This weekend Season 5 of Downton Abbey will debut in the U.S. and for UK readers, the season has just ended with the annual Christmas special, so hopefully fans everywhere are ready to delve into some new Downton readalikes. Whether you read them throughout the season or save them for the long period between Season 5 and Season 6 (which has already been confirmed!), these books will help you to dive further into the time period and themes of Downton Abbey.
Emeralds and Ashes by Leila Rasheed – Debuting next week, this is the third book in the At Somerton trilogy, which follows those who live at Somerton as World War I breaks out. Lord Averly leaves to fight on the Western front, Rose remains in Egypt, and house staff begin to move out of service and into the military or new types of employment. This final installment promises to wrap up many open plot points and introduce a new era in British history. It is a perfect option for fans of Downton, particularly those who enjoyed the early seasons.
Sally Heathcote: Suffragette by Mary M. Talbot – Written by Mary M. Talbot, an academic who has written only one graphic novel prior to this one, this book follows a fictional young housemaid who is thrown into the suffragette movement in Britain in the early 1900’s. Filled with real historical figures and a fascinating view of a major period in English history, this is a compelling read that will interest those who are curious about what was happening in England during this period beyond the walls of Downton Abbey.
Atonement by Ian McEwan – This modern classic, which was turned into an acclaimed movie several years ago, is set a bit after the period of Downton, but it is also focused on the life of a family at a country estate. Though not specifically marketed as a young adult novel, the story focuses on Briony Tallis, who is 13 years old at the time of a horrible crime on the grounds of the estate. The story is driven by her actions after this event and will keep those who are not familiar with the story guessing.
Shirley by Kaoru Mori – Last year, I recommended Mori’s excellent Emma series for Downton fans, and for those who are looking for more of her books, this volume of some of her earlier stories will fit the bill! It follows Shirley, a young maid serving a woman who owns a cafe. The book is a light look at these characters and also offers a peek at the lives of some other servants during the same period.
In The Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters – In this 2014 William C. Morris YA Debut Award finalist, Cat Winters brings alive a unique time period in U.S. history when a brutal flu pandemic intersected with the ravages of World War I. The story follows Mary Shelley Black whose father is imprisoned forcing her to move to California to live with her aunt. Once there, she is thrown into a world of ghosts and spiritualism. This is a wonderful option for Downton fans who want a story of the U.S. during the same time period.
The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming – Last season we heard hints that Russian refugees might become important to the world that Downton inhabits and casting information for this season suggests that this plot line will continue. In preparation, you may want to read this finalist for YALSA’s 2015 Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, which offers background on the Romanov family. The Romanovs were the last royal family of Russia and this book will tell readers about not only their lives, but also the lives of the average Russian at this time and the conditions that led to the Russian Revolution.
Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth Century to Modern Times by Lucy Lethbridge – Tracing the role of those who work in service in grand British houses from the nineteenth century to the present, this is the book I plan to read during this season of Downton Abbey. It promises to give readers new insights and a greater understanding of the role that servants have played in maintaining grand estates that were far too large to be run by individuals working alone. The book includes details about the different roles played by each type of servant and the way that these positions changed over the period ranging from World War I to now.
A Year In The Life of Downton Abbey: Seasonal Celebrations, Traditions, and Recipes by Jessica Fellowes – In this new volume from Downton creator Julian Fellowes’ niece, Jessica Fellowes, readers will learn what happens at an estate like Downton in each month of the year. Learn more about the events the family would have attended, from parties to debutante balls to sporting events. The book includes tons of additional information about the series as well, with cast photos, information about costumes, hair and makeup for the series, recipes, and more.
Downton Abbey: Rules For Household Staff by Carson – This book, styled as an introduction to life as a servant at Downton and rules of the house from Carson to new servants, covers the details of rules of how each type of servant at Downton would do their job and interact with one another and members of the family. This is perfect for those who wish the show delved more into the inner workings of the household staff.
If none of these books strike your fancy, check out our previous Downton Abbey posts for some other options. Did we miss any of your favorites? Want to discuss the latest happenings at Downton? Let us know in the comments (but, please keep it spoiler free if you’ve already seen the whole season!).
– Carli Spina, currently reading A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall