The Cook’s Tale: Life Below Stairs As It Really Was
This nonfiction book will appeal to admirers of BBC series Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs. Beyond the atmosphere it offers the curious soap opera aficionado, the text provides a fascinating glimpse into one woman’s experiences in service to families of means during the early part of the 20th century. Tom Quinn, editor of Country Landowner magazine, having spent 20 years interviewing people who worked in domestic service, focuses on Nancy Jackman for this book, using her words to describe her rise from lowly skivvy as an innocent ploughman’s daughter to respected cook and, later in retirement, owner of her own home. Mrs. Jackman’s stories of the hardships she suffered along the way, peppered with idiosyncrasies of the gentry (“I don’t want the shame of dying without ever making [my own] tea.”) ring true. She doesn’t sound bitter and often seems sorry for those who employed her and were themselves so helpless.