The upstairs/downstairs life we’ve seen on Downton Abbey and similar shows is always high drama. They’re soap operas with great clothes and better manners. The upstairs/downstairs life in Henry Green’s Loving is much more satirical. The servants are not polished and the family are always complaining about their first-world problems. This book is the perfect antidote for people who roll their eyes at the terrible seriousness of Downton Abbey.
Originally published in 1949, Loving centers on the newly promoted butler and the head maid. Over the course of the book, Charley Raunce pursues Edith while trying to fill the previous butler’s shoes. There’s also a war on—which everyone uses as an excuse when something goes wrong. So while the staff tries to reconcile the lady of the house to pink blotting paper (the only available color because of the war), they also have to deal with the family’s pet peacocks, the housekeeper’s moral vapors, and the cook’s terror of a nephew, who is visiting.
There’s not much plot to Loving, but it doesn’t need plot. Green treats us to a series of comic scenarios highlighting the foibles of the cast. My favorite moments are when Charley tries to use the old butler’s notes to blackmail guests into giving him higher tips, only to have them spectacularly backfire. This book is a quick, entertaining read, definitely one to chuckle at over a cup of tea.
I received a free copy of this book from Edelweiss for review consideration.