Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey
The Countess of Carnarvon
Using diaries and scrapbooks from the castle’s archives, the current Countess of Carnarvon brings to life the story behind Highclere Castle and one of its most famous inhabitants, Catherine Wendell. This real-life Cora Crawley was a beautiful and spirited American woman who married the 6th Earl of Carnarvon and presided over the grand estate during tumultuous times.
Ford Madox Ford
By many accounts, the First World War marked the beginning of the end for the British aristocracy. In this classic novel, the hero must leave behind the orderly world of Edwardian England to face the chaos of war and a changing society. Lord Grantham would sympathize.
The Remains of the Day
A must-read for the Carson fans, this is a compelling portrait of an English butler at the end of his career. Over the course of a six-day motoring trip through the countryside, he reflects on three decades of service to his Lordship, and grapples with self-realization.
Death Below Stairs
When Kat Holloway takes a position as head cook in the Mayfair mansion of Lord Rankin, she’s unbothered by the family’s eccentricities—as long as they stay away from her kitchen. But trouble finds its way below stairs when her young assistant is murdered. Don’t mess with Mrs. Patmore.
Lady Chatterley's Lover
D. H. Lawrence
D. H. Lawrence’s racy novel about an upper-class English woman’s sexual awakening was banned as pornography until 1960. Although it’s tame by today’s standards, even Lady Mary would be scandalized by Lawrence’s prose—and she dragged a dead Turkish diplomat out of her bed!
The House of Mirth
Poor Edith just can’t catch a break. Forsaken in love, jilted at the altar, widowed by her lover while pregnant with his illegitimate child… by Season 6, Lady Edith had become a character as tragic as Lily Bart, whose downward spiral is chronicled in The House of Mirth.
Lady Takes the Case
Imagine if, instead of killing off Lady Sybil in childbirth, they created a spinoff series in which the feisty aristocrat became the Nancy Drew of Downton and solved murders. With her cat. Lady Cecilia Bates, the heroine of this new historical mystery series, is just as likable and determined as Sybil herself, and we are here for it.
A Room with a View
E. M. Forster
Lucy Honeychurch and Rose Aldrich share much in common. Both are young English beauties who duck the watchful eye of a chaperone and find themselves in a passionate embrace with a socially unacceptable mate. And both must ultimately rely on themselves, and not their families, to forge their own paths to happiness.
What was going on in the servants’ quarters while the Bennets were preoccupied with suitors and scandals upstairs at Longbourn? This is the premise of Jo Baker’s retelling of Pride and Prejudice, written from the perspective of a kitchen maid who’s just as starry-eyed as young Daisy.
Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey
The Countess of Carnarvon
Much of Downton Abbey was filmed on location at Highclere Castle, a sweeping 5,000-acre estate located about 60 miles outside of London in Hampshire, England. The current residents are the 8th Earl of Carnarvon and his wife, Fiona, who wrote a biography of her predecessor, Lady Almina. A must-read as you plan your visit to the estate to get your real-life Downton fix.
While We Were Watching Downton Abbey
When the concierge of a historic Atlanta apartment building invites his fellow residents to join him for weekly screenings of Downton Abbey, four very different people find themselves connecting with the addictive drama, and with each other. Read this with your best girlfriends to relive those old Downton days, and to pass the time while you count down the days till the movie release.
Like most Downton diehards, I was despondent when the series ended on Christmas Day 2015. The show certainly had its ups and downs over the course of six seasons, but I felt the same despair leaving those characters behind as I feel when a beloved book ends. Readers have an intimate relationship with the characters in books—their absence is palpable when you reach the end of the story. It feels exactly like missing someone in real life.
Since 2016, rumors have been swirling of a Downton Abbey movie in the works, and finally, praise be, that day has arrived. In preparation for one of the most anticipated big-screen reunions in recent years, here’s a reading list to get you reacquainted with all of your favorite characters from the beloved series.
Featured Image: Courtesy of Focus Features