Downton Abbey: The Book

by evanmcmurry

Upcoming event at Strand Books:

Authors Carol Wallace and Gail MacColl wrote How to Marry an English Lord, the lively account of a 19th century American Heiress who marries into English Aristocracy. This premise caught the eye of writer Julian Fellowes, who took the idea and turned it into the immensely popular series, Downton Abbey. Julian Fellowes’ niece, Jessica Fellowes, has followed-up her best selling book The World of Downton Abbey with The Chronicles of Downton Abbey. In her new book, she takes us into the heart of the Crawley’s home and reveals all about your favorite character’s secrets and motivations.

The entire appeal of Downton Abbey was that it gave off a whiff of the English novel—a good third of its plots were stolen from George Eliot—while being on, you know, television. It felt literary, but because it wasn’t actually literature there were no standards of intellectual complexity or verisimilitude that had to be upheld, and everybody got to have a guilt-free good time while feeling vaguely as if they’d read Daniel Deronda or something.

But the moment Downton Abbey goes into book form, it just becomes Not George Eliot. It’s one thing to use the general aura of British literature to pass off your melodrama; it’s another to swipe the tropes of literature to replace literature itself.