I for one could not be more thrilled that the world has fallen in love with DOWNTON ABBEY but I have always had a special fondness for this time and place. Long before anyone heard of DOWNTON ABBEY there was UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS. Fay Weldon the author of HABITS OF THE HOUSE was also responsible for the pilot of that long running series so many years ago. As Weldon was the daughter of the housekeeper in an English townhouse she is returning to a setting she knows in and out.
This is a period piece that deals with the issues of class and the fall out of times that are changing. The year is 1899 and we are introduced to the Earl of Dilberne and his family which consists of: his wife Lady Isobel, their son Arthur and daughter Rosina. A poor investment causes the family fortune to turn drastically the wrong way as they owe money all over town. With things in dire straights both the Earl and his wife are searching for solutions to keep their place in society.
Lady Isobel sees Arthur as a possible solution if a suitable wife is found for him. But that is tricky given their sinking position and his spoiled and selfish ways. Their daughter Rosina is not a classic beauty and she has little interest in the usual path of women of that day. The Earl has some ideas for saving the family that involve gambling and government.
Things get more interesting when the loud and rich Mrs. O’Brien arrives from Chicago with her daughter Minnie. They are on a mission to find a titled Englishman for Minnie as she has past. Worlds collide from every angle and Weldon has definitely captured the particulars.
I listened to HABITS OF THE HOUSE and thought it was the perfect way to take in this book. Katherine Kellgren brought this time and its characters to life with her tone and inflection. It is my first time listening to Kellgren narrate an audiobook but I would not hesitate to listen to another.
HABITS OF THE HOUSE captures daily life and the developments that test it but it is happens slowly and deliberately without special effects. HABITS OF THE HOUSE has been compared to DOWNTON ABBEY but it does not seem to be fair to compare this to a TV production with characters that give it wonderful life. But if you like period pieces and the struggles of the aristocracy in the changing times you will so enjoy this first book in the trilogy. I cannot wait for the next installment.
Forever grateful to Macmillan Audio for putting a copy of THE HABITS OF THE HOUSE in my hands.