Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Back to books

I had my period of weird "I don't want to read anything," during which I re-read all the The Clan of the Cave Bear (Earth's Children)books except for The Mammoth Hunters. I think that book was lost to damage, although it's not like me to throw a book away without remembering. Fortunately, I think it is the weakest in the series and was not especially disturbed from my OCD to skip it. I ordered a replacement from Paperback Swap.

Since that mind-clearing, I dived back into the stack of unread books I had, with some side tracks in different media (comics) and a little enjoyment of a coffee-table book I discovered I had never actually read before. Imagine my surprise to find it actually enjoyable and interesting.

I loved a British reality show a few years ago called Manor House. They took a nice handful of modern Brits and threw them into a wonderful Edwardian mansion. The small family living upstairs and the huge, multi-layered staff downstairs. It is one of the inspirations for Peter Ackworth's Upper Floor concept. (And I saw the DVD collection on his shelves and immediately began to covet. Funny how I rarely think to even look for DVD sets of things I like.)

When in England, I found a gorgeous book relating to the show - Manor House: Life in an Edwardian Country House. The photo does not do justice to the cover at all. The interior photographs and stories of the participants are also wonderful to graze through. There are some jarring excursions into areas which I thought could have been easily left out or made more interesting if they actually referred to activities undertaken in the show - two pages about how to make a rag rug? Come on. But all in all, it was a great companion piece to the series.

And it looks like you can get it for the cost of shipping, too. Good deal!

Something I really liked about the series was that the participants were not there to compete for anything. There was no million dollar prize, there were no alliances, no strange contests to win immunity. They had volunteered to live this for the experience.

So - the servants were consensually in service to people they had not chosen. Their risk was only in the potential for a lousy time and perhaps exposure for being not up to the task. The book reflects much of what I recall from the show - some of the servants took pride in what they did, and threw themselves into their work with passion. Others were astonished at how many things they took for granted every day of their lives and horrified at how hard it really is to put other people first at all times, with little or no outlet for feelings or personal values. I would have liked to know more about the discussions below stairs, and found that the book touched on just enough to make me think I need to see the whole thing again.