For the most part I managed to sidestep "Downton Abbey Fever," which has seemed widespread this past year.
I watched the first episode, and bits of subsequent episodes, but I could never really find the energy to dedicate subsequent Sunday nights to it.* (I prefer my Masterpiece Theatre viewing in one- and two-episode chunks, I find.) I also got a bit bored with it because its popularity has been a big and continuing story, and one that I linked to frequently whenever I blogged for the (aimed at librarians and readers' advisors) Reader's Advisor Online Blog.
But of course I couldn't help myself when I saw that a companion guide, The World of Downton Abbey, had been written by Jessica Fellowes. It truly is a companion guide, hewing closely to the storylines of the program and referring to the characters as though they were real people. It does include beautiful photographs, and the chapters cover the topics of family life, society, change, life in service, style, house and estate, romance, war, and behind the scenes.
Although I'd hoped to find more historical information and context, the little there was was quite interesting. Consider this tidbit:
"While bells are now seen as a symbol of servitude, at the time the bell-boards came in, around the 1820s, they were hailed as an absolute liberation. Up until that point, the footmen had to sit on hard wooden chairs within earshot of the family--usually in the hall. They would get a message...find the maid, and then go back to their chair." (p. 20.)
Of course I read the whole thing. It was like candy; I just couldn't stop. It also gave me more of an urge to watch the series, but I'll have to find a whole lot more time to devote to it than I have now.
*Plus I found the main heroine, Mary, to be the most obnoxious leading lady ever, and her romantic interest, played by Dan Stevens, doesn't do anything for me character- or looks-wise. As Mr. CR would say, he's no Mr. Darcy. (The joke on Mr. CR is that Mr. Wentworth and Mr. Tilney both beat out Darcy as my favorite Austen men. Don't tell him--he thinks his "Oh Mr. Darcy..." shtick is very clever.)