Saturday, December 22, 2012

Below Stairs by Margaret Powell

What a delightful book even though the subject of being a kitchen maid in a wealthy household was far from delightful.  The author had a sense of humor that made the book fast paced, funny, and interesting.

This book was the memoir of a "real" kitchen maid.  It definitely was not a pleasant life, but the author kept the book light and factual. The household staff would work from sunup to sunset with no conveniences that we have today in the kitchen or for cleaning to a shine.  
The staff would have to fire up the coal stove early in the morning, cook and clean up nonstop all day and with no appreciation from their employer.  All food had to be made from scratch, but the food definitely was not healthy, though.   Households used a lot of butter, eggs, and cream and other fat-filled ingredients.

The author explained the drudgery and hardships of the maids and household staff in a wealthy household and how the majority of the staff were from poor families that couldn't  keep their own young children in their household because they had no money and not enough food to feed them.

It definitely was not a glamorous job, and there was even a class structure within the staff.  I wonder if it is still like that today among household staff.  I would guess yes.  The author also talked about how she never had a good self esteem because of how early she had to begin work and how she was treated for the majority of her life.

Despite the difficulty of this job and what it does to people's lives emotionally this is most definitely a book to read if you enjoy the lives of the English and any household that has a staff for their everyday living. 

I give this book a cleanly scrubbed and well cooked 5/5.  ENJOY!!

My son bought this book for me because he knows I enjoy learning about the lives of English household staff members.  This is ONE of my Christmas presents for him.....he wanted me to read this by the end of the year.  :)  I am glad I did.

Merry Christmas, Mark.  :) 


  1. I hope you enjoy the book if you read it.

  2. I'll look out for this. My grandmother worked in the kitchen of a big house when she was fourteen until she married and had lots of stories to tell - very tough life.

  3. This does sound fascinating. It's amazing that some people feel so entitled that they don't even appreciate all the work their staff does.

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  5. Thanks for stopping. It was an interesting book, but awful to hear how the staff was treated and how hard they had to work.

  6. Have you ever read "At Home" by Bill Bryson? I think you might enjoy it given the description of this book.

  7. No - I have not read AT HOME.

    THANKS for stopping and for the suggestion.

  8. I've had this on my list. I really want to read it. The servant's life fascinates me.

  9. I think you might like it. Check out my post about it. I do love Bill Bryson.

  10. An insider's look at how hard it was to work below stairs. Sounds like a fascinating book! I'm just getting into the Downton Abbey series so this caught my eye.