Wednesday, February 20, 2013
A Peek Below Stairs
Originally published in 1968 but only discovered by me during a recent trip into a bookstore (a woefully rare occurrence), this book ended up being the missing piece in my search to understand the history of domestic service in Britain. Not that I'm done reading about it, mind you.
A year ago I read Up & Down Stairs: the History of the Country House Servant, and found scads of fascinating information. What was missing, however, was the unedited opinion of the servants themselves. While I'm certain servants' viewpoints varied as widely as personalities vary in general, there's nothing like information straight from the horse's mouth.
Margaret Powell is a spunky girl, and Below Stairs is never lacking liveliness. From her tales about growing up poor in a small town to bold opinions and conjectures, there's always something to keep you turning the pages. It had me laughing aloud and searching for a willing ear to pass tidbits onto. In fact, I can't quote anything from the book because I lent it out as soon as I'd finished reading. It was that much fun.
And now I'm torn—I want to scour bookstores for more, snatching up anything remotely related, and yet how can anything live up to a perfect experience?