To celebrate the release of the Downton Abbey movie, Jennifer shares the top 7 reasons she loves Downton Abbey.
If you would prefer to read rather than listen, scroll down for a transcript of the episode.
Transcript for Episode 21: 7 Reasons I Love Downton Abbey
It’s September 16, 2019, as I record this, and as the Downton Abbey movie is scheduled to release later this week, I thought I’d share with you the seven reasons I love Downton Abbey. Downton Abbey is the epitome of a sparkling vintage life, and while it’s not everyone’s fine china cup of tea, it certainly is mine. However, if you’re not a fan, you may feel free to skip this episode as it will simply annoy you.
I only have one bit of writing news to share this week, and that’s that The Highlanders novella collection is now available for preorder on Amazon. I’ll put a link in the show notes. My own contribution, a novella called The Violinist, is set in 1915, which happens to fall in the time period of Downton Abbey. But that’s just a coincidence. I promise.
I was a great fan of Downton Abbey from the beginning. For those who might not be familiar with it, it was a British television drama that aired in from 200X to 201X on PBS. Created by Julian Fellowes, it followed a similar pattern as a much older series called “Upstairs, Downstairs,” chronicling the lives of wealthy British people living lives of luxury juxtaposed against the servants who toiled for them below stairs. I loved watching these ways of life that were so foreign to me, both the nobles’ lives and the servants’ lives. Like all the best TV, movies, and books, it gave me a chance to escape my own reality and dream a little, in this case for an hour a week.
In anticipation of the movie being released later this week, I’ve broken down my appreciation for Downton Abbey into seven reasons.
- First of all, it was set in my favorite time period, the early twentieth century. From the first episode set in 1912 through the 1920s, it was an era filled with drama. One of the things I love about history is not only learning the facts about historical events, but learning how these events touched the lives of individual people and families. For example, long-ago events World War II or the Korean War seem so much more real and vivid to us when we hear how they affected our fathers, uncles, or grandfathers who fought in the war, or how our grandmothers coped on the homefront with rationing and shortages and war-bond drives. Well, in the same way, Downton Abbey lets me see historical events through the lens of one household. They got the ball rolling with the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, which kicked off Season One’s storyline. We saw the impact World War I had on different characters in different walks of life. We watched the wild spirit of the 1920s roll in, and all along, the various technologies: electricity, the telephone, the radio, the phonograph. One of my favorite scenes was from Season One where the dowager countess, Lady Violet, declares she will never have electricity in her house because of the damaging rays. Well, some people actually felt that way, and some still do feel suspicious about every wave of new technology that comes along. So my number-one reason for loving Downton Abbey is the time period.
- The stories! Downton Abbey is great storytelling, pure and simple. There are mysteries. There are murders and suspicious and inconvenient deaths (poor Mr. Pamuk). There are jilted brides, sibling rivalries, conflicts and betrayals and treacheries of all sorts, punctuated by sweet and tender moments, sometimes from characters you’d least suspect of being capable of sweet and tender. And there’s romance and heartbreak and more romance and more heartbreak and more romance and even some happy endings. There’s good character development, with characters who grow and change over the course of the series. So my second reason for loving Downton Abbey is the storytelling.
- The costumes ! The costumes. The dresses. The hats. The sparkly headbands and slinky gloves and luxurious jewelry. I could watch the series with the sound off and just enjoy the costumes. Even the outfits I hated, I loved.
- Good values. In Downton Abbey, a person’s character wins out over their social status. In a world where rich people are often vilified like cartoon villains simply for being rich, and poor people are often considered virtuous just for being poor, Downton Abbey showed a world where rich people could be good and kind and generous, and the lower classes were not necessarily saintly just because they were poor. To be sure, some of the wealthy characters were disgusting human beings–hello, Larry Grey. And many of the below-stairs people were, of course, men and women of sterling character. But most of them were a mixed bag: clever Lady Mary and snobbish Lady Mary. Kind Lady Edith and revengeful Lady Edith. Treacherous Thomas and vulnerable Thomas. Most of the characters are multi-dimensional, which means they’re human, like every one of us. We can relate to them. And multi-dimensional characters also point back to good storytelling. I appreciated the fact that, at Downton Abbey overall, a person’s quality of character mattered more than their social status.
