From the award-winning novelist and writer of Upstairs, Downstairs, the launch of a brilliant new trilogy about what life was really like for masters and servants before the world of Downton Abbey.
As the Season of 1899 comes to an end, the world is poised on the brink of profound, irrevocable change. The Earl of Dilberne is facing serious financial concerns. The ripple effects spread to everyone in the household: Lord Robert, who has gambled unwisely on the stock market and seeks a place in the Cabinet; his unmarried children, Arthur, who keeps a courtesan, and Rosina, who keeps a parrot in her bedroom; Lord Robert’s wife, Isobel, who orders the affairs of the household in Belgrave Square; and Grace, the lady’s maid who orders the life of her mistress.
Lord Robert can see no financial relief to an already mortgaged estate, and, though the Season is over, his thoughts turn to securing a suitable wife (and dowry) for his son. The arrival on the London scene of Minnie, a beautiful Chicago heiress with a reputation to mend, seems the answer to all their prayers.
As the writer of the pilot episode of the original Upstairs, Downstairs - Fay Weldon brings a deserved reputation for magnificent storytelling. With wit and sympathy - and no small measure of mischief - Habits of the House plots the interplay of restraint and desire, manners and morals, reason and instinct.
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skip this and go to the primary sources
- Sarah A. Peyronnin
Unlistenable--from a reader who loves this genre
Early on in this novel, one character beseeches another to stop yelling. I felt the same way. In fact, stop narrating this book altogether!
I am an avid reader, who enjoys everything from Henry James to EM Forster to Ha Jin and Ruth Ozeki, from Jonathan Tropper to Rhys Bowen and Jacqueline Winspeare's Masie Dobbs series. I also enjoy great history books such as Adam Hochschild's brilliant "To End All Wars" and Lynne Olsen's captivating "Citizens of London." In other words, I'll read almost anything.
Except this book. I regret I'll not be able to get through it, due solely to the strident narration. I liked the story and found these characters to be well-imagined and sadly laughable. I would like to know how it all works out.
But I simply cannot get past Katherine Kellgren's voice, which is best characterized as barking. Constantly. It softens only occasionally. It is so harsh, so breakneck, so forced into its wryness, it literally set my teeth on edge.
In scrolling through other reviews, I was frankly relieved to see other readers had similar reactions. I don't like to criticize narration. But I must. It is solely due to the narrator that I will not finish this book.
Weldon has done a nice job of showcasing the end of an era, with characters who are so blind to the changes coming their way. I am assuming this trend continues throughout the book. But I'll never know, because I won't be able to get through it due to the narrator's grating, shouting interpretation.
Oh. So many options there. Almost anyone would have been better. In fact, maybe this is somewhat the fault of the director of this production, who could have encouraged Ms. Kellgren to tone it down a notch. In voicing Isabelle, Ms. Kellgren clearly has a nice tone and is a seasoned reader. But between Isabelle's few moments, there was the horrible barking of Rosina, the lower barking of Robert, the annoying barking of the heir to the earldom.
Sadly, it all just went wrong here. At least for me.
Cannot answer this as I must confess to not being able to get through it.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The same is true when it comes to hearing.
Clearly, as evidenced by some enthusiastic reviews, Katherine Kellgren has her fans. She lost me on this one.
- Annie M. "Say something about yourself!"