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Posts Tagged ‘Jessica Fellowes’

A Year in the Life of Downton Abbey: Seasonal Celebrations, Traditions, and Recipes is the latest companion book to the television series. Author Jessica Fellowes is the niece of Downton Abbey creator and writer Julian Fellowes, who provided an introduction to the book. After the whirl of activity at home and work in the past few weeks, I found this lavish peek inside Downton Abbey to be a treat.

Fellowes divides the book by month, explaining what an aristocratic family in 1924 Britain would be doing throughout the year. She also provides an insider view of the studios where all the below-stairs and some of the other interior scenes are shot, and describes the props, costumes, and historical detail that go into every scene in Downton Abbey, as well as the people who bring it to life. For each section of the book, Fellowes also provides seasonal recipes inspired by the carefully researched food on the show.

It’s a bit of a hodge podge compared to Jessica Fellowe’s previous companion book, The World of Downton AbbeyThe seasonal layout provides structure but also leads naturally to some repetition, so that in more than one place you read about servants’ leisure time, women’s fashion, modes of transportation and travel, and the exploits of “Bright Young Things,” for example. Still, each section is full of photos and details about the writing, filming and production. Fellowes interviewed cast members and others whose knowledge and recollections shed light on the world of Downton Abbey, and researched period details, which is very interesting. If you enjoy the show, it’s a lovely preview of “series five.”

One warning — the book reveals a bit of what’s in store for viewers this season that while intriguing, might be off-putting to those with an aversion to spoilers. None of what I learned seems to be a major plot point, but some of it I’d rather have discovered as I watched.

Hello and thank you to all my new blog followers.What’s next on bookconscious? I’m excited about two novels in the to-read pile: Fram, by the very talented Steve Himmer, and a fictional account of Caroline Herschel’s life, Double the Stars, based on her letters and notes, by poet Kelley Swain. I hope you’ll keep reading with me.

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You’ve probably heard the northeast was hit by a blizzard on Friday and Saturday. Fortunately we were well supplied here, we never lost power, and I came home from work at the library Thursday night with six books. And I passed a few happy hours with one this afternoon — The World of Dowton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes –after finding out that even powdery snow is pretty freakin’ heavy when you are moving piles of it that are almost thigh deep.

If you’re a Downton fan, this is a delicious book. It’s an interesting, lavishly illustrated introduction to the historical, cultural, and social setting behind the show, as well as the fictional details that make Julian Fellowes’ story come to life on the screen. You’ll learn how Maggie Smith has her hair done as she prepares to play Dowager Countess Violet Grantham, where the “downstairs” scenes are filmed, and how the many period details are created in the costumes and on the set.

Besides being Julian Fellowes’ niece, Jessica Fellowes is a writer and editor and her short, informative essays in each section of the book tell readers everything from the difference between Prime Minister Asquith’s salary and the purchase price of a car in 1914, the percentages of single and married women working at the beginning of the 20th century in Britain, and how many birds were bagged in a three day shooting party at Sandringham in 1905. Also which of the American-heiresses Cora’s character is based on, what the lives of young women serving as WWI nurses were like, and what a typical kitchen maid’s day was like in a house like Downton.

All the details, interesting “behind the scenes” information about how the show is created, actors’ insights into their characters, and gorgeous photos made this a great escape on a snowy day. I definitely indulged my inner costume/set/prop designer. I learned that one lucky assistant art director, Lucy Spofforth, “is in charge of all the graphics — anything that is printed that appears on the programme, from a packet of biscuits to a letter or a painted sign.” Bloody stumps in the battlefield scenes are made from mushrooms, apples, and soft dried fruit stuck together with gelatine.

I’m looking forward to this week’s episode from season 3, but this book made me want to go back and watch the first two seasons of Downton Abbey as well.

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