BookBrowse Reviews Below Stairs by Margaret Powell

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Below Stairs

The Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir That Inspired Upstairs, Downstairs and Downton Abbey

by Margaret Powell

Below Stairs
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2012, 224 pages
    Paperback:
    Dec 2012, 224 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Amy Reading

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A kitchen-maid's memoir of life in the great houses of 20th century England

Oh sure, the life of a kitchen-maid was all about drudgery and humiliation, but Margaret Powell lets you know right away that there is more to her character than beaten-down servitude. On page three of her riveting, fresh-voiced, fast-paced memoir, she tells us that when she was little, her parents sent her and her siblings to Sunday school not because they were devout but because they needed the privacy for lovemaking - such was life in a large, working class family living together in just a few rooms. Twenty pages later, Powell describes one of her very first jobs. When she was thirteen, she was hired by an aristocratic old woman to push her around town in a bathchair every day. But the woman was so imperious and complained so much, that one day when Powell was steering her along the seafront, she just walked away, leaving her there. "I never did know what happened to her or how she ...

After the original (and very successful) publication of Below Stairs in 1968, Margaret Powell became a bit of a celebrity; in this delightfully retro ad from 1971, she encourages consumers to purchase an economical-yet-ever-indulgent food: a British Chicken.

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