Recently I began watching the BBC series Downton Abbey, which is about an aristocratic family and their servants, in the early 1900s English countryside. The series shows both the “upstairs” world – the aristrocrats, their family problems, who they brush shoulders with – and the “downstairs” world – the servants who work for the family. Many times, the two worlds connect and that’s when the most fun happens.
This isn’t a new theme in film and television. The 1970s gave us the BBC series Upstairs, Downstairs, which has a similar storyline, except that the family (the Bellamys) in this series is based in London. There are a couple movies that focus on this master/servant dynamic – Gosford Park
and The Remains of the Day are a couple I love. Oh, Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson WHY DON’T YOU JUST ADMIT YOU LOVE EACH OTHER I CAN’T TAKE IT!!!
BBC created a sequel to the first Upstairs, Downstairs – I checked out the DVDs from my library and have been watching a new family settle into the old Bellamy house. If you’re familiar with the original series, you may like to know that Rose, the housekeeper, returns to the sequel (set 40 years later, amidst King Edward’s abdication of his throne).
PBS also has a series called Manor House. I’ve written about it before – modern-day people choose to spend a few months actually LIVING an Upstairs, Downstairs life. Some participants are given roles as aristocrats, some as servants. You can’t break role, you have to behave as those people would have. I was finally able to put this sucker on hold through the library and I hope it’ll arrive at my local branch in time for me to watch it while I’m still on vacation.
What I need now? Books that dig into these worlds. I’ve got one book on hold, a non-fiction that looks at the lives of people these series and movies were based on . . . but I want some fiction, too! Not just stories that happen to have servants, but stories that focus on the details and relationships of the two worlds.