Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Below Stairs : The Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir That Inspired Upstairs, Downstairs And Downton Abbey
by Margaret Powell

There are so many requests for this book at different public libraries that I wish I could alert these people not to bother. I got to page 180 and called it quits. By rights, I probably should have finished the bloody thing with 32 pages left, but I could no longer stand it.
For those of you who are hooked on "Downton Abbey," just stick with the show. I'm sure there's more depth than there than you get with this tale.
Margaret Powell came from poverty and at fifteen went into service as a kitchen maid. The work was extremely hard (up at 5:30 A.M. and finished well after dark) and it was totally different from what she was used to. She would scrub vegetables, the front steps, polish shoes, iron bootlaces, on and on. The homes were magnificent but not so the owners. The help worked their butts off for measly pay and certainly were not appreciated.
The most interesting thing that I can say about the book is reading about the difference in the classes. (This all took place during the 1920s.) Unfortunately, the writing is not the best (there are numerous errors) and all of the jobs became tedious and repetitious to read about. It just fell flat for me.
Not recommended.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Good Living Street : Portrait Of A Patron Family, Vienna 1900
by Tim Bonyhady

Hermine and Moriz Gallia were a prominent Viennese family and great patrons of the arts during the early part of the twentieth-century. They amassed a huge collection of paintings, furniture, silver, glass, etc. In order to avoid anti-Semitism, they all converted to Catholicism. When Kristallnacht reared its ugly head, they were able to pack up all of the contents of their apartment and flee to Australia. It was probably the best private collection that was able to be saved: a Steinway piano, diaries, chandeliers, furs, books, you name it.
Amazingly, I read this entire book thinking that it would be placed on the book-a-holics blog. By the time I finished the damn thing, I knew that wasn't going to happen. The author is the great-grandson of Hermine and Moriz Gallia. On the back flap of the book, it says that he is an award-winning art historian, curator, and environmental lawyer. Believe it or not, he has written five other books each of which must be as equally boring as this one is. Between the listings of every painting, types of furniture, names galore, every incessant detail of anything and the plodding, dull, deadening prose, why would anyone want to read this awful mess?
Not recommended.