As mentioned in the previous post, I am suffering from D.A.W. (Downton Abbey withdrawal). In my search for a cure I procured the season 2 DVD set (see my thoughts on it here). But there’s another great treatment option: The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes (the niece of series creator Julian Fellowes). It’s the companion guide to the first two seasons of the show, but it’s more than just behind-the scenes information. Fellowes provides us with colorful historical context so we can better understand the social system the characters of the show live in, and how that system went through tremendous changes during the early 20th century.
The book covers such topics as the Buccaneers, the wealthy American women who came overseas in order to marry cash-strapped Englishmen with titles. This gave the husband the money he needed to maintain his estate, while catapulting the wife into the upper echelons of society. Fellowes relates this arrangement to the situation with Robert and Cora. So while she discusses factual events, she tells them from the perspective of the fictional characters.
There are interesting side stories throughout the book as well, including the real-life historical figures that inspired such characters as Lady Cora and Sir Richard Carlisle. And of course there’s page after glossy page of beautiful photographs from the series.
The book’s chapters focus on topics such as style, family life, life in service, changes that took place at the beginning of the 20th century, and the impact of World War I. There are plenty of behind-the-scenes tidbits scattered throughout, as well as an entire chapter devoted to the subject. It’s a fantastic read, and it helps you appreciate the series’ attention to historical detail even more.
You can get a taste of what’s in the book on PBS’s website.
Jessica Fellowes will be doing a live chat interview on PBS’s Masterpiece website on Monday (Feb. 27) at 1:00 PM. Click here to go to the page and find out more.
You can also listen to an interview with Fellowes about the book that was conducted earlier by NPR here.