Posts Tagged ‘downton abbey’

You Review: Park Lane by Frances Osborne

Friday, June 8th, 2012

Reviewed by Patty Friedrichs

All you ever need to know about the Edwardians, you can learn from Downton Abbey: women are second-class citizens, class distinctions are rigid and the Great War is just around the corner. The allure of Downton lies in its gloss and superficiality. Strip away the elaborate costumes and the lavish country house, and all that is left is a soap opera full of will-they-won’t-they love triangles, loyalty, betrayal and murder, with Maggie Smith in the role of Dot Cotton. Park Lane is set in the same era and tells similar stories, but is much more rewarding than Downton because Frances Osborne can actually write.

Bea and Grace live in the same house, but in two completely different worlds. You already know where this is going, don’t you? One is a wealthy railway heiress; the other a housemaid. They both long for change and the Great War provides them with plenty of adventure and causes their futures to intertwine in unexpected ways.

It is a shame that Osborne does not use her talent to write about something different. Everyone and their mother has written about the Edwardian period as seen from a woman’s point of view. It is such a fascinating time in British history that everyone seems to want to contribute their twopence worth. It is rare that something truly original is added to the mix. The best books about the Edwardian era (both fiction and non-fiction) are the ones that were written by people who actually lived through it.

Park Lane is meticulously researched, but that is not enough to create an authentic atmosphere. This is by no means to say that it is a bad book. It is just unoriginal. If you do not object to unoriginality, care for decent writing, and simply want to read a book that will tide you over until the third series of Downton, Park Lane is for you.

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You Review: Netherwood by Jane Sanderson

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Reviewed by Eefje Koppers

I love Downton Abbey, so when I read the description about Netherwood by Jane Sanderson, it sounded a bit like the fabulous TV-series. It even said so on the cover, so I couldn’t wait to get stuck in. However, comparing the book to the series is an injustice, because it is a masterpiece in its own right. It just happens to be set in roughly the same time period and also deals with the lives, loves and dramas of both the upper class and the working class. But where the TV-show is a visual explosion of great costumes, period details and great acting, the book is a slow starter. It begins with a tranquil and detailed description of the lives of the main characters and gradually gathers pace until you find yourself reading into the wee hours of the night because it is simply impossible to put down. Netherwood is so realistic that, at times, you feel yourself rubbing the coal grit from your eyes and can taste the sumptuous food that plays such a big part in the story.

The book revolves around Eve, content housewife of Arthur Williams, a gentle giant of a man who takes pride in his work in one of Lord Hoyland’s coalmines. This owner of Netherwood has problems of his own: an heir who refuses to take responsibility for his heritage and grumblings among the miners. When Arthur dies in a mining accident it sets in motion a series of events. Left to fend for herself and her children, Eve takes the rather daring step to start her own business selling her cooking to other mining families. Much to her surprise, the venture is a soaring success, even bringing her to the attention of not just the Hoyland-family but also the King of England. The future looks bright for Eve Williams, or does it? Set in a time of growing unrest and discontentment among the lower classes and having unwittingly made herself an enemy, there is much more in store for Eve and Netherwood. The book is the first in a series, so the story is by no means finished when you have turned the last page. But Jane Sanderson has produced that rare kind of serial book: one with enough of a cliff-hanger to keep you anxiously awaiting the next installment (Ravenscliffe, due out September 2012), but equally with enough of a finished story to leave you with a happy feeling at the end of it. My advice? Grab yourself a copy!

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