An insightful peek into a time long gone, told with skill, humor and wit.

The no-nonsense follow-up to Below Stairs: A Classic Kitchen Maid’s Memoir that Inspired Upstairs, Downstairs and Downton Abbey (2012).

In this latest book, which was originally published in Britain more than 30 years ago, the author explores the ramifications of what was then considered a shocking event in the class-bound culture of early-20th-century Britain. Rose, the fetching under-parlourmaid to the wealthy Wardham family, did the unthinkable, eloping with Gerald, the family’s only son. Powell deftly explores the reactions of the family—Gerald’s father refused to see the couple ever—as well as those of the servants below the stairs, who seemed as disconcerted as the family. Though Powell and another young servant were delighted with the change in status the romance afforded Rose, she understood the hazards as well. “She couldn’t see that she’d never really be one of them; she’d never be able to keep up the conversation at dinner for she never read, not even novels, and knew absolutely nothing about politics or the arts,” she writes. Throughout the narrative, Powell offers insights illuminating the life and times for house servants following World War I, including the strict hierarchy among those who spent their lives working for wealthy families. She also looks at the sexual mores of the times, the incredible meals created by armies of servants toiling in the basements of the big houses and her own ideas regarding her own marriage. “I was determined to marry and achieve an equal partnership,” she writes. “Although I would probably still have little money, I intended to have, in my marriage, as much freedom as the male had always had by inalienable right.”

An insightful peek into a time long gone, told with skill, humor and wit.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-250-02929-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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