Did you catch the season premiere of Downton Abbey last Sunday night on Masterpiece Classic PBS? It was a great kick-off to a promising third season of this incredibly popular period drama. Written by Academy Award winning screenwriter Julian Fellowes, it has truly embraced the sensibilities of viewers world-wide with its splendid English grand manor house setting, cast of endearing and contemptible characters, cultural insights, drama, and romance. I can think of no other period drama, excepting the A&E/BBC Pride and Prejudice in 1995, that has had such an impact on the viewing public. As Andrew Davies adaptation of P&P turned a new generation of Jane Austen fans into Janeites, so has Julian Fellowes created Downtonites.
In 2011 we were treated to the sumptuously appointed, full-color coffee table book The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes, the niece of the series creator. Given carte blanche by her uncle, Fellowes gave us the inside story of the award-winning series with tons of film stills and vintage images. To bring us into that in-between the wars era, she has written a new volume with Matthew Sturgis entitled The Chronicles of Downton Abbey. It is the perfect companion to the first volume and will be indispensable to Downtonites.
This new edition has been published again by St. Martins Press and is just as impressive in size and quality as the first. Julian Fellowes offers a prologue; there are quotes by the characters; reams of text; a bibliography for further reading; and oodles of images. Interestingly, the chapters are broken down by characters – and in an irony befitting Jane Austen herself, the upstairs and the downstairs inhabitants of this stately manor have not been segregated to their class, but integrated throughout the book! Egalitarianism one assumes. This is very forward thinking. Were characters Tom Branson or Martha Levinson the editors? It would appear so. Placing the upstairs aristocrats of Downton next to the serving class is a very republican notion indeed! No…Violet, the Dowager Countess of Grantham would not approve of this breach of decorum, but I do. Traditions die hard at Downton, but obviously not at St. Martins Press!
Regardless of my first impression of the layout, the book is stunning. I will spend hours poring over it. You will too. Here is a brief description from that bastion of social revolution, St. Martins Press:
“Americans can’t get enough of ‘Downton Abbey,” said The Boston Globe. As Season 3 of the award-winning TV series opens, it is 1920 and Downton Abbey is waking up to a world changed forever by World War I. New characters arrive and new intrigues thrive as the old social order is challenged by new expectations.
In this new era, different family members abound (including Cora’s American mother, played by Shirley MacLaine) and changed dynamics need to be resolved: Which branch of the family tree will Lord Grantham’s first grandchild belong to? What will become of the servants, both old and new?
The Chronicles of Downton Abbey, carefully pieced together at the heart and hearth of the ancestral home of the Crawleys, takes us deeper into the story of every important member of the Downton estate. This lavish, entirely new book focuses on each character individually, examining their motivations, their actions, and the inspirations behind them. An evocative combination of story, history, and behind-the-scenes drama, it will bring fans even closer to the secret, beating heart of the house.
Jessica Fellowes is the New York Times and Globe and Mail bestselling author of The World of Downton Abbey. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Country Life, she has also been a columnist for the London Paper. Jessica also writes for the Daily Telegraph, Telegraph Weekend, The Lady and Sunday Times Style, and lives with her family in London.
Matthew Sturgis is a writer and critic who has written for Harpers & Queen, The Sunday Telegraph, and The Independent on Sunday. He is the author of Passionate Attitudes: the English Decadence of the 1890s and the highly-praised Aubrey Beardsley. He lives in London.
Julian Fellowes is the creator, writer, and executor producer of Downton Abbey, which won six Emmy Awards and the Golden Globe for best mini-series. Previously, he won the Academy Award for best original screenplay for Gosford Park, and wrote the bestselling novels Snobs and Past Imperfect. A member of the House of Lords, he lives with his wife and son in London and Dorset, England
A GRAND GIVEAWAY
Enter a chance to win one of three copies available of The Chronicles of Downton Abbey: A New Era by leaving a comment revealing your favorite
republican character of the series and why, by 11:59 PT, Wednesday, January, 16, 2013. Winners to be announced on Thursday, January 17, 2013. Shipment to US addresses. Good luck to all.
The Chronicles of Downton Abbey: A New Era, by Jessica Fellowes & Matthew Sturgis, forward by Julian Fellowes
St. Martin Press (2012)
Hardcover (320) pages
Cover images courtesy of St. Martins Press © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE