as was peace between the nations of Europe.
Using copious materials—including diaries and scrapbooks—from the castle’s archives, the current Countess of Carnarvon brings alive a very modern story in a beautiful and fabled setting, paying particular attention to the staff who provide Highclere Castle with continuity between generations.
In Lady Catherine, Fiona Carnarvon looks back on the lives of Lady Catherine and Porchey, the 6th Earl of Carnarvon. Fiona beautifully captures their courtship, the upheaval in Catherine and Porchey's lives as they take ownership of Highclere Castle after the fifth Earl's untimely death, and their adjustment to becoming part of the elite British circle before their time.
She deftly tackles the issues that plagued both Catherine and Porchey, including a sensitive, analytical look into their marriage troubles, Catherine's collapse and how the Carnarvons would eventually conquer their own demons - but not without a lot of struggle.
(One really gets the sense of why the British are known for their "keep calm and carry on" attitude, after reading about some of the things the family had to go through, particularly on Catherine's part.)
While the book presents the entirety of the Carnarvon's lives in an eloquently researched narrative, one of the definite highlights of the book is Fiona's ability to interweave the fate and fortunes of the family, with the ongoing global conflict of World War II.
Fiona brilliantly how the Second World War influences social dynamics and traditional customs, and also shows the social restructuring that occurs not only with the great houses of England, but also with British society in general. There is a sense that something is about to end as the war progresses, and readers will be curious and interested to see how the family (and society) will adapt to the changes.
All in all, this is a fantastic book which I think that all readers, not just fans of Downton, will absolutely appreciate.
Fans of Downton will be pleased at Fiona Carnarvon's thorough look into the history of Highclere Castle, and will enjoy reading about how the real-life women of Highclere have inspired the exploits of Lady Grantham, Mary and the rest of the Crawleys.
Fans of historical non-fiction will likely be impressed at the research that Fiona Carnarvon has put into the book. This book thoroughly immerses readers into the period, with the type of details and background that any history fan will absolutely appreciate.
And finally, fans of non-fiction about World War II. This book presents the rise (and occasional fall) of a powerful British family in glorious detail, as they try to navigate the uncertain fate that awaits them during World War II.
I highly recommend this book for everyone.
Disclaimer: I received an e-ARC of Lady Catherine from Broadway Books, in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!