Servants by Lucy Lethbridge

76%

5 Critic Reviews

Employing numerous real-house and literary examples, Lethbridge lends poignancy to the master-servant dynamic.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

“A ridiculously diverting glimpse of downstairs life in Edwardian England. . . . Most gratifying.”—Laura Miller, Salon


From the immense staff running a lavish Edwardian estate and the lonely maid-of-all-work cooking in a cramped middle-class house to the poor child doing chores in a slightly less poor household, servants were essential to the British way of life. They were hired not only for their skills but also to demonstrate the social standing of their employers—even as they were required to tread softly and blend into the background. More than simply the laboring class serving the upper crust—as popular culture would have us believe—they were a diverse group that shaped and witnessed major changes in the modern home, family, and social order.

Spanning over a hundred years, Lucy Lethbridge?in this "best type of history" (Literary Review)?brings to life through letters and diaries the voices of countless men and women who have been largely ignored by the historical record. She also interviews former and current servants for their recollections of this waning profession.


At the fore are the experiences of young girls who slept in damp corners of basements, kitchen maids who were required to stir eggs until the yolks were perfectly centered, and cleaners who had to scrub floors on their hands and knees despite the wide availability of vacuum cleaners. We also meet a lord who solved his inability to open a window by throwing a brick through it and Winston Churchill’s butler who did not think Churchill would know how to dress on his own.


A compassionate and discerning exploration of the complex relationship between the server, the served, and the world they lived in, Servants opens a window onto British society from the Edwardian period to the present.

 

About Lucy Lethbridge

See more books from this Author
Lucy Lethbridge has written numerous books, as well as writing articles for the Observer, the Sunday Telegraph, the Independent on Sunday, the Times Literary Supplement, Art News, and Art+Auction. She lives in London.
 
Published November 18, 2013 by W. W. Norton & Company. 401 pages
Genres: History, Travel. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Servants
All: 5 | Positive: 4 | Negative: 1

Kirkus

Good
on Sep 28 2013

Employing numerous real-house and literary examples, Lethbridge lends poignancy to the master-servant dynamic.

Read Full Review of Servants | See more reviews from Kirkus

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Leah Price on Nov 29 2013

Lethbridge, who has written for numerous British publications, draws on literature, not for evidence of how servants really lived but for clues to their masters’ attitudes toward them. She also trawls servants’ own memoirs for vivid (sometimes catty) accounts...

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Kathryn Hughes on Mar 29 2013

In this excellent addition to the history of domestic service in the 20th century, Lucy Lethbridge has swept the existing archive and added new sources of her own. The result is a richly textured account of what it felt like to...

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Lara Feigel on Mar 24 2013

The great men who shaped 20th-century Britain were able to do so because ordinary life was taken care of by servants. And, as Lucy Lethbridge reveals in her fascinating history of domestic service, this was true even for socialist radicals.

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The Economist

Good
on Apr 13 2013

...they felt constrained by their position from doing much more than sing rudely over the washing-up. In telling their story so fully and humanely, Ms Lethbridge manages to suggest what the words to that song might have been.

Read Full Review of Servants | See more reviews from The Economist

Reader Rating for Servants
75%

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