If You Like….
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?
Without revealing too many spoilers, I borrowed The House at Tyneford from my daughter and was almost instantly caught up in the story. The heroine, is the daughter of well-to-do upper-class Jewish family caught up in the turmoil of Europe just prior to WWII. Her parents are unable to procure a U.S. Visa for her so she is sent to a large manor house (Tyneford) in England for what is hoped to be the short duration of the war. She unable to determine the location or the whereabouts of her parents or younger sister and she she works as a domestic servant. She becomes romantically involved with the son of the manor house owner which greatly complicates the relationship between her and the servants. Some readers may not like the personality of the heroine but I greatly sympathized with her plight. The story spans many years and a very surprising ending. It is heartbreaking at points but the author always dangles hope out ahead of this saga. Do I recommend it? You bet!
I’m in the minority of people who absolutely hated The House at Tyneford. I can take a fair amount of depressing events in books, but this was just one thing after another with no light, so it became oddly predictable. And I hated the ending.
The Fay Weldon books keep showing up in my Amazon so I’d also like to know if anyone has read them.
Christine, I hope your disappointment does not put you off Natasha Solomons. Mr Rosenblum Dreams in English is quite different in tone, and beautifully written. Also, it is inspired by her parents’ experiences in England.
Hi Sheila! Thanks for the recommendation. That actually sounds pretty good. I’ll have to add it to my (ever-growing) list.
I’m in the minority with you, Christine. I put it down before I was done… Blah.
I sent Lauren this list before I finished reading Tasha Alexander’s “Behind the Shattered Glass.” I would definitely recommend it for Downton fans – it’s a murder mystery with upstairs/downstairs narration. Really interesting!
I was not a fan of The House of Tyneford, but it definitely falls in the category of Downton Abbey-esque novels. To Marry an English Lord (Gail MacColl) is a fun anecdotal book with photos, letters, and trivia about the wealty Americans who traveled to England in search of marriage and a title. Also, I thoroughly enjoyed Lady Almina & the Real Downton Abbey (Fiona Carnarvon). The Last Summer by Judith Kinghorn is on my to-read list and has been favorably compared to Downton Abbey.
Great list Ashley! Anything with Howards End gets my nod!
Here’s recommendation that I never would have discovered if not for the loan from a friend -Phillip Rock’s trilogy – “The Passing Bells”. I just started it and am liking it a lot! Very Downton-ish as it starts just before WWI and features lots of aristocrats and servants with interesting stories.
I would mention Julie Klassen’s The Maid of Fairbourne Hall. The time period is earlier
( Regency), but the heroine runs away from her life as a lady to escape a disastrous future, and mascarades as a maid, making friends among the servants. Their life is described in detail, along with that of the aristocracy. Klassen has written 5 wondeful books and describes herself as loving “all things Jane” (Austen, of course).