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Habits of the House | [Fay Weldon]

Habits of the House

As the Season of 1899 comes to an end, the world is poised on the brink of profound, irrevocable change. The Earl of Dilberne is facing serious financial concerns. The ripple effects spread to everyone in the household: Lord Robert, who has gambled unwisely on the stock market and seeks a place in the Cabinet; his unmarried children, Arthur, who keeps a courtesan, and Rosina, who keeps a parrot in her bedroom; Lord Robert’s wife, Isobel, who orders the affairs of the household in Belgrave Square; and Grace, the lady’s maid who orders the life of her mistress.
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Publisher's Summary

From the award-winning novelist and writer of Upstairs, Downstairs, the launch of a brilliant new trilogy about what life was really like for masters and servants before the world of Downton Abbey.

As the Season of 1899 comes to an end, the world is poised on the brink of profound, irrevocable change. The Earl of Dilberne is facing serious financial concerns. The ripple effects spread to everyone in the household: Lord Robert, who has gambled unwisely on the stock market and seeks a place in the Cabinet; his unmarried children, Arthur, who keeps a courtesan, and Rosina, who keeps a parrot in her bedroom; Lord Robert’s wife, Isobel, who orders the affairs of the household in Belgrave Square; and Grace, the lady’s maid who orders the life of her mistress.

Lord Robert can see no financial relief to an already mortgaged estate, and, though the Season is over, his thoughts turn to securing a suitable wife (and dowry) for his son. The arrival on the London scene of Minnie, a beautiful Chicago heiress with a reputation to mend, seems the answer to all their prayers.

As the writer of the pilot episode of the original Upstairs, Downstairs - Fay Weldon brings a deserved reputation for magnificent storytelling. With wit and sympathy - and no small measure of mischief - Habits of the House plots the interplay of restraint and desire, manners and morals, reason and instinct.

©2012 Fay Weldon (P)2013 Macmillan Audio

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.5 (193 )
5 star
 (42)
4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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3.4 (169 )
5 star
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3 star
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Story
3.8 (172 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
 (13)
1 star
 (8)
Performance
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  •  
    Cindy Pinson, TN, United States 04-08-13
    Cindy Pinson, TN, United States 04-08-13 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A Downtonlike story read by my favorite narrator?"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    I found it a light, fun tale. Just what I needed!


    Would you be willing to try another book from Fay Weldon? Why or why not?

    I plan to check in to her other offers.


    What about Katherine Kellgren’s performance did you like?

    I was saddened to read a poor review by someone else which prompted me to write one myself! I LOVE Katherine Kellgren and since falling in love with her Bloody Jack characters have searched her out and will continue listening and enjoying her narration! Keep up your excellent work Katherine, I enjoy you SOOOOO!


    Do you think Habits of the House needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    Sure.


    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Maureen West Roxbury, MA, United States 01-26-13
    Maureen West Roxbury, MA, United States 01-26-13 Member Since 2008
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    "Hilarious!"
    If you could sum up Habits of the House in three words, what would they be?

    hilarious rendering of life below and above stairs in a Victorian society household.


    What other book might you compare Habits of the House to and why?

    Same time, different social strata in many books by Anne Perry.


    What about Katherine Kellgren’s performance did you like?

    Her voices were priceless.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    This book made me laugh out loud.


    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Deborah 03-11-13
    Deborah 03-11-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Excellent start, poor finish"
    What did you like best about Habits of the House? What did you like least?

    Good dialogue, good attention to detail of the period. The characters were well described. I liked the twists and turns. My biggest complaint is the abrupt finish. It seems as if the author had reached her word count, and just wanted to be done. So a "Deus Maccia" (sp?) device is used and in two paragraphs everything is settled, done, fini. Infuriatingly, simplistic conclusion.


    Would you be willing to try another book from Fay Weldon? Why or why not?

    I have read others, was much more impressed.


    What about Katherine Kellgren’s performance did you like?

    Great range of voices and accents.


    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Allison Kappadahl Charlotte, NC United States 02-23-13
    Allison Kappadahl Charlotte, NC United States 02-23-13 Member Since 2014

    alliecat1

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    "Not quite Downton"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    If you like Downton Abbey or Upstairs, Downstairs this book is a good one


    What did you like best about this story?

    its a little funny


    What about Katherine Kellgren’s performance did you like?

    I love her voice.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    not quite


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sarah Philadelphia, PA, United States 03-06-13
    Sarah Philadelphia, PA, United States 03-06-13 Member Since 2009
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    "skip this and go to the primary sources"

    This was boring--slim on plot and characters with any personality whatsoever. I find it hard to believe that it is only one of a forthcoming trilogy. If it is meant, as I suspect, to appeal to "Downton Abbey" or "Upstairs, Downstairs" fans in the "off-season," then editors are either severely underestimating the fans' intelligence levels or I am overestimating them. I hope the former, but fear the latter.

    Do your brain a favor and use your credit on Edith Wharton or Henry James. If you want to know more about servant's lives, read any of the well-researched books or memoirs: "Up and Down Stairs," by Jeremy Musson, or "Below Stairs," by Margaret Powell.

