Monday, September 09, 2013

Below Stairs (1968)

Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir That Inspired Upstairs, Downstairs and Downton Abbey. Margaret Powell. 1968/2012. St. Martin's Press. 224 pages. [Source: Library]

Below Stairs is one of two memoirs by Margaret Powell. As a young teen--fifteen, I believe--she entered service. (She left school to begin working to support her family a year or two earlier however.) Her first positions in service were as a kitchen maid. She later promoted herself to cook and sought out other positions with other families. The book tells of her experiences and shocks. One shock, for example, was when she found out she was to iron the shoe laces every morning in addition to polishing the shoes. It's a detailed look at work. Work as a maid is anything but fun, glamorous, exciting. Dreary, repetitive, exhausting comes more to mind. This memoir does not focus on any particular wealthy family; it is not a dramatic romance like Downton Abbey. 

I enjoyed reading Below Stairs. I found it to be a quick read. I liked that Powell enjoyed reading and tried her best to read what she could, when she could, even though there wasn't always a lot of free time. She worked very long hours, had very little time to herself, and was at times discouraged from seeking out books and wanting 'more'.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Ann@Blogging-Profits-Unleashed said...

So glad you read and enjoyed this one! I didn't enjoy it when I read it, but I'd be tempted to try
to read it again at some point.

Monica said...

I have only read one memoir before and it was pretty good. Don't know about reading the mundane daily routines of a maid. Oh my I don't think I could "humble" myself for such service. I pray I never need to find out! :)

Becky said...

Ann, This wasn't a "thrilling" read for me but a quick one. For those interested in the two shows (Upstairs Downstairs or Downton Abbey,) I think there is appeal that carries over just because...otherwise, the appeal is a bit limited!

Joyful Reader, I am seeking out more nonfiction to read. Some books are definitely worth reading, others take a bit more patience and persistence!