Rose: My Life in Service to Lady Astor
Non-fiction, Memoir, History
Published December 27th 2011 by Penguin Books (first published 1975)
In 1928, Rosina Harrison arrived at the illustrious household of the Astor family to take up her new position as personal maid to the infamously temperamental Lady Nancy Astor, who sat in Parliament, entertained royalty, and traveled the world. "She's not a lady as you would understand a lady" was the butler's ominous warning. But what no one expected was that the iron-willed Lady Astor was about to meet her match in the no-nonsense, whip-smart girl from the country.
For 35 years, from the parties thrown for royalty and trips across the globe, to the air raids during WWII, Rose was by Lady Astor's side and behind the scenes, keeping everything running smoothly. In charge of everything from the clothes and furs to the baggage to the priceless diamond "sparklers," Rose was closer to Lady Astor than anyone else. In her decades of service she received one 5 raise, but she traveled the world in style and retired with a lifetime's worth of stories. Like Gosford Park and Downton Abbey, Rose is a captivating insight into the great wealth 'upstairs' and the endless work 'downstairs', but it is also the story of an unlikely decades-long friendship that grew between Her Ladyship and her spirited Yorkshire maid.
Admittedly, I know almost nothing about the Astor family, but since I’m a sucker for British history, I decided to give this one a try. I’m glad I did, as it was a nice, cozy read for these chilly autumn days. Though almost 400 pages, it read surprisingly fast. I was able to finish it in only four sittings.
There is nothing evolutionary or shocking about this book. It’s not a “tell-all” mud thrower. Just a simple story about a Lady’s Maid, her Lady and their time together. I think fans of Upstairs/Downstairs (think “Downton Abbey”) stories would really like this one.