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Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey    by Countess of Carnarvon order for
Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey
by Countess of Carnarvon
Order:  USA  Can
Broadway, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, Softcover
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey follows on the heels of Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey. It's written by Fiona, the current Countess of Carnarvon. She married Geordie, eighth Earl of Carnarvon.

As PBS's Downton Abbey continues to play out on our televisions, Highclere (the actual castle used in the fictional story) continues to imbue the English countryside with its grace and beauty. The Earl and Countess have allowed the filming to be done in their lovely home and we are able to see what life was like back in the day.

Fiona, the Countess, has used diaries and scrapbooks from the castle's archives to bring us the story of Lady Catherine. She picks up the history of the castle, its owners, and staff at the end of World War I and continues on through World War II and its aftermath. Not only does she chronicle the antics of both owner and staff but also the global situation.

Inhabitants of the castle went through the war as did the rest of England only to find the war changed life as they had known it. England rose to the occasion and folk did what was necessary to help the war effort in any way possible. When the dust settled, women wanted more. Women were finally looked at, for the most part, as individuals, not just someone to run shops and keep the home and children. Men did not find it as easy to spend their time as absentee fathers. But that is all in the book.

Lady Catherine, the Earl and the Real Downton Abbey beautifully portrays the elegant lifestyle that emerged when the shooting stopped and peace was announced. The Countess pulls no punches about the family's history, including gossip that floated about the gay life that was led prior to World War II, when who was in whose bed was bandied about.

If you enjoy the TV series, you'll love reading about the family and staff and becoming immersed in English life. It's a story well written.

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