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Summary

The year was 1935: the twilight of the English aristocracy. It was a time of wealth and glamour; of lavish balls and evening gowns; of tiaras and a coronation. As personal maid to Lady Coventry, Hilda Newman had a unique insight into the leisured life of one of Britain's most noble families. In her fascinating memoir of life upstairs and down, Hilda takes us back to this period between the wars; a gilded era which would soon be dramatically changed by the Second World War.

Transplanted from a tiny house with no bath or hot water to an 18th-century Neo-Palladian mansion, Hilda's life changed beyond recognition. But in a time when the very foundations of British society were being shaken to their core, the luxurious life of the country nobility couldn't last. The Second World War brought more turbulence with it, and Croome Court, where Hilda had lived and worked, became a haven for the Dutch Royal Family fleeing Nazi occupation, whilst also home to a top-secret RAF base. The lavish banquets and decadent parties had become a thing of the past.

Hilda's story takes us back to a bygone era, showing us what life was really like in England's classic country manors of old - and uncovers the real lives of the people who occupied them, from wealthy lord to lowly servant.

©2019 Martyn Newman obo Hilda Newman (P)2019 Penguin Audio

What listeners say about Upstairs & Downstairs

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Mildly interesting

As an avid Downton abbey fan, I picked this up. Some interesting bits
Doesn't flow well, quite patronising at times.

2 people found this helpful

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Not what I expected

I almost gave up with this book after the first chapter or so, but persevered to the end. I had to overcome the rather scathing and narrow view of "the world today" and what I think is a naive memory of how things were (although, to be fair, the author probably didn't have the opportunity to form a different opinion). The content however, is interesting and the narrator reads it in a way that I think the author meant it to be read. On the whole, I am glad I listened to the end.

1 person found this helpful

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Free … with audible subscription

There’s a reason it’s free. Listened whilst I was painting a large wardrobe. If I could have turned it off I would … but my hands were covered in paint and then it was a case of I’ve started so I’ll finish as there is nothing more annoying than an unfinished book.

I found the story rather dull, the author rather patronising and the narrator irritating.

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Hilda definitely doesn't approve the current age!

interesting but the frequent moaning and comparing about the current age got on my nerves. Needs to think about the fact she would have been better off than the age before hers, as always, rather than how much easier off we all are now. but the bits where the current age isn't being slagged off are interesting.

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A great listen

A simple story - but such a great listen.

I recommend this audio book. And do well read.

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Interesting and engaging

It was an interesting and engaging look into the life of a young girl , who started work in one of the stately homes of England , at a time when they were Grand and formal places . I had imagined all girls starting would have done so at the bottom and was rather surprise that due to her talent she went in as a “ high ranking “ servant and had quite an easy ride during her time there . I’d just have liked to know a little more about her life after service, as I liked her and wanted to follow her progress .

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lovely story

I absolutely love hearing about years gone by of lives lived in service and how much it so very different from now a days carefree
thank you for letting me have this book throuhly enjoyed it xxx

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Very Boring

Couldn’t get into this book at all. There didn’t seem to be any story to it. Not recommended

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Monotonous long rambling tale.

Promised much than actually delivered. Very disappointing narrative that did not engage this listener at all.

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  • HF
  • 27-04-22

Really good listen

This was a lovely book to listen too. The memories it brought to me was a real tonic. I’m only in my 60’s but can remember gas lights, the mantels etc. My grandparents lived in South East London. Like the author it was rented accommodation with a private landlord. They lived in the house since the early 1920’s. It had no electricity, outside toilet, only heating was coal fire, cats whiskers for a radio etc. Therefore, I remember the gas lights, having a bath in tin tub, going to the toilet in the dark etc. Going back to the book it was well written, well narrated (1st book I’ve listened to this narrator). Overall a pleasant book to listen to & also recommend to friends. If you want an easy to listen book then you should try this.

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  • J.T.
  • 25-09-19

Wonderful listen!!

If you like English history this is your book as a first person account from the the last of the era.

4 people found this helpful

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  • MCS
  • 10-01-22

Loved this book

If you like Edwardian and similar books on like "upstairs" and "downstairs" this is an excellent book, providing first hand look at what it is like being a ladies maid to an aristocratic woman.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Georjaneknighthawk
  • 01-12-21

A wonderful personal history

I enjoyed every minute of this book. History always means more when told through a memoir. Hilda made me feel like I was there. I’m sad it’s over.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Csquared
  • 21-02-20

A wonderful listen.

This book is just wonderful. The author describes things so well, and has such a lovely spirit. I loved listening to her story, and especially on her reflections at the end. Great narrator too!

2 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-01-22

Charming in all aspects

Performance was well suited to the period in history as the character's story conveyed the events as if you were having a lovely conversation. Very enjoyable.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Roni
  • 25-12-21

Insight into life below stairs

Hilda's story of her life as a lady's maid tells of a chapter of time that has now closed. I really enjoyed reading about how servants got their positions and were treated by their employers. What did they eat, when did they date and when did they get medical attention if necessary? This book put me right there below stairs amongst the help to experience daily life.

The tone of the book was kind of cloying and syrupy but the story is so good that I let that go. This book was one I kept eagerly looking forward to reading.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Tia Noller
  • 10-12-21

Short and sweet but very personal story.

This story is told by a 100 year old woman who lived through both the 1st and 2nd World War And who served for a short time as a lady's maid to one of the aristocracy of the time period. While not quite as dramatic as Downton Abbey or the series upstairs downstairs, It does serve to prove prove some of the things we have seen are in fact true. This is a Very sweet little story and I enjoyed listening to it.

1 person found this helpful

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  • El
  • 19-06-22

With quiet charm

I enjoyed this book very much. It has some unobtrusive, quiet charm. I also liked the valves that governed narrator's life. I started listening because I'm a fan of Downton Abbey, but highly recommend it to everybody.
An excellent performance, too.

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  • Claire O. Gudewich
  • 10-06-22

Delightful

It's a sneak peek into a fascinating life from long ago. This is on my listen to again list for sure!

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  • J. MILLER
  • 16-04-22

Highly recommended!

It’s a very interesting and insightful story of a bygone age in Britain and it is wittily and honestly written. I enjoyed it a great deal.