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Publisher's Summary

Audie Award Nominee, Biography and Memoir, 2013

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey tells the story behind Highclere Castle, the real-life inspiration and setting for Julian Fellowes's Emmy Award-winning PBS series, and the life of one of its most famous inhabitants: Lady Almina, the fifth Countess of Carnarvon.

Drawing on a rich store of materials from the archives of Highclere Castle, including diaries, letters, and photographs, the current Lady Carnarvon has written a transporting story of this fabled home on the brink of war. Much like her Masterpiece Classic counterpart Lady Cora Crawley, Lady Almina was the daughter of a wealthy industrialist, Alfred de Rothschild, who married his daughter off at a young age, her dowry serving as the crucial link in the effort to preserve the Earl of Carnarvon's ancestral home. Throwing open the doors of Highclere Castle to tend to the wounded of World War I, Lady Almina distinguished herself as a brave and remarkable woman.

This rich tale contrasts the splendor of Edwardian life in a great house against the backdrop of the First World War and offers an inspiring and revealing picture of the woman at the center of the history of Highclere Castle.

©2011 Countess of Carnarvon (P)2012 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"Gives the juicy back story behind last year's Emmy-winning Masterpiece Theater drama." (The New York Times)
"If you can’t wait for the new season of Downton Abbey... this one's for you.... a revealing portrait of the changing times." (New York Post)
"The present Lady Carnarvon, who tapped the family archives for her comprehensive research, dramatically captures the estate during the pre-war and war years, and paints a compelling... portrait of Lady Almina." (Newark Star-Ledger)
"Wanda McCaddon invites listeners into the Countess of Carnarvon’s breezy book, which blends a wealth of archival letters, diaries, and photographs. McCaddon sweeps through the transitions between the downstairs servants and the socially elite, details of furniture and costumes, as well as the changes that come with WWI." (AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Story

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  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • A.
  • Mountain View, AR, United States
  • 06-25-12

Interesting story

What made the experience of listening to Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey the most enjoyable?

Enjoyed this book as it compares to the Downton series, not exactly but close. The details of how people lived during this pre-WWI time is interesting.<br/>

What did you like best about this story?

The discovery of King Tut's tomb.

Have you listened to any of Wanda McCaddon’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No other.

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

Laugh.

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  • Performance
  • Story

Truth is stranger than Fiction

Would you listen to Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey again? Why?

I don't usually read a book more than once.

What did you like best about this story?

I found that the true story of the inhabitants of "Downton Abbey" was every bit as interesting as the TV series, more so, because it was a true story culled from news articles, letters and diaries. The stories were intriguing and the descriptions outstanding.

Which character – as performed by Wanda McCaddon – was your favorite?

Almina, the countess of Carnarvon, the center around which the other characters swirled, each with their own quirks and peculiarities. I loved listening to Ms. McCaddon, I don't think a better voice/performer could have been chosen for this book.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

The lost Legacy of Hichclere Castle says it very well. If not for "Downton Abbey" these stories might not have been so enticing but once you've entered the real HighClere Castle and realized the actual events that took place there and the people involved it is a story that stands well on its own.

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  • Story

From Rothschild to King Tut

Would you consider the audio edition of Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey to be better than the print version?

I have not read the book and probably never would since it is hard to find time to read and easy to find time to listen.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey?

The wounded soldier being cared for at the castle was asked by the butler which paper he wanted to read first.

What about Wanda McCaddon???s performance did you like?

The reader had the perfect voice and pace for this story.

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

It almost made me cry towards the end when the Earl died.

Any additional comments?

It raises the question about where all that money from Rothchild came from and where did he keep it.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

Lady Almina:Her Life and Legacy

Would you listen to Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey again? Why?

No. Once gives the overview and feel for the periods in history spanned. Also expands on the backdrop on which Downton Abbey occurs. The memorable fun facts can be processed with just one listen.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Lady Almina of course. She is the point of the audio book and her heritage and journey are quite enlightening.

Which character – as performed by Wanda McCaddon – was your favorite?

Don't really have one. The performance in the audio book was subtle but effective.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Don't have an answer. This question is a bit gimmicky.

1 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Mary
  • Plano, TX, United States
  • 03-23-14

High expectations

Is there anything you would change about this book?

Yes, make it more of a series of short stories like the Downton Abby series.

Would you be willing to try another book from The Countess of Carnarvon? Why or why not?

Probably if she wrote like Julian Fellowes. I hoped the feeling in the book would be like the one that I get from watching Downton Abby.

Have you listened to any of