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Reading guide for 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:
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Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. Margaret Powell was thirteen when she entered service. How old were you when you had your first job? What was your first employee/employer relationship like?
  2. Are thirteen-year-old girls today much different than those of Margaret's era? If so, how? If you had a daughter, would you let her go off and live in the house of an employer at that age? Why? Why not?
  3. What would your life be like if you were a servant in a grand house? How would your privacy be affected?
  4. What would your life be like if you had to live it under the gaze of servants who lived in the same house with you? Would it affect your privacy? Would you trust them?
  5. Would you rather be a servant or a master? Why? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each position?
  6. How is housework different now from how it was done when Margaret first entered service?
  7. There were not many kitchen conveniences when Margaret was feeding the upper classes. Much had to be done by hand and with simple kitchen tools. What kitchen appliances available today would Margaret have loved most?
  8. Do we have a class system in the United States? If so, how does it compare to the class system Margaret confronts throughout the book?
  9. What would it be like to work for people who expect you to erase yourself from their existence when they are in the room?
  10. Sexual harassment of the maids by the men of the house seems to have been a regular feature of master/servant relations during the era of the great English houses. Has that aspect of employer/employee vanished today or is it with us still?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of St. Martin's Griffin. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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