    6 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alicia Czechowski Baltimore Maryland 04-02-14
    Alicia Czechowski Baltimore Maryland 04-02-14 Member Since 2008
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    "Aimless, silly and unlistenable"

    It is not the fault of the narrator, but entirely that of the author that "Habits" is rubbishy drivel.
    It is pieces of shapeless verbal frippery like this book that makes me wonder anew at the dreck that gets published. I bought this Fay Weldon on an Audible $4.95 sale, mistaking the author for one recommended by a friend. "Habits of the House", not worth a plastic penny.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Annie M. 08-11-13
    Annie M. 08-11-13 Member Since 2009

    Say something about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Unlistenable--from a reader who loves this genre"
    What disappointed you about Habits of the House?

    Early on in this novel, one character beseeches another to stop yelling. I felt the same way. In fact, stop narrating this book altogether!

    I am an avid reader, who enjoys everything from Henry James to EM Forster to Ha Jin and Ruth Ozeki, from Jonathan Tropper to Rhys Bowen and Jacqueline Winspeare's Masie Dobbs series. I also enjoy great history books such as Adam Hochschild's brilliant "To End All Wars" and Lynne Olsen's captivating "Citizens of London." In other words, I'll read almost anything.


    Except this book. I regret I'll not be able to get through it, due solely to the strident narration. I liked the story and found these characters to be well-imagined and sadly laughable. I would like to know how it all works out.

    But I simply cannot get past Katherine Kellgren's voice, which is best characterized as barking. Constantly. It softens only occasionally. It is so harsh, so breakneck, so forced into its wryness, it literally set my teeth on edge.

    In scrolling through other reviews, I was frankly relieved to see other readers had similar reactions. I don't like to criticize narration. But I must. It is solely due to the narrator that I will not finish this book.


    What could Fay Weldon have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    Weldon has done a nice job of showcasing the end of an era, with characters who are so blind to the changes coming their way. I am assuming this trend continues throughout the book. But I'll never know, because I won't be able to get through it due to the narrator's grating, shouting interpretation.


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Katherine Kellgren?

    Oh. So many options there. Almost anyone would have been better. In fact, maybe this is somewhat the fault of the director of this production, who could have encouraged Ms. Kellgren to tone it down a notch. In voicing Isabelle, Ms. Kellgren clearly has a nice tone and is a seasoned reader. But between Isabelle's few moments, there was the horrible barking of Rosina, the lower barking of Robert, the annoying barking of the heir to the earldom.

    Sadly, it all just went wrong here. At least for me.


    What character would you cut from Habits of the House?

    Cannot answer this as I must confess to not being able to get through it.


    Any additional comments?

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The same is true when it comes to hearing.

    Clearly, as evidenced by some enthusiastic reviews, Katherine Kellgren has her fans. She lost me on this one.

    6 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    M. J. Christensen Tucson, AZ. 03-26-15
    M. J. Christensen Tucson, AZ. 03-26-15 Member Since 2011
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    "If You Like Downton Abbey"

    This novel by prolific British novelist, Fay Weldon, is enjoyable and a fun listen. Each chapter is headed by the time and date - maybe some listeners might not like that, but I found it helped me keep track of the plot. This is like Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs as we are introduced to characters from both the upper and lower strata of English society during the Edwardian years. I liked it enough to continue on with the trilogy.

    It took awhile for me to get acclimated to Katherine Kellgren's voice, but then I enjoyed her reading.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jennifer 02-21-15
    Jennifer 02-21-15 Member Since 2013
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    "Read for narrator, Kellgren wonderful, story eh"

    I actually found this audiobook while browsing recordings by one of my favorite narrators, Katherine Kellgren. This book happened to showcase her talents for many character voices - she can do so many carried British dialects, American dialects, both females and males, and sound great. This book had them - the traditional aristocracy, their servants of various backgrounds, the American heiress and her somewhat uncouth mother... All beautifully and seamlessly brought to life.

    The story was very Downton Abbey, and no surprise. Though, the family portrayed here has starker issues if you ask me, with such bad financial management and the men's extracurricular activities. The composition was interesting - following the different parties throughout their days as the events transpired. Funny how so many people who live in the same house could regard and deal with the same problems so differently. A not inaccurate portrayal of the lifestyle of the time, I'm sure. And I actually learned a bit I hadn't known about the royal family and 1899 world affairs; woot for the part of historical fiction, heh.

    Overall a good read for fans of the upstairs-downstairs style or anything generally on late Victorian society. The only part I didn't care for was the scene with Flora - just went too far in descriptions (not thoroughly and explicitly graphic, but at least highly suggestive and around the edges of an activity I found appalling); not to my tastes, and I'm sure not at all proper by Isobel's standards either.

    And the sudden jump startled me at the end of the book- I wish Weldon hadn't just skipped a week of events, rather gave the results as a society news story, but all of the loose ends were tied. Will consider reading the sequels, but am not feeling compelled to do so immediately - the style just wasn't urgently gripping in that way, but it kinda grows on you, so I'll let it sit for a while before revisiting the Dilborns.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Keith Lutz Boston MA 03-13-14
    Keith Lutz Boston MA 03-13-14 Member Since 2014
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    "An enjoyable story but lacks depth"
    Would you try another book from Fay Weldon and/or Katherine Kellgren?

    Yes


    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    Perhaps cutting down on the cast of characters and focusing on a few, solid characters instead.


    What does Katherine Kellgren bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    An excellent narrative voice that is easy to listen to and genre appropriate.


    Did Habits of the House inspire you to do anything?

    Not particularly.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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