I’m more than ready for the third season of Downton Abbey to begin Sunday night on PBS. I’ve watched the rerun of season 2 (that last scene of Matthew and Lady Mary gets me every time), looked at the preview clips online, tried to ignore the spoilers coming from across the pond and thumbed through the glossy pages of the Downton Abbey engagement calendar I gave my mother for Christmas. So far, though, I have resisted buying a “Free Bates” T-shirt and/or coffee mug, but I have signed a petition to get the guy out of prison.
Then there are the books, and not just the official companion volumes. Last year about this time I wrote ”Up with Downton: more reading,” and it was my most popular blog post of the year. I mentioned titles by Kate Morton, R.E. Delderfield, Elswyth Thane and Phillip Rock, among others, noting that Rock’s The Passing Bells trilogy was sadly out of print.
Not any more. HarperCollins is publishing Rock’s novels with the tagline, “Before there was Downton Abbey, there was Abingdon Pryory.” It’s the grand home of the Greville family, headed by the Earl of Stanmore, and World War I changes the lives of the household, upstairs and downstairs. My favorite characters are the servant girl Ivy and the Grevilles’ American cousin, Martin, who becomes a war correspondent. The story continues in Circles of Time and The Future Arrived.
Fay Weldon, the British novelist and screenwriter who penned the original Upstairs Downstairs pilot, begins a late-Victorian/Edwardian family saga this month with Habits of the House. It introduces the aristocratic but financially-strapped Earl of Dilberne, who decides to marry off his son Arthur to American meat-packing heiress Minnie O’Brien. The servants evidently have plenty to gossip about, as St. Martins’ Press will publish the second volume in the “Love and Inheritance” series, Long Live the King, in May.
I’m planning to read Weldon’s books because I enjoy her witty writing, although UK reviewers have dubbed this one lightweight dish. It can’t possibly be lighter than American writer T. J. Brown’s Summerset Abbey (Gallery Books, digital arc via NetGalley), the first in a trilogy charting the lives of English sisters Rowena and Victoria Buxton and the governess’s daughter Prudence Tate beginning in 1913. I’m halfway through this soap bubble, and I keep yawning. I’m thinking of abandoning it and watching the 1995 DVD of Edith Wharton’s The Buccaneers, which I reread last year. Really, Sunday can’t come soon enough.