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A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson

A Countess Below StairsBorn into a life of privilege as a Russian noblewoman, Anna has never let her family’s wealth and status go to her humble head. When her family is forced to leave revolutionary Russia due to the dangers against the aristocracy, Anna refuses to be dependent on her dear and devoted English governess when they arrive in Britain. Instead, Anna hides her noble background and becomes a lowly servant at the Earl of Westerholmes’s financially struggling household. She has only an old housekeeping manual and determination to overcome her lack of domestic experience. It becomes even more difficult for Anna to keep her past a secret from prying eyes, especially after she meets Rupert, the handsome Earl of Westerholme with whom she feels a strong connection. But their mutual attraction is dangerous for the both of them because being together would be going against Rupert’s engagement and solution for his family’s economic woes, not to mention violating the social norms of propriety.

With historical accuracy and cultural infusion, A Countess Below Stairs is more than just a sweet love story. The historical events of the Bolshevik Revolution and World War I in combination with the stark differences between England and Russia provide a fantastic backdrop which Ibbotson uses greatly to her advantage. Ibbotson’s poetic skill with words is quite adept at weaving together events and characters at the most opportune times for maximum effect, and thought they may just be coincidences in the story, they are crafty and delightful ones. The characters are also well portrayed from Anna and Rupert to the littlest ones like Petya and even the dog Baskerville, although the various servants and their positions in various households are impossible to keep track of. The readers obtains a deep understand of the most important characters, their virtues and their weaknesses, which works well with the plot to provoke even greater emotion when necessary. I have to say that nearly everything in this novel is perfectly placed form seemingly random circumstances, the importance of Anna’s hair, and the unfortunate effect of eugenics; A Countess Below Stairs is the kind of book one realizes as great because everything fits so well together.

A Countess Below Stairs will be enjoyed by fans of all historical fiction, especially by those who also liked Sovay by Celia Rees, The Luxe by Anna Godbersen, and the A Great and Terrible Beauty trilogy by Libba Bray. I look forward to reading more of Ibbotson’s novels in the future.

Rating: 4.5

Review copy borrowed

6 munch(es) :

Emily said...

I didn't realize that was what this was about! I thought it was a princess book. Thanks so much! I will now definitely look into it.

Diane said...

Another one for my never ending list :)

Angiegirl said...

I did love this one. I blew through a stack of Eva Ibbotson in a week or so and enjoyed every one. The wedding scene in COUNTESS was awesome.

Teashop Girl said...

This looks really good. Thanks for the review.

KATE COOMBS said...

I read this one a few weeks ago--it's so sweet and fun, old-fashioned in a cool way. I find it amusing that Eva Ibbotsen is best known for her fantasy for middle grades. Still need to read the others, though. --Book Aunt

Anonymous said...

When I first read this book I couldn't help but fall in love with it. The characters and the settings were ones that you will always remember when looking at the cover. After finishing it I couldn't help but feel like the story shouldn't have ended. I kept asking myself questions like, what's going to happen to them know? I have recently acquired the other books and the rest were as good as this one. This is one book you can definatly read again and again and never get tired of the story line

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