Good evening, my dears.
I must admit at the outset that I've had a rather depressing week, with pain, nausea, and pills that may very well hurt more than they help. After days of this, I've decided to shout a big "PISS OFF!" to everything that could be depressing me right now, and write you all a review of a lovely book, instead. Shall we?
If you haven't watched any of Downton Abbey, or have no idea what Downton Abbey even is, may I first congratulate you on finding so remote a rock under which to live for the past two years. That aside, Downton Abbey is a "period piece" which is filmed, at least in part, on location at Highclere Castle, the seat of the Earls of Carnarvon for several generations now.
For those of you who may have some interest in Egyptology, yes, we are talking about THAT Carnarvon, the family that was to have such a crucial role in Howard Carter's discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in the early 20th century.
Written by the current Countess, this book chronicles the setbacks and ultimate triumphs of one of her predecessors, another woman who married into the title and all that came with it. (Such books are often ghost-written, of course, but I don't believe this one was; after all, the author is speaking--with great authority--about her own home in which she currently resides, and her acknowledgements make it very clear that she delved into the necessary archives herself.) Almina was the 5th countess and wife of the 5th earl, the man who poured so much of his own blood and sweat, not to mention a great deal of his money, into excavations of the Valley of the Kings, so that he and Howard Carter could enter the tomb together as partners when King Tut was finally found. Unfortunately, Carnarvon didn't live more than a few weeks after the dig began, but he did have his moment of triumph.
Still, the center of the story is Lady Almina and how she kept her husband's estate running smoothly through "wars and rumours of wars," and in all honesty, I found much of her story more compelling than the tapestry of fiction that has been woven around her house by the BBC. I have enjoyed very much watching Downton Abbey and am anxiously awaiting the next season, but I have to wonder if I wouldn't have enjoyed it even more if they had included less of the fanciful and more of the facts of Highclere Castle's life. I avidly read my way through this book, made quick work of it, really, and can recommend it to anyone who likes love stories, Egyptology, adventures, period pieces, Victorian or Edwardian history, or just wants a decent, simple, enjoyable read.