Like all Downton Abbey fans, I’ve known for a long time that a film was in the works. But when I caught a glimpse of that iconic, sprawling estate in the initial trailer I nearly jumped up from the couch to cheer—at last, the post-series finale wait is over! The film arrives in theaters this September. It’s been too long since I’ve caught up with the Crawley family, and I can’t wait to immerse myself once again in the drama of their lives and their loves—and feast my eyes upon their fashion. But how to tide myself over in the meantime? In the words of the dowager countess, “All this unbridled joy has given me quite an appetite . . .” for historical fiction! Sumptuous, richly detailed historical novels (and memoirs) with strong female characters and compelling narrative arcs are the perfect antidote to impatience during the Downton countdown. Here are 11 reads to sate your Downton hunger.
Spanning from the 1930s to the present day, from the magical world of the Wharton Park estate in England to Thailand, this sweeping novel tells of a concert pianist and the aristocratic Crawford family whose shocking secrets lead to devastating consequences. This atmospheric story is filled with twists and turns, passions and lies, and ultimately redemption.
Set in a magnificent estate in interwar Britain, this sweeping novel tells the tale of the prominent Crawford family, whose shocking secrets lead to devastating consequences for generations to come.
Set in England between the World Wars, this novel tells of an aristocratic family, a house, a mysterious death, and a way of life that vanished forever. Told in flashbacks by the servant who witnessed it all and kept a secret for decades, THE HOUSE AT RIVERTON is the story of the last days of Edwardian aristocratic privilege shattered by war.
Set in interwar Britain, this gorgeous debut novel is the story of a decades-old suicide at an aristocratic manor home, relived through the eyes of the ninety-eight-year-old former housemaid. In a classic case of the servant knowing all, her memories of that long-ago night are the key to shocking secrets and heartbreaking truths.
The first in a historical fiction trilogy, this novel is set against the backdrop of a sprawling manor on the outskirts of London. It’s 1913, and three young women—two privileged sisters and the governess’s daughter who was raised alongside them—seek to fulfill their destinies and desires amid the unspoken rules of society and the distant rumblings of war.
A captivating historical fiction of nineteenth-century upstairs/downstairs New York City, this novel examines sexuality, race, and social class in ways that feel startlingly familiar and timely. The lush, romantically charged story is about a devoted maid whose secretive world is about to be ripped apart at the seams.
It’s 1912, and the Darlingtons are among the elite class of British society residing on one of its oldest estates. But under the wealth are secrets that must stay hidden. When scandalous satires start appearing in the newspaper with details that closely mirror the lives of the Darlingtons, the family is determined to find the culprit and keep their affairs under wraps.
In 1920s London, charismatic Arlette is starting her new life in a time of postwar change, and she’s drawn into a hedonistic world. Years later, in the wake of Arlette’s death, her granddaughter Betty is left with the secrets of Arlette’s past. A captivating look at London then and now, this novel is about two women separated by 70 years but united by big dreams.
After her grandmother Arlette’s death, Betty is finally ready to begin her life. She had forfeited university, parties, boyfriends, summer jobs—all the usual preoccupations of a woman her age—in order to care for Arlette in their dilapidated, albeit charming home on the English island of Guernsey. Her will included a beneficiary unknown to Betty and her family, a woman named Clara Pickle who presumably could be found at a London address. Now, having landed on a rather shabby street corner in ’90s Soho, Betty is determined to find the mysterious Clara. She’s ready for whatever life has to throw her way. Or so she thinks . . .
This true story of a life spent in service provides a fascinating “downstairs” portrait of the glittering worlds behind the closed doors of estates like Downton Abbey. Starting as a kitchen maid in the 1920s, Margaret Powell’s memoir is told with wit, warmth, and a sharp eye.
In this memoir that inspired the BBC hits Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs, one woman tells the story of her time spent in domestic service. With humor and a sharp eye for the prejudices of her situation, she gives readers a fascinating glimpse into the “downstairs” of a long-gone world.
Traveling abroad with her mother at the turn of the twentieth century to seek a titled husband, beautiful, vivacious Cora Cash—whose family mansion in Newport dwarfs the Vanderbilts’— suddenly finds herself Duchess of Wareham, married to the most eligible bachelor in England. But nothing is quite as it seems, and the English social scene is full of traps and betrayals.
THE IRISH GIRL is a powerful story of love, loyalty, and friendship is set against the magical, captivating landscape of early twentieth-century Ireland. It’s the story of two girls on the cusp of womanhood, and a nation on the brink of war.
This award-winning novel paints a compelling portrait of Stevens, the perfect butler, and his fading world in post–World War II England. At the end of three decades of service at Darlington Hall, Stevens embarks on a journey through the past in an effort to reassure himself that he served a “great gentleman” in Lord Darlington, but serious doubts are lurking in his memory.
As the freedom of the Jazz Age transforms New York City, the iridescent Mrs. Theresa Marshall of Fifth Avenue and Southampton has fallen in love with her young paramour, Captain Octavian Rofrano, a handsome aviator and hero of the Great War. Full of glamour and wit, this novel is set against the sweeping decadence of Gatsby’s New York.