Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Downton Withdrawal

Call me an obsessive sap if you will but I'm having some serious Downton Abbey withdrawal. I'm finding myself wandering aimlessly, searching for anything remotely relating to the over-dramatized historical soap of the Crawley Family.  If only I could wake up to breakfast in bed like Cora, change my attire five times a day like the ladies, make snarky remarks under my breath like Mary, and constantly complain about living the hum drum life of an aristocrat like Edith.  I want to secretly turn to Carson for advice on life, hang out in the kitchen with the adorable Mrs. Pattmore, and smack the smirks off Thomas's and Ms. O'Brien's faces.    Ahhh... now that would be the life!  I, like millions of others, have fallen into the Downton trap and I cannot escape nor do I want to.   

To help fill my Downton needs, I turned to The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes (niece to the show's creator, Julian Fellowes).  It took a bit of time to get my hands on a copy as almost all of them within my local library's network was on hold.  But alas, one became available and I ended up renewing it twice in order to have more time with the beloved characters.  

To the average reader (a Downton non-enthusiast) this companion book would appear as nothing more than pure eye candy.  Which it is, loaded with beautiful full page photographs of the series as well as illustrations depicting the trends of the times.  But it's actually quite more than just fan fodder.  Fellowes takes time to give adequate insight into the real people and events that the show and characters are based on.  While the book's purpose is to give fans a backstage pass to the creation and production of the series, it goes much deeper into the historical aspects that form the foundation of the show.  This is what I appreciated most about the book.  I find period pieces fascinating and enjoyed learning more about Britain during the turn of the twentieth century.

Apparently, Cora's character is based on the real-life Lady Almina Carnarvon, who married the Earl of Carnarvon and earned Highclere Castle as her own.  The scenes from the show in which the family opens its doors to the wounded soldiers of World War I is taken straight from the life of Lady Almina.  This will definitely be the next book I snatch up in hopes of staying connected to the beloved show.  I just LOVE this stuff!

I found it quite interesting to learn that the show is taped in two separate locations.  All of the high-class "upstairs" scenes are filmed at the real site of Highclere Castle while all the "downstairs" scenes with the servants are filmed at a studio in London.  This means that a scene in which Carson, the butler, exits the servants' hall holding a tray of wine would be filmed one day and the same scene in which he enters into the dining room upstairs to serve the wine could be filmed two weeks later.  Fascinating.  (Yes, I need to get a life.)

Overall, the back stories of the social, political, and economical history of the time period is what makes this book a satisfying read.  Without it, the book would feel flat and meaningless.  The truth and authenticity given to the show is what drives audiences to return for more.  I love the mesh of fictional drama and true historical events that make up the heart of Downton.  It feels smarter than the average soap opera because it is.  If nothing else, the proof that this show is worth every waiting moment between seasons lies in the fact that my husband is just as addicted as I am (he may kill me for selling him out here).  He doesn't watch t.v. or read books (yes, opposites attract) so when he took the interest in watching the show with me (whoa) and reading the book (gasp) I knew it must be special.

Before I close this post, allow me to pay homage to one of the BEST aspects of Downton Abbey: THE FASHION!!!   

Calling all fellow Downton lovers!  Have you read the companion book?  What do you adore most about the show? What can I watch/read in the meantime that will tide me over until Season 4?  Do share!