This Christmas I received The Chronicles of Downton Abbey: A New Era, the latest Downton companion book by Jessica Fellowes, niece of series creator Julian Fellowes. And I could not put it down. It was the perfect way to gear up for the coming third season, which starts this Sunday (Jan. 6) on PBS.
I think I prefer Chronicles to Fellowes’s other companion book, The World of Downton Abbey. Each chapter takes an in depth look at one (and sometimes two) of the main characters both upstairs and down. Fellowes discusses events that have taken place in the characters’ lives and how they’ve shaped and changed their personalities over the course of the series. Select quotes are scattered throughout to break up the narrative text, along with beautiful color photographs from the set. The actors give their takes on what makes their characters tick, and Fellowes also tucks in tidbits from her research to help explain character motivations. This was the part I found particularly insightful. When you know more about the life of a ladies maid, it helps to round out the background of O’Brien. We better understand the hardships Lady Sybil and Branson face when we can compare their situation to other couples of the time who married outside their social class.
In addition, costume designer Caroline McCall explains her vision for each character and how that came across in their wardrobe, and the end of each chapter has a page filled with material objects that would have been a part of the character’s daily life.
Fellowes does an excellent job of bringing the characters to life on the page. And I also think the book helps to give the characters more dimension than they sometimes get on the screen by taking plenty of time to discuss their backstory, their hopes for the future, and the challenges they presently face. The fictional characters are made more real when their lives are compared to their real life contemporaries.
I give The Chronicles of Downton Abbey five stars, a must-own for any Downton enthusiast.
With Thanksgiving over, most people around here are counting down the days until Christmas. But I’m counting down the days to Downton. Okay, yeah, I’ll admit I’m looking forward to Christmas too. But I have been eagerly anticipating Downton Abbey‘s return since season 2 ended. I’ve been patient, and I haven’t looked up spoilers (well, I did come across one HUGE one, but I promise it was accidental, honest. Blame it on Google). And I hope my patience pays off.
I just finished re-watching the first season of the show and remembered why I fell in love with the series. I’ll be the first to admit it is a guilty pleasure, a soap opera dressed up in period costume. But the first season didn’t make that quite so apparent. The scandals made more sense, and had major ramifications on the story line. The second series was a little over the top at times (There was the whole “Matthew can’t walk, oh wait, he can!” thing. And the scandal with maid Ethel and the soldier, then the scandal with the replacement maid and Lord Grantham. And don’t forget forget (possibly) fake Patrick Crawley, who was in and out in one episode). Did I still enjoy it? Yes. Did I buy the DVD? Of course. Am I going to watch it again to prepare for season 3? Absolutely.
BUT. I do hope that season 3 will get back to the heart of what made season 1 so great. Scandals? Bring them on. But make them a little more realistic, and a lot more important to the story arc of the series.
43 days until Downton and counting. Don’t disappoint me, Julian Fellowes.
And for goodness sake, give Mary a reason to smile this season!
I admit it, I’m going through Downton Abbey withdrawal and it hasn’t even been a full week since the last episode aired. So I broke down and bought Season 2 on DVD. I’m glad I did–just like with Season 1, PBS cut out parts of the original UK edition. I haven’t seen all of the episodes yet, but here are a few examples. When Carson talks to Mrs. Hughes about becoming Lady Mary and Sir Richard’s butler, he tells a really cute story about Mary when she was a little girl. The inclusion of this story made Mary’s cold response to Carson when he tells her he cannot go with her sting even more. There’s also a scene when the ladies with the white feathers first arrive and give one to Branson, who cheekily informs them that he’s already in uniform (chauffeur’s uniform, of course).
There are also some excellent special features on the DVD: Fashion and Uniforms, Romance in a Time of War, and House to Hospital. They reveal how makeup artists took the dirt from the filming location of the trench scenes in order to have the color match up with the makeup they used on the soldiers. How Julian Fellowes felt that Lady Sybil would want to marry Branson not just because of love but because it “suits her rebellious nature.” And why Michelle Dockery(Lady Mary) believes that if wealthy and powerful Sir Richard had shown up at the beginning of Season 1, there never would have been a “Matthew & Mary” relationship. Oh, and you also get to hear Maggie Smith say “been there, done that, and got the t-shirt.”
So for those of you going through Downton withdrawal, do yourself a favor and buy the unedited UK edition of Season 2–certainly worth it in my opinion.
If you still need help overcoming your withdrawal symptoms, check out my post on The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes, the companion book to the first two seasons of Downton Abbey.
It’s been almost a year now since we were first introduced to the Crawley family and their servants who inhabit the sprawling British estate known as Downton Abbey. It is one of the finest works of historical fiction created directly for the screen that I have seen in a very, very long time (no wonder it was just nominated for 4 Golden Globes, including best miniseries).
While the characters may be fictional (from the imagination of Julian Fellowes, screenwriter of Gosford Park), the Edwardian world in which they live is very accurately recreated. From the organized chaos in the kitchen to the lavish dining room where the family and their guests adhere to rigid societal rules (and those who do not are subject to severe scrutiny), it is easy to lose yourself in their world. But Fellowes has also managed to convey in his characters the kinds of human emotions that are timeless, and thus we can all relate to one character or another, even if they lived nearly a hundred years ago.
Now Downton Abbey is returning for a second season on PBS, and this time we will see the world as they know it fall apart with the onset of World War I. This time period is one that I’ve always been drawn to, but more on that later. If you have not seen the first season, PBS is giving you a chance to catch up starting this Sunday. The new season begins on January 8. I will be posting my thoughts on the episodes as they play out, and I’d love to hear your opinions too. Until then, I will be anxiously counting down to Downton’s return.
Visit PBS’s Downton Abbey website.