Yes, I admit it: I am obsessed with the U.K. costume drama, Downton Abbey. In my quest to fill the time until season 3 regales me with the exploits of the Dowager Countess, Mrs. O’Brien, and the sympathetic Mr. Bates, I sought out summer reading
opportunities to fill the Downton void. Several novels caught my attention, but most notable Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by The Countess of Carnarvon. A work of nonfiction, it reads more like a gripping tale, filled with intrigue, eccentric characters, and even an account of the quest for King Tut’s tomb, undertaken and accomplished by the Earl of Highclere, Lord Carnarvon. Just like its alter ego, Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle served as a hospital during the First World War. The day-to-day struggles of nursing the wounded to health help the reader feel the pain and disappointment of that bleak time in British history. More than dates and obscure names, we feel as if we are in those splendid rooms, seeing the sorrow and triumphs of the time that broke down society’s divides. What better way to understand this all-important era than to see it through the eyes of those who called the real Downton Abbey home.
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