- Good manners mattered. Downton Abbey shows a type of civility that our world sorely needs today. To express anger with words, not fists or guns. To wash your face, get dressed, fulfill your commitments and keep your promises, even when the world around you is shifting. That’s what good manners are. When everyone knows what behavior is expected of them and what to expect from others, things tend to run more smoothly. Good manners aren’t all about using the proper fork at dinner, although that, too, has its place. At their core, good manners about treating other people with respect and kindness, no matter who they are. Carson the butler was often joke-worthy in his insistence on a proper way to do everything. And yet there’s something reassuring having clear ideas about right and wrong, proper and improper, good and bad. In today’s world where many people think everything’s relative and there are no absolutes, such ideas are comforting. So, reason number five is good manners.
- Downton Abbey is a multi-generational family saga, meaning there are storylines for characters of all ages, from the elderly dowager countess to the youngest child. (The dowager countess, played by the incomparable Maggie Smith, could constitute a reason all on her own.) I love a series that has interesting and even romantic storylines for older characters as well as those in the bloom of youth.
- Reason Number Seven: Top-notch production values. From the décor of the interiors to the English scenery, British accents, and great casting, and aforementioned fabulous costumes, Downton Abbey is a treat to watch.
So there you have it: seven reason I love Downton Abbey. I’ll check back later, after I’ve seen the movie, to share my impressions of it.
Today’s grace note is the 1928 Jewelry Company, and specifically their Downton Abbey Jewellery Collection. You’ve heard me mention the 1928 Jewelry Company before. They’re not a sponsor, and I’m not an affiliate, but I do like their jewelry.
According to the company’s website, the Downton Abbey Collection was inspired by the Edwardian and Art Deco jewelry worn during the time period of Downton Abbey. It was created in collaboration with 1928’s designers and the shows costume design team in England through an exclusive licensing agreement. From the earrings and necklaces, down to the bracelets and hair accessories, the Downton Abbey Jewellery Collection features authentic details and motifs from the late Victorian and early Edwardian eras.
As I write this in September 2019, they’re having a sale on their Downton Abbey collection. I don’t know how long the sale will last, but here’s a link to the company.
If you would be so kind to leave a review of this podcast at iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts, I would so appreciate it. It feels awkward sometimes to ask for a review, sort of like fishing for compliments, but truly, nothing raises the visibility of a podcast like a healthy number of good reviews. So in the interest of helping other like-minded vintage lovers find this podcast, I’m asking you to leave a review, if you please. Remember that you can find the show notes at sparklingvintagelife.com under episode 21. And while you’re there, you can sign up for my newsletter and be notified whenever a new episode is available.
And that’s it for today! I’ll be back soon to discuss another aspect of A Sparkling Vintage Life.
Hiya, Sparklers! If your hair has been turning silver waiting for me to release a new novel, here’s a gap-filler for you. I’ve written four short stories and collected them in a single volume called Songbird and Other Stories. Each story is set in the 1920s and features one of the characters from my novel series: Dot, Marjorie, or Helen. If you enjoyed You’re the Cream in My Coffee or Ain’t Misbehavin’, reading Songbird and Other Stories ought to feel cozy and comfortable, like a visit with old friends. And if you haven’t read those books (what are you waiting for?), Songbird and Other Stories is a great introduction to the storyworld of the Jazz Age. *
Now here’s the really good part: For a limited time, you can download Songbird and Other Stories for FREE at Bookfunnel (giving new meaning to the term “Free Bird”). All I ask is that you consider posting a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads if you like it. (If you don’t like it, maybe you can just let it go gentle into that good night, with apologies to Dylan Thomas.)
