Sharing is caring!
As fans of the show, we thought it would be fun to curate a list of books similar to Downton Abbey in different ways. The series was written for TV, meaning there isn’t a Downton Abbey Book. Luckily the show’s brilliant creator, Julian Fellowes, has another book that made our list.
Some of the suggestions are strong historical fiction novels with rich characters, while others focus on the juxtaposition between the rich and those who serve them.
Were you drawn to the old-school nature of Lord Grantham, the Dowager Countess, & Mr. Carson? Or the emerging new thoughts of Sybil, Tom, and Isobel? Or maybe you connected with the characters learning to bridge the gap between past and future like Mary, Matthew, Daisy, and Cora.
We looked for the perfect fiction and non-fiction books to capture every aspect of the different characters. And speaking of the characters, we absolutely loved their comeback in the first movie! Now we’re counting down the days to Downtown Abbey: A New Era.
Until then, we’ll be working through this list of perfect books for Downton Abbey fans. We hope you enjoy reading them too!
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, we may earn a referral fee from qualifying purchases.
Books Like Downton Abbey
The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding
By Jennifer Robson
The Gown takes place after the time period of Downton Abbey but includes a bit of the same contrast between the working class in England versus royalty and aristocracy.
In this case, the novel follows embroiderers surviving on limited wages and food ration coupons after WW2. While they wonder how to stretch their food supply, they're also working on the elaborate wedding gown for Princess Elizabeth during the day.
The book also has sections set in the present day as a woman's grandmother leaves her a mysterious box of detailed embroidery samples.
Melissa was worried this book would spend too much time on gown details, but instead, she found a character-driven 5 star read. Many books are set during World War 2, so it was interesting to see life in the years following the Blitz instead.
by Fiona Davis
Sara was the head housekeeper at a posh London hotel in 1884. Based on her background, this is more than she ever expected and the highest station she could rise to in life. But then she meets American Theodore Camden. He is building the most luxurious residential building in New York, The Dakota, and invites her to come to manage the property. The job brings her to highs and lows she never could have expected.
Sara’s story is told in conjunction with a 1985 storyline of Bailey Camden, who is returning from rehab and gets the opportunity to start fresh with a job overseeing a renovation of an apartment in The Dakota.
The Book Girls Say…If you’ve already read and enjoyed The Address, try Magnolia Palace, which also features a character working in a grand home.
The Remains of the Day
by Kazuo Ishiguro
Main character Stevens is the long-time butler of Darlington Hall. It’s 1956, and in the years since the war, the staff has been dramatically reduced. When Lord Darlington passes away, and American Mr. Farraday buys the estate, there are even more changes. When Mr. Farraday returns to the United States for a trip, he suggests that Stevens take his own journey.
Stevens only agrees once he realizes he can visit his secret love, former head housekeeper Miss. Kenton. Throughout his journey, he begins to find out who he is outside of his role as a butler. If your favorite character was Mr. Carson, this book is for you!
The Book Girls Say…The author won the Nobel Prize for literature, so you’re in for a great treat with the writing in addition to the excellent story.
Snobs: A Novel
by Julian Fellowes
Before Julian Fellowes created Downton Abbey, his debut novel Snobs also looked at class differences.
Unlike Downton Abbey, Snobs is set in current-day London and pokes some fun at the British upper class and aristocracy while also giving you a glimpse into their world.
The Social Graces
by Renée Rosen
This book reminded us of Cora’s background in the United States before marrying Robert. It starts in 1876 New York with Alva Vanderbilt’s experiences dealing with her entrance to society after marrying into a wealthy family.
She has no idea how poorly she’ll be treated for being “new money” instead of “old money” by people like Caroline Astor. However, Alva isn’t one to give up. When they don’t welcome her into their society, she begins to build her own.
Social Graces covers thirty years of the social feud between Vanderbilt and Astor and is based on true events.
The Book Girls Say…Have you seen Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellows’ newest TV series, The Gilded Age? This book has several characters from the show/real-life names that you’ll recognize!
For a related non-fiction read, check out Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty by Anderson Cooper, a descendent of the family.
Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle
Ever wonder about the real family that lives in Highclere Castle? Lady Fiona, the current 8th Countess of Carnarvon, wrote this book in 2011. It focuses on Lady Almina, who began life as an illegitimate daughter of Alfred de Rothschild in America.
Almina married the 5th Earl of Carnarvon in 1895, and they lived in Highclere Castle. From starting hospitals to her husband discovering King Tut's tomb, the couple's adventures, generosity, and legacy fill this book about the "real Downton Abbey."
The Housekeeper's Tale: The Women Who Really Ran the English Country House
by Tessa Boase
Was Mrs. Hughes your favorite character? If so, this is a must-read!
From the 19th to the mid-20th-century, the most important and professional job that an uneducated English woman could aspire to was housekeeper for a grand English country house. But despite the very important - and often powerful - role they played in society, very little was known about these women and their real day-to-day lives.
The book follows the lives of five different women who ran country houses throughout England. The author researched the lives of these often-overlooked vital parts of English society and reconstructed their stories via diaries, shopping lists, letters, and more.
From pregnancy and court cases, to love affairs and scandals, and from the Victorian and Edwardian eras to the roaring Twenties and liberated Sixties, you’ll hear their stories of the women who really ran the English county houses.
The American Heiress
by Daisy Goodwin
This novel has been described as the cure for Downton Abbey withdrawal symptoms.
Like Cora on DA, wealthy American heiresses were often matched to English aristocrats to obtain a title and improved social status. The American Heiress follows another Cora as she travels to England with her mother to secure a relationship with a duke.
Will she be able to find true love like Cora did with Robert?
by Evelyn Waugh
Initially published in 1945, Brideshead Revisited is a tragicomedy set before WW2. It's an indulgent look at the life of Charles Ryder, who was stationed at Brideshead, the manor of an aristocratic family. In the book, Ryder looks back on how his life has been intertwined with each member of the family, including their loss of privilege as the world evolves.
The Books Girls Say…If you were sympathetic to the struggles of Thomas because society rejected his sexuality, this often banned classic may be a good pick!
Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies
by J.B. West
While many of the books on this list focus on belowstairs accounts of England’s grand homes, this memoir provides an upstairs look at America’s most storied home.
For 28 years, J.B. West served first as an assistant usher and then as the chief usher at the White House. During this time, he witnessed the daily lives of six consecutive presidential families and their friends and guest, including heads of state. In this book, he provides a behind-the-scenes glimpse at America’s first families, from the Roosevelts to the Kennedys and the Nixons.
As of March 2022, this book is currently included with Kindle Unlimited.
The Downstairs Girl
by Stacy Lee
Set in the American South of the 1890s, this YA social drama tells the story of 17-year-old Jo Kaun. By day, she works as a lady’s maid for the cruel daughter of one of the richest men in Atlanta, Georgia, but by night she is the author of a newspaper advice column for genteel Southern ladies.
Writing under the pseudonym “Dear Miss Sweetie,” she uses her popular column to address some of society’s ills, but when she dates to challenge ideas of race and gender, she is unprepared for the backlash she faces. She struggles to keep her identity a secret, while also searching out the truth about her own past and the parents who abandoned her as a baby.
The Collector's Daughter
by Gill Paul
In 1922, Lady Evelyn Herbert became the first person to step into the tomb of Tutankhamun. She was an unlikely archaeologist. Not only was she female, but she also lived in Highclere Castle, the real-life Downton Abbey. Instead of accepting her expected life of a prestigious marriage and society life, she wanted to work with her father on the hunt for Tutankhamun in Egypt. While she was thrilled when they were successful, “the curse of Tutankhamun,” seemed to be true. Her life was impacted by a series of tragedies.
Fifty years later, an Egyptian academic came to ask questions about what happened in the tomb, which launched a new chain of unfortunate events.
The Book Girls Say… Although this dual-timeline historical fiction deals with the discovery of King Tut's tomb in Egypt, the majority of the book is set in England. Archaeology only plays a small role in the book, while the majority of the story focuses on the life of Lady Evelyn Herbert in Highclere Castle.
Jackie's Girl: My Life with the Kennedy Family
by Kathy McKeon
For 13 years, Kathy McKeon worked as an assistant to Jackie Kennedy, including some time nannying for Caroline and John Jr. Like the relationship between Mary and Anna, Jackie and Kathy had a bond beyond a simple employer-employee relationship.
