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Reading the World of Downton Abbey: Episode 6

Post by Lisa Schimmer
Posted February 10, 2013 in NoveList Plus, NoveList Select, Readers' Advisory News

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SPOILER ALERT: Stop reading now if you want to avoid spoilers.

 

Cheers Downton Abbey fans,

Welcome to episode 6. Be sure to check out my post on episode 5 if you missed it. We’ve a two-hour episode this week, so everyone at Downton is going to get some screen time. Since it’s the penultimate episode, a lot of story arcs are coming to a head. 

O’Brien finally convinces Thomas of Jimmy’s receptiveness to his affections. Jimmy doesn’t take well to being made out with while he’s sleeping and, with encouragement/subtle manipulation from O’Brien, demands that Carson dismiss Thomas without a reference (which is The Worst Thing That Could Ever Happen if you’re in service). Thomas is too bereft to take up arms against his frenemy O’Brien, but is rescued by his arch-nemesis, the recently restored Bates. The humbled Thomas is even given a promotion, but most important to Lord Grantham, Thomas will be around to be the ringer on the house cricket team in the yearly match against the village. 

Meanwhile, upstairs…

Lady Violet is visited by her great-niece, the young Rose. Unbeknownst to the Dowager Countess, Rose is actually in exile because she’s been busted by her mother (and later Rosamund, Edith and Matthew) cavorting about London town with a married man (not to mention the jazz clubs). Scandalous! This is the viewing audience’s introduction to the Bright Young Things of the period – the unaffected youth who just want to have a good time, damn the torpedoes.

Edith’s attraction to her editor is tempered when she finds out he’s married.

Matthew and Mary cross paths at the doctor’s office and then have an awkward conversation about their fertility issues. 

Branson/Tom agrees to stay on at Downton as the estate manager. He even sucks up his Irish pride and takes his place on the house cricket team. 

Lord Grantham and Matthew finally agree (or agree to disagree?) on Downton’s future. 

Downton Abbey Read alikesAnd now for the books…  Evelyn Waugh double-feature!

Brideshead revisited by Evelyn Waugh
This particular title could seemingly have been introduced at any point in the season, but I saved it for this episode. If you haven’t read it or seen the two fabulous screen adaptations, you’re missing out. Waugh isn’t trying to be funny here -- he’s simply depicting a world where affairs of the heart are suffocated by social institutions (marriage, religion). And of course there is a posh English family involved. 

Vile bodies by Evelyn Waugh
Waugh is trying to be funny here. A group of friends (mostly rich, young aristocrats like Lady Rose) who grew up in the post WWI period and have been inured to the absurdities and indignities of modern life further avoid reality by essentially drinking and doing dumb things. Although in America we call this phase “college,” it was novel concept at the time this book was written (1930) and introduced a lot of things that society was still too polite to acknowledge, let alone talk about.

The eye in the door by Pat Barker
The second novel in the author’s Regeneration trilogy addresses the public perception of homosexuality and its corresponding moral assumptions in early 20th century Britain.

England, their England by A.G. Macdonell
Bordering on the farcical, this classic gives an outsider’s account of the English way of life in the 1920s, primarily everything that is ridiculous about it. Also cricket’s finest hour in fiction.

The jewel box by Anna Davis
A little historical chick lit to lighten the mood… Modern (1920s) woman leads a double life in London and gets caught in a love triangle. Keep your fingers crossed that Edith gets an embarrassment-of-riches storyline! (Although I do find her editor extremely adorable, despite his unfortunate marital status).

-- Lisa


Lisa S. is an avid reader and a less dedicated television viewer.  She ardently loves and admires everything British, except for tea.  When she’s not cataloging for NoveList, she’s most likely reading something she came across while… cataloging for NoveList.