Currently Songbird is only available as an eBook, but we’re working on producing a print edition that will be available soon. I know many of you prefer to read “real” books printed on paper, so I’ll let you know just as soon as the print edition is available.
* (Also, unlike so many stories set in that era, these are clean and sweet, something moms, grandmas, and daughters can all share and enjoy.)
In June the Facebook group The Sparkling Vintage Ladies’ Reading Circle is reading and discussing The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery. Less well known than her Anne of Green Gables series, The Blue Castle is no less a delight. Set in fictional Deerwood, Ontario (modeled after Bala, Ontario) it’s one of the few books Montgomery set outside of Prince Edward Island, and also one of the few she wrote for adults.
If you’re a lady who enjoys fiction written and/or set in the early 20th century, The Sparkling Vintage Ladies’ Reading Circle may be exactly your cup of raspberry cordial! Do stop in for a visit.
Sparklers, I’ve been busy! Not only am I in the middle of editorial revisions to the as-yet-untitled sequel to You’re the Cream in My Coffee, but I’ve written a new Roaring Twenties Short Story. This time the story stars Helen Corrigan, Marjorie’s younger sister, who travels aboard the Northern Pacific to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, to visit an old school chum. Idaho is nothing like Helen expected–and neither is Maisie. This is a sweet, tender short story of a spirited girl teetering on the brink of womanhood. If you enjoyed You’re the Cream in My Coffee, you’ll love “Playing for Keeps“–and so will your daughter and granddaughter, your kid sister and niece, and any other young (and older!) ladies you know.
And here’s more good news! For a limited time, subscribers to the Sparkling Vintage Life newsletter can read “Playing for Keeps” for free! To sign up, simply enter your e-mail in the “Subscribe” box to the right.
I was very pleased to be interviewed by accomplished author (and fellow Idahoan) Peter Leavell, author of Gideon’s Call and West for the Black Hills, on behalf of American Christian Fiction Writers. He asked insightful, thoughtful questions about the 1920s, the writing process, and more. Check out the interview here.
You’re the Cream in My Coffee releases today! The very kindest thing you can do for the book–and for me–is to tell your friends about it. There’s a needle-in-a-haystack quality to new books these days, so help those people you know who might LIKE the story, to FIND the story.(Feel free to skip your uncle who proudly declares he hasn’t cracked open a book since the day he left school, or your third cousin who only reads vampire novels.)
Here are a couple of ways to score a free copy of the print edition:
*If you click “follow” on my Amazon author page today (9/15) , you will be entered into a random drawing for a free copy. (Look for the “follow” button under my photo on the author page. I’m telling you this because it took me a while to find it, lol.) This promotion is facilitated by Readers in the Know.
*If you comment on my blog or sign up for my e-newsletter through 9/17, you’ll be entered into a random drawing for a free copy AND a limited-edition mug.
There’s no reason not to throw your hat in the ring for both promotions.
Thank you. I couldn’t have done it without you. Seriously. You are the bee’s knees!
I had the pleasure of watching Lucky Star on TCM the other night. It was produced in 1929, one of the last silent films to come out of Twentieth Century Fox before the talkie era. It is a sweet, if fairly predictable, romance about two World War I vets–one a rich scallywag, the other honorable but minus the use of his legs–vying for the affections of a young farm girl played by Janet Gaynor. The girl’s widowed mother pushes her to marry Rich Scallywag and thereby lift the family out of poverty. But the girl’s heart, natch, belongs to Winsome in a Wheelchair.
Interestingly, this film was believed lost forever, but a pristine copy of it was unearthed in Amsterdam in the 1980s.
If you’re in the mood for a bit of silent spun-sugar, you can catch it on YouTube.
A sneak peek at a scene from You’re the Cream in My Coffee: