A Countess Below Stairs – Eva Ibbotson (1981)
The cover (I mean book) caught my eye the other day at work, and I have to admit, I had a hard time putting it down.
I adore this time period (set in post-World War I England, with flashbacks to Russia), so for me this is an easy sell.
After the death of her father during the overlapping time of World War I and the Russian Revolution Anna, her mother, her younger brother, and her trusted British governess flee from their beloved Russia.
Penniless Anna takes a temporary job at an English country manor to help support her family.
All Anna knows about housekeeping comes from an outdated handbook (all 7 pounds of it) and from her experience having grown up around servants.
The lack of experience does not stop her from easily winning over the stately butler, the formidable housekeeper, the dowager countess, the other serving staff, as well as the new masters snobbish dog.
The charming and attractive Earl of Westerholme, Rupert, the younger son, and Anna are drawn to each other immediately, however Anna remains aloof and Rupert remains engaged.
Rupert’s fiancee, Muriel Hardwicke, is the financial savior to the Mersham Estate’s financial troubles.
As much as I enjoyed this story (and I really did) Anna and her family are comically good.
Anna might as well be Nell Fenwick while Muriel might well be wearing a Snidely Whiplash moustache and twirl the ends every once in awhile.
That being said, it didn’t really diminish my enjoyment.
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Speak, 2007 383 pages ISBN: 9780142408650
Suggested Reading Level: Grade 9-10
Ibbotson, E. (2007). A countess below stairs. New York: Speak.
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