“It’s that time of year when the world falls in love” … with Downton Abbey all over again. The final season starts in less than one month on Masterpiece Classic PBS on January 3, 2016. My anticipation of another season of great drama, romance, and witty retorts runs high.
I am, of course, paraphrasing The Christmas Waltz; the famous 1954 holiday song written by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne for Frank Sinatra. There is nothing like listening to Christmas carols to make me sentimental. Coupled with the fact that this will be the sixth and final season of Downton Abbey, one of my favorite period dramas on television, and I am ready for a double shot of brandy in my eggnog.
Despite my melodramatic angst over the conclusion of the Crawley family and their servants’ story, fellow Downtonites can revisit the fabulous plots, locations, and characters by reading the final companion volume to the series, Downton Abbey – A Celebration, by Jessica Fellowes. This is her fourth large and lavish book spotlighting the phenomenally popular, award-winning television series. And, it truly lives up to its title—a jubilant fête worthy of her uncle Julian Fellowes’ vision of portraying the changes in the British aristocracy through the Crawley family and their servants from the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 to the Jazz Age of 1925.
The cover boasts “Companion to All Six Seasons” which could be a bane or boon to the reader depending on if they abhor spoilers or not. They are a middlin’ amount. Much less than you would find in a Google search on the subject or happen across on Twitter—and no information on the finale episode which will air in the UK on Christmas day and in the US in March 2106. Notwithstanding the distractions, we are cleverly guided through Downton Abbey – A Celebration by visiting the rooms of the abbey arranged by sections and chapters. Beginning upstairs through the Great Hall, drawing room, dining room, library, and family bedrooms to “Behind the Green Baize Curtain” downstairs to the Servants Hall, the kitchen and servants attic where they sleep. This physical approach of touring the rooms seems very fitting; each described and placed in a historical and social context while we revisit key scenes played out there with the characters. Who could forget the Dowager Countess Grantham asking “What is a weekend?” in the dining room during season one, Matthew Crawley proposing to Lady Mary on the steps of the entrance in season two or when Anna is arrested in the Servants Hall and taken to jail in season five? Each, a riveting moment in the drama that bonds us to the characters and the home in which they live.
Moving outside of the great manor house the book also encompasses the entire Downton estate including the grounds, farm, cottages, Dower House and the village to “Beyond the Boundaries” to London, Yorkshire and Scotland—covering many (if not all) locations visited by the Crawley family and their friends during the series. Filled with hundreds of full-color photographs, several cast interviews, pertinent quotes from the screenplay and an introduction by the Great Man himself, Julian Fellowes, readers will find the helpful episode guide an invaluable aid to refresh their memories on the who, what, when and where, and help them win at Downton Abbey Trivial Pursuit when it is created. And, you know it will be.
Ms. Fellowes’ writing is fluid and engaging. With so many facts to convey, nonfiction writing can be a challenge. You can feel her passion for the subject with the detail and energy that she brings to the text.
“On rare occasions, others have been lent the rooms for their own privacy, too. Fortunately, only Mrs. Hughes knows there’s a grating in the wall that means any conversation in here can be eavesdropped on – something that she found came in handy when Vera Bates arrived to threaten her husband. Mrs. Hughes offered the room for them to talk in – and through the grating she heard Vera tell Bates she will go to the papers with the story about the Turk* dying in Lady Mary’s bed, and that Anna will feature in the story as the woman who helped to move the corpse.” (128) in the section on Mrs. Hughes’s Sitting Room
*The Turk mentioned in this quote is Kemal Pamuk, a handsome Turkish diplomat who expired in Lady Mary Crawley’s bed, requiring Countess Grantham, Lady Mary and Anna the maid (Bates’ girlfriend) to carry the body in secrecy back to his room. Any true Downtonite knows that Mrs. Hughes would never permit anyone on the staff, or upstairs, to be Pamuked by anyone, so Vera is toast!
Filled with sumptuous images and photographs, Downton Abbey – A Celebration is a comprehensive, beautifully designed edition perfect for holiday gift-giving to history buffs, period drama and Downton Abbey fans. WARNING! Be sure to buy two copies, or you will never gift it away.
5 out of 5 Stars
Downton Abbey – A Celebration: The Official Companion to All Six Seasons, by Jessica Fellowes, forward by Julian Fellowes
St. Martin’s Press (2015)
Over-sized hardcover & eBook (320) pages
Disclosure of Material Connection: We received one review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. We only review or recommend products we have read or used and believe will be a good match for our readers. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Cover and images courtesy of St. Martin’s Press © 2015; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2015, Austenprose.com