Viewers who are watching the PBS drama Downton Abbey are apparently likely candidates for books dealing with the subjects of the series, according to a recent story in the New York Times. So publishers are working to provide them with titles that look at the upstairs/downstairs relationships in great houses and at World War I (which pretty much put an end to many of England's great houses). So I thought I would offer a few suggestions as I like those topics as well — and have a whole shelf of books devoted to WWI.
I'm currently reading Peter Englund's "The Beauty and The Sorrow: An Intimate History of the First Wold War," translated by Peter Graves. This book looks at the war through the eyes, words and actions of twenty people who were there. Men and women of all ages, from all branches of the services and a variety of countries on both sides of the conflict are represented. Though the book looks at the Western Front, much of the action takes place in different theaters of the war than we often see covered in such books; both Africa and the Eastern Front (including Russia before and after the Revolution) get a lot of ink. This is war on the ground, on the front lines and in soup kitchens and hospitals, in deserts and on mountaintops told in the words of the people who were following orders, rather than making them.
I read this fascinating tidbit in "The Beauty and the Sorrow" after watching the first episode of Downton Abby/Season Two; the scene where Mary gives Matthew her good luck stuffed toy animal. This is about Alfred Pollard, a British infantryman, age 21, on the Wesern Front in December, 1917:
"He is carrying a new mascot in his pocket — a small china doll with a lilac ribbon round its waist and an angelic expression painted on its face. It is a gift from the sister of Mary, the woman who turned down his marriage proposal so firmly. Pollard has christened the doll Billiken and he always carries it with him from now on."
"The Beauty and The Sorrow: An Intimate History of the First Wold War" is available from the South Central Library System in Wisconsin.