In 1928, Rosina Harrison arrived at the illustrious household of the Astor family to take up her new position as personal maid to the infamously temperamental Lady Nancy Astor, who sat in Parliament, entertained royalty, and traveled the world. "She's not a lady as you would understand a lady" was the butler's ominous warning. But what no one expected was that the iron-willed Lady Astor was about to meet her match in the no-nonsense, whip-smart girl from the country.
For 35 years, from the parties thrown for royalty and trips across the globe, to the air raids during World War II, Rose was by Lady Astor's side and behind the scenes, keeping everything running smoothly. In charge of everything from the clothes and furs to the baggage to the priceless diamond "sparklers", Rose was closer to Lady Astor than anyone else. In her decades of service she received one 5-pound raise, but she traveled the world in style and retired with a lifetime's worth of stories. Like Gosford Park and Downton Abbey, Rose is not only a captivating insight into the great wealth "upstairs" and the endless work "downstairs"; it is also the story of an unlikely decades-long friendship that grew between Her Ladyship and her spirited Yorkshire maid.
"Lady Astor's personal maid reveals her 'upstairs, downstairs' relationships with England's grandest family.... Fascinating and deliciously readable!" (The New York Times Book Review)
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I wanted to be facinated...
... I'm not sure what I expected, but this wasn't it. The book just missed the mark.
Winston Churchill was right about the poison...
Only Rosina's employer. I was very excited to give this a listen, despite what I've always heard about Lady Astor, and I was not disappointed by the narrative at all. Rosina is an honest, salt-of-the-Earth voice, and I found her charming throughout.
Even after all I'd heard, I was fully prepared to give Lady Astor the benefit of the doubt, no one could really be so bad. Wrong, she was worse. Between the chilly treatment of her children, the cat shooting, and the unending stream of verbal abuse, "I want to break your spirit, Rose," I have seldom heard of anyone more spiteful, petty, and mean spirited in my life. I think Rose, or any of the staff mentioned throughout, must have been the soul of patience to have dealt with the ill tempered witch for so long.
Probably when Lady Astor tried to kick Rose (no joke) and Rose made a grab for her ankle to tip her over. I thought it was an incredible pity that Rose missed, the image of Nancy Astor @$$ over teakettle in the floor would have been one to cherish.
If you can get past sweet Rose's sour-puss employer, the story as a whole, and the behind the scenes peeks at the life of a Lady's Maid in this era, are really fascinating.