Monday, January 27, 2014

Lady Catherine, The Earl, And The Real Downton Abbey

Catherine Wendell was an American from New England. Her family was very wealthy until her father lost most of their money investing in one railroad company that went under. After her father's death, her mother moved the family to England where her sister lived. Catherine married Lord Porchester, son of Almina and the fifth Earl of Carnarvon. In 1922 she became Lady Carnarvon after the fifth earl's death. Her marriage to the sixth Earl of Carnarvon ended in divorce in 1936. She remarried in 1938, and her second husband died in World War II.

I won a copy of this book from the LibraryThing Early Reviewer's Program*. I was excited to read this because I enjoyed the first book Lady Almina And The Real Downton Abbey, and I am also a fan of the show Downton Abbey. The main part of this book starts when the fifth earl dies in Egypt. It goes on to tell about the family's life, and major family events. A large focus of the book is what the family did during World War II. There are a lot of facts about World War II included, and sometimes the facts take over Catherine's story. Using letters, diaries, scrapbooks, and other resources the author draws us into Catherine's life.

Fans will notice some parts that were used in the Downton Abbey story, a show that is loosely based off this family's experiences. I find it fascinating to see where some of the ideas for the show come from. There are death taxes that have to be paid that threaten the family with the loss of Highclere castle. One of the family's servants goes off to war, and has a hasty wedding while on leave. The loss of money due to bad investments in one railroad company. We also see how the culture changes in the 1920's and 1930's effect the castle and the inhabitants.

I liked reading the parts about Catherine's story. I did think the book got weighed down in all the facts about World War II. While some background was useful, there was more about the war than was necessary. I liked the end where the author discusses how important each individual has been to the survival of Highclere castle. From Almina selling family treasures to clauses in Catherine's divorce, and the author writing about their stories we come to understand how the survival of Highclere castle is the work of generations.

If you enjoyed the first book, and if you are a fan of Downton Abbey I recommend reading this book.

LibraryThing does not require a review of the books won in their program. If a winner is inclined to review a book, a positive or negative review is not stipulated, only an honest review. Winning this book does not change my review. It merely provides me with the chance to read the book sooner than I would have been able to, or to read a book I might not have gotten to as quickly.

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