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Feeling down about the season finale of Downton Abbey? Has the lack of Maggie Smith’s witty one-liners left you feeling despondent come 8 p.m. Sunday evening? While I cannot rewrite the end of Season three (REALLY, Julian Fellowes?), I can suggest a possible replacement—a literary methadone to ease your withdrawal symptoms. Habits of the House by Fay Weldon may become your next Downton Abbey style addiction. The first of a trilogy, it follows the lives and loves of the inhabitants of Belgrave Square. Beginning slightly earlier than Downton, this turn-of-the century narrative follows the Earl of Dilberne, Lord Robert, whose aristocratic bloodline has not equated to financial savvy; his wife, Lady Isobel; their daughter Rosina (who is susceptible to supporting any cause that affronts her family); and their son, the rakish and rash Arthur. We also get to know those downstairs, particularly the smart and world-wise Grace.
The characters are delightful, and the tone is funny—including quips a la Maggie Smith—smart, and deliciously gossipy. Reading it feels like a guilty pleasure, but you need not feel guilty (“never apologize for your reading tastes”). Fay Weldon wrote the script for the pilot of the original Upstairs, Downstairs (Downton Abbey before Downton Abbey was cool), so it’s the real deal.
If you’re craving additional Downton Abbey watch or read-alikes, be sure to take advantage of the “List” feature in the Library’s catalog. Simply select “List” from the drop down menu next to the search box. Type Downton Abbey into the search, and you will find an abundance of suggested books and DVDs to feed your Edwardian soul. Better yet, create your own list and share it with fellow readers.