In Jackie's Girl, Kathy tells her own story of coming to America from Ireland at 19 and learning how to thrive in a new country with the help of Jackie.
by Margaret Powell
This memoir, first published in 1968, tells of Margaret Powell’s years in service to some of the great houses of England. If you loved the “downstairs” storylines, you’ll love hearing these true stories that helped inspire both Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs.
Powell began in the 1920s as a kitchen maid, then lied about her age to secure a position as a cook. Throughout the book, she minces no words about the fact that life in service was not enjoyable, and you’ll feel her bitterness and anger about many of the circumstances she endured. But this book is also filled with lots of juicy gossip, and you’ll find yourself identifying her tales with the characters you know and love (or love to hate) from the show.
Behold the Dreamers
by Imbolo Mbue
What does the upstairs and downstairs relationship look like in modern America?
Like Downtown Abbey, Behold the Dreamers give you a close-up view of a wealthy family and those who serve them. Told from split perspectives, you’ll see a wealthy Lehman Brothers executive and his driver, an immigrant from Cameroon who is trying to get his permanent green card.
Each of the men faces their own significant problems, which come to light when the driver’s wife begins housekeeping for the executive’s wife at their summer home. Like Robert in Downton Abbey, the executive is thrown into financial turmoil, causing ripple effects.
Downton Shabby: One American's Ultimate DIY Adventure Restoring His Family's English Castle
by Hopwood DePree
This upcoming memoir, which will be published on May 31, 2022, is described as HGTV meets Downton Abbey. As a child, Hopwood DePree was told that he was named after an ancestor. The original Hopwood left his family’s castle to come to America in the 1700s.
As an adult, Hopwood became a Hollywood actor and producer with little connection to his English roots. One night, after some wine and searching on Ancestry.com, he came across a photograph of a grand, 600-year-old English estate near Manchester called Hopwood Hall. He soon discovered that the 60-room manor on 5,000 acres was indeed his family’s ancestral home. Hopwood family lived in the manor for five centuries, but the last known remaining male heirs were killed in World War I. Since that time, the home had fallen into disrepair.
As the sole surviving family member, DuPree decided to leave his life in LA behind to save Hopwood Hall. Despite lacking any construction skills, he was undeterred by the trees growing in the chimney and the holes in the roof. He affectionately coined the term “Downton Shabby” to describe the state of ruin that the home was in, and he called upon an eclectic group of neighbors to help him save the castle.
While this sounds like the plot of a movie, it’s a true story of one man’s ultimate DIY adventure, and, as avid DIY’ers ourselves, we both look forward to reading it!
The Summer Before the War
by Helen Simonson
Head back to 1914 and join this interesting cast of characters in the coastal town of Rye, England. Medical student Hugh visits his aunt Agatha and her husband, who works in the Foreign Office. He isn’t too worried about the building tension over the Balkans. The summer is too beautiful for them to be concerned.
Mix in the new, attractive Latin teacher Beatrice, who is mourning the loss of her father (and his financial support). While everyone is distracted with their own problems and the summer creeps closer to fall, they have no idea how much their lives are about to change.
The Book Girls Say…This book is a great pick if you love slow-burning character studies, but not the best choice if you prefer a quick plot-driven read.
Crazy Rich Asians
by Kevin Kwan
I know this one seems like a real stretch on the surface. However, like Downton, the characters in Crazy Rich Asians are multi-generational and struggle to balance past traditions in an evolving modern world. Instead of being set in 1910s-20s England, the books are set in present-day Singapore.
But you'll find great wealth, family dynamics, and the different pressures in picking partners when you're in the public eye. And humor!
The other books in the trilogy are just as enjoyable, but we recommend reading them fairly close together because there are A LOT of characters. Once you get them down, it's nice to continue following their story while everything is fresh.
by Jo Baker
This novel reimagines Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice from the servant’s point of view. This “belowstairs” retelling takes us beyond the drawing rooms and places at center stage the maid, butler, housekeeper, and footmen of the Bennet’s Longbourn estate.
