If you like 'Downton Abbey,' try these books

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 17, 2012

By Sara Campbell
Rowan Public Library
The dresses, the drama, the affairs. No, I’m not talking about Hollywood, but rather PBS’ popular series “Downton Abbey.”
Set at the end of the Edwardian Age, it was a time when the British class system was very rigid. It also marked a time of rapid change. War was fast approaching and industrialization was changing the life they’d known. Attention and concern was shifting towards the poor and the status of women. It would be the last time corsets would be worn as a standard of everyday life, and women’s suffrage was gaining momentum.
Many authors and book titles that are still well-known were in their prime — Rudyard Kipling, Oscar Wilde, Frances Hodges Burnett’s “The Secret Garden,” J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan” and Beatrix Potter’s “Peter Rabbit,” just to name a few. Albert Einstein was working on his mathematical theories, and the 1908 Summer Olympics had just concluded in London. If you would like to read more about this time period, try some of these books available from Rowan Public Library.
“The Remains of the Day” is a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro which was also made into a film in 1993 starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. Ishiguro’s novel, told in diary form, relates the life of a butler, Stevens, and his time spent in service to Lord Darlington. Stevens obviously holds his dignity and honor above all, as becomes evident over his missed life of love with Miss Kenton and his unwavering loyalty to Lord Darlington. As with Downton Abbey, class is highly evident, along with Stevens’ resolve to hold oneself to impossibly high standards. Banter and Stevens’ lack of humor becomes a joke in itself. British to the core, “The Remains of the Day” and a good scone will not leave you wanting.
Daisy Goodwin’s “The American Heiress” tells the story from the young American wannabe heiress’ point of view. In 1893, Cora Cash’s mother is set on finding a title for her daughter. Cora knows all the ins and outs of American society but quickly finds that her spoiled attitudes are not appreciated in European society. Becoming a duchess seemed like a grand plan, but Cora quickly discovers that it’s not all fun and games. Can she fit in with her very proper mother-in-law who dotes on her son, a house full of servants who want nothing to do with her, and life in such a strange place?
In 1911, England was a blissful place if you were one of the lucky elite. George V had just been crowned and a common pastime was to throw lavish parties. One such party, The Shakespeare Ball, treated 600 members of the British upper class to a concert hall which had been transformed into an Elizabethan-Italian garden. A blue sky covered the roof, lower seat boxes became yew hedges (complete with birds), cypress trees lined the edges of the hall and the upper levels were designed to looked like marble terraces. The entertainers were mostly real-life descendents of Shakespeare himself. Most did not realize that in a few short years, they would be in the midst of a world war, because in 1911, England was enjoying “The Perfect Summer,” by Juliet Nicholson.
“Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey,” by the Countess of Carnarvon, takes you behind the scenes of Highclare Castle, the setting for Downton Abbey. Almina was the daughter of banking tycoon Alfred de Rothschild and married the Earl of Carnarvon at age 19, bringing with her a substantial dowry. She was able to pay off the Earl’s [0xa3]150,000 debt and still manage to have enough left over for them to live in style, hosting parties for 500 with a staff of 80. All this changed when World War I descended upon England and the house was turned into a hospital and convalescent home.
For all these Downton Abbey read-alikes and many more, look no further than Rowan Public Library. You can read a book and pretend you are a countess or an earl — if you can find someone to bring you tea.
Computer classes: Google. Monday, 7 p.m., South; Tuesday, 1 p.m., East (registration required by calling Paul at 704-216-7841); Thursday, 9:30 a.m., headquarters.
Classes are free. Sessions are about 90 minutes long. Class size is limited and on a first-come, first-serve basis. Dates and times at all locations are subject to change without notice.
Children’s Storytime: Weekly story time Feb. 6-April 30. For more information, call 704-216-8234.
Headquarters — Tuesday, 10:30, Toddler Time (18- to 35-month-olds); Wednesday, 11 a.m., Baby Time (6- to 23-month-olds); Thursday, 10:30 a.m., Preschool Time (3- to 5-year-olds), 4 p.m., Noodlehead (4- to 8-year-olds).
South — Monday, 4 p.m., Noodlehead; Tuesday, 10:30 a.m., Baby Time and 1:30 p.m., Preschool Time; Wednesday, 10:30 a.m., Toddler Time.
East — Monday, 10:30 a.m., Baby Time; Tuesday, 10:30 a.m., Toddler Time; Wednesday, 10:30 a.m., Preschool Time.
American Girl Club: Headquarters, Feb. 25, 11 a.m. A book discussion group about the life and times of the American Girls characters. This year’s discussion will focus on Addy and the Civil War.
Music and storytelling evening at South Branch — Feb. 27, 6:30 p.m., Rhythm Nights. Obakunle Akinlana will perform with storytelling and drums, and Robert Howle will play classical guitar, followed by open mic readings from the community. Everyone is welcome at these free programs.
Book Bites Club: South only, Feb. 28, 6:30 p.m., “Memory Keeper’s Daughter,” by Kim Edwards. Book discussion groups for both adults and children are held at South Rowan Regional Library and meet the last Tuesday of each month. The group is open to the public and free to join at any time. Discussion of the book, as well as light refreshments at each meeting. For more information please call 704-216-8229.
Teen program: All 5:30-7 p.m. Chocolate festival back by popular demand. Chocolate fountain, taste testing, painting and more. South, Tuesday; East, Feb. 27; headquarters, Feb. 28.
Displays: Headquarters — Christian log cabins by North Hills Christian School and student art by East Rowan High School; South, student art by Corriher Lipe Middle School; East, rubber stamping by Glenda Trexler.
Literacy: Call the Rowan County Literacy Council at 704-216-8266 for more information on teaching or receiving literacy tutoring for English speakers or for those for whom English is a second language.