Summary and book reviews of Habits of the House by Fay Weldon

Habits of the House

By Fay Weldon

Habits of the House
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: Jan 2013,
    320 pages.
    Paperback: Oct 2013,
    320 pages.

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Book Summary

As the Season of 1899 comes to an end, the world is poised on the brink of profound, irrevocable change. The Earl of Dilberne is facing serious financial concerns. The ripple effects spread to everyone in the household: Lord Robert, who has gambled unwisely on the stock market and seeks a place in the Cabinet; his unmarried children, Arthur, who keeps a courtesan, and Rosina, who keeps a parrot in her bedroom; Lord Robert's wife Isobel, who orders the affairs of the household in Belgrave Square; and Grace, the lady's maid who orders the life of her mistress.

Lord Robert can see no financial relief to an already mortgaged estate, and, though the Season is over, his thoughts turn to securing a suitable wife (and dowry) for his son. The arrival on the London scene of Minnie, a beautiful Chicago heiress with a reputation to mend, seems the answer to all their prayers.

As the writer of the pilot episode of the original Upstairs, Downstairs - Fay Weldon brings a deserved reputation for magnificent storytelling. With wit and sympathy - and no small measure of mischief - Habits of the House plots the interplay of restraint and desire, manners and morals, reason and instinct.

The House Awakes

6.58 a.m. Tuesday, 24th October 1899

IN LATE OCTOBER of the year 1899 a tall, thin, nervy young man ran up the broad stone steps that led to No. 17 Belgrave Square. He seemed agitated. He was without hat or cane, breathless, unattended by staff of any kind, wore office dress – other than that his waistcoat was bright yellow above smart striped stove-pipe trousers – and his moustache had lost its curl in the damp air of the early morning. He seemed both too well-dressed for the tradesman's entrance at the back of the house, yet not quite fit to mount the front steps, leave alone at a run, and especially at such an early hour.

The grand front doors of Belgrave Square belonged to ministers of the Crown, ambassadors of foreign countries, and a sprinkling of titled families. By seven in the morning the back doors would be busy enough with deliveries and the coming and going of kitchen and stable staff, but few approached the great front doors before ten, let ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
The Washington Post

Good fun from start to finish, thanks to breezy storytelling and witty social observations.

Publishers Weekly

[The] whole book feels expository because it lacks high-stakes drama. However, it succeeds as an opening to a new series and should entice enough to make it worth checking out the subsequent installments.

Booklist

Always a ripe target for mockery and disdain, the British aristocracy comes in for a thorough drubbing in Weldon's snarky send-up.

Library Journal

[Weldon] travels well-worn territory here, but she does so effortlessly and adroitly. Fans of Downton Abbey and similar sagas will enjoy exploring the twists and turns of life in the extended Dilberne household.

Kirkus Reviews

Prolific Weldon borrows heavily from both Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs in her first in a series of three novels about Edwardian Britain, all to come out within the next year...If this all sounds more than a little familiar, it is.

The Scotsman

I predict a happy success for the trilogy, in print and on the screen. Julian Fellowes must look to his laurels, and Downton Abbey may find itself running second to 17 Belgrave Square.

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