In addition to depicting the daily particulars of keeping the house, the author has created a very vivid and authentic world in which there is just as much romance, heartbreak, and intrigue downstairs as there is upstairs.
by Kathryn Stockett
Even though 1962 Mississippi is a LONG way from 1920s England, we think you'll LOVE The Help if you haven't already read it.
Skeeter has returned home from college to her family's cotton plantation, where she seems to disappoint her mother constantly despite trying to act like a proper Southern lady. Her true ambition, however, is to be a writer. Unfortunately, the only job she can find is one she is entirely unqualified for - writing a housekeeping advice column for the local paper. Having virtually no experience with housekeeping, Skeeter turns her friend's maid, the very poised Aibileen, for help.
As she gets to know Aibileen and Aibileen's friend, the very sassy Minny, more intimately, Skeeter is inspired to help tell their stories, and she pitches the idea to write the narratives of 12 Black maids – a very risky project for all of them.
by Katharine McGee
What would life be like in the US today if George Washington had been crowned King instead of named President and we had an aristocratic society like England?
Read this YA fictionalized version of America to find out what day-to-day life would be like today if that had happened. It even features a relationship that will remind you of Sybil and Tom!
A Countess Below Stairs
by Eva Ibbotson
This YA historical romance is set in 1920 Wiltshire, England. After the Russian Revolution turns her world upside down, Anna, a young Russian countess, has no choice but to flee to England with nothing.
She is forced to hide her aristocratic background and takes a job as a servant. Desperate to keep her past a secret, she is overwhelmed by her new duties but finds herself attracted to the handsome Earl of the house. He appears to be falling for her as well, but there's also the matter of his nasty fiance.
In a Field of Blue
by Gemma Liviero
Set just after WW1 in post-Edwardian England, In A Field of Blue is an interesting glimpse into a family whose wealth is running out as they deal with the aftermath of the war.
Four years after Rudy lost his eldest brother, a British soldier, to the battlefields of France, Rudy's family is still torn apart by grief and secrets. So when Mariette arrives claiming to be Edgar's widow, and the mother of his child, Rudy urges her to stay in hopes that she'll shed light on unanswered questions.
But Mariette's revelations lead to more questions than answers, and suspicions threaten to further divide Rudy's family. Rudy sets out on a quest for the truth that takes him from England to France and beyond.
Melissa read this book as part of the Decades Reading Challenge. She gave it a 4-star rating with the caveat that it is slow in places. However, each time you think it's dragging, they'll be a sudden twist. Those twists continue all the way through the epilogue!
As of March 2022, this book is included as part of Kindle Unlimited.
by J.P. O'Connell
It's 1926, and Bella Ainsworth has convinced her husband to leave behind their past in England for a fresh start in Italy. After the Great War, wealthy English families have resumed travel abroad with life returning to normal. So the Ainsworths purchase a hotel in Portofino, on the Italian Riviera, and aim to turn it into the new "it" destination for moneyed visitors.
Bella has made everything perfect at the hotel - from the furniture to the paint colors - and she's brought along her family's trusted servants to keep things running smoothly. But in the midst of all this, Bella's marriage is in trouble, and her children are still dealing with the repercussions of the Great War. Her high-class guests are demanding and hard to please. And to make matters even worse, she is being targeted by a corrupt local politician who threatens to drag her to the dark side of Mussolini's Italy.
The Book Girls Say... Like Downton, this book is becoming a PBS Masterpiece series! However, the book itself receives mixed reviews. It's a character-driven novel, and there are a lot of characters to keep straight. The story is told from the perspective of several different family members, as well as several of their guests and servants.
Some say they wanted better-developed storylines with a more clearly defined overarching plot. However, many of the readers who have rated it four and five stars describe it as a Roaring Twenties Downton Abbey set in an Italian hotel.
If you love reading about the time period of Downtown Abbey, check out our list of Books Set in the 1910s next!
Love reading as much as we do?
Join us for more free content, reading challenges, & discussion in the Book Girls’ Guide Facebook Group!
The Best Books for Fans of The Crown - Book Girls' Guide
Saturday 20th of February 2021
[…] If you’re looking for even more books like The Crown, you’ll also want to check out our list of books for Downtown Abbey fans! […]