Book Review: Below Stairs

History, especially social history is one of my favourite topics to read about, listen about and learn about. I found this book in a local charity shop and bought it as soon as I saw it.

Based in the 1920s in Hove and London, Below Stairs follows the life of Margaret Powell as she enters into domestic service and rises through the ranks to become cook.

Arriving at the great houses of 1920s London, fifteen-year-old Margaret’s life in service was about to begin… As a kitchen maid – the lowest of the low – she entered an entirely new world; one of stoves to be blacked, vegetables to be scrubbed, mistresses to be appeased, and even bootlaces to be ironed. Work started at 5.30am and went on until after dark. It was a far cry from her childhood on the beaches of Hove, where money and food were scarce, but warmth and laughter never were. Yet from the gentleman with a penchant for stroking the housemaids’ curlers, to raucous tea-dances with errand boys, to the heartbreaking story of Agnes the pregnant under-parlourmaid, fired for being seduced by her mistress’s nephew, Margaret’s tales of her time in service are told with wit, warmth, and a sharp eye for the prejudices of her situation.” [Source]

I thoroughly enjoying reading Below Stairs with the insight it provided into what life was like for those who entered domestic service and for those who they served.

Overall I would rate this book an 8/10. A fantastic read, however, I feel that the pace was rather slow and I would have appreciated some pictures throughout the book.

Have you read ‘Below Stairs’?

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