Monday, May 6, 2013

Book Review: Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere CastleLady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by Fiona Carnarvon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As the title implies, this is the story of the real family who lived in Highclere Castle.  One can't help but make comparisons to Downton Abbey.  There are definitely some similarities, as well as strong differences. The rich family history makes for a fascinating tale. The historic and somewhat factual tone allows the reader to envision the "characters" as real people, if only at the cost of loosing that personal and emotional bond to the "story." 
A remarkable quantity of personal family research is included, including private family letters and photos, which make the overall story very real. In reading, one gets the sense that the author spent hours scouring through boxes of family archives.  Unfortunately, from an historians stance, the text is overflowing with subjective bias. The author clearly has strong connections to the subject and only wishes to cast them in the best light; given that the author is the current Countess, this should not surprise the reader. Overall, a great read for anyone enthralled by turn of the century English country house lifestyle, not so great for those wishing to read a more conventional history on the subject.

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