“If You’re Mad for ‘Downton,’ Publishers Have Reading List” — spying this headline on the front page of The New York Times, I knew I had to read on. The story is all about the boost that the PBS series “Downton Abbey” is giving books that transport readers back to Edwardian times and World War I. Or to be more accurate, publishers with books written about this era are rushing to ride the coattails of the popular TV series. Clever!
What a heartening idea to think that a TV series can propel people into bookstores in search of more stories and memoirs about a bygone era. Apparently, there’s a raft of titles out there to choose from. You can read Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by the Countess of Carnarvon if you want to be highbrow or dip downstairs via the recollections of a chatty lady’s maid as captured in Rose: My Life in Service to Lady Astor by Rosina Harrison.
Whatever your pleasure, publishers are loving the Downton Effect. The editor in chief of Penguin actually timed the release of several books in his line-up to coincide with the premiere of the second season of the show. Another small press reprinted a memoir called What the Butler Winked At. Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, Vermont (a wonderful place — I’ve been there!) took an enterprising tack and hosted a preview of the first episode of Season 2 and had on display a selection of “Downton” type titles.
At a time when publishers and booksellers are battling to stay afloat, it’s heartening to see that they’re coming up with creative ideas for bringing people and books together. One avid viewer of Downton Abbey in Houston drove to her local bookstore in search of something “Downton-esque” — love that word! — and bought a war novel and memoir by a kitchen maid because she wanted to learn more about the history of that period. great to think that TV is igniting a book craze. And here’s the real irony: along with the front-page headline on Downton mania, The Times also ran an article called, “Survey Finds Rising Strain Between Rich And the Poor.” Go figure!