Missing your Downton Abbey fix? Thanks to today’s guest poster, Ashley, we have enough Downton read-a-likes to keep us all happy until Masterpiece Theatre starts back up again….
I looked back through Lauren’s “If You Like” archives and found that she posted a Downton Abbey list in January of 2013. In an effort not to reinvent the wheel, I haven’t included any of the books from Lauren’s original list in mine, but I will add my own plug for The House at Riverton. That was my first Kate Morton book, and I really enjoyed it. Moving right along, here is my list of Downton Abbey read-alikes:
1. E.M. Forster – Howards End
Set in the early 1900s, this book deals with many of the issues faced by the characters in Downton: romantic entanglements, poor investments of family fortunes, the class system, and the inheritance of a country estate. There is also a great movie adaptation starring Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham-Carter, and Anthony Hopkins.
2. Natasha Solomons – The House at Tyneford
Solomons writes about many of the “big picture” ideas that we see in Downton Abbey. How will a new servant integrate herself into the household staff? Will anyone be left untouched by the war? How will the master of the house cope with the way the world around him is changing.
3. Amor Towles – Rules of Civility
Even though this book takes place in New York, I thought it had a similar feel to Downton Abbey. Katey Kontent and her friend Eve (who reminds me in many ways Cousin Rose) are working girls who meet a handsome young banker in a jazz bar, and their lives take an unexpected detour. In turns, the story was dramatic and funny. The dialogue is witty, and you really feel the excitement and the tension of Katey and Eve’s generation trying to redefine society’s expectations. This book also made me desperately want a martini whenever I picked it up.
4. Fay Weldon – Habits of the House
I haven’t read this one, but it keeps popping up in my GoodReads recommendations. It’s evidently the first book in Weldon’s Love and Inheritance Trilogy. Weldon was one of the writers for the TV series “Upstairs Downstairs,” a Downton forerunner. The teaser from the publisher says that this book details the financial woes of the Earl of Dilberne, who is in danger of losing his estate, and the eccentric lives of his two unmarried children and the household staff. It sounds like a winner to me, but the GoodReads community seems pretty evenly divided between “loved it” and “hated it.” Have any of you read it? Would you recommend it?
5. If you’re tired of reading things that are “almost like” Downton Abbey and you’re ready for something that is EXACTLY the same, read Downton Abbey: The Complete Scripts, Season One.
You’d think, after watching the first series so many times, that reading the scripts would be pretty dull. I actually loved it – there are set descriptions and stage directions for characters along with the dialogue. There is also commentary from Julian Fellowes throughout. I loved reading about casting or costuming choices, and getting the “inside scoop” on some of the filming. Unfortunately, you discover pretty quickly that the only thing Julian Fellowes loves to talk about more than Downton Abbey is himself. If you just skip over his notes about his family or his neighbors or why he’s sure he was right about a period detail even though the historical advisors disagreed with him, it’s a fun way to relive the first season and learn some excellent Downton trivia. The script book for season two will be available in December.
If you’ve already read all these, or if none of them look like your cup of tea, or if you are positive that five books won’t hold you until Downton’s season four premier in the US, never fear! Our fellow Lauren-fanatic Elizabeth will be devoting an entire month on her blog Strange and Random Happenstance to Downton Abbey read-alikes in February of 2014.
So many thanks to Ashley for this list! I’ve been meaning to read House at Tyneford for ages. I also have to second the plug for the movie adaptation of Howards End, which is a frequent re-watch for me.
What are your favorite Downton read-a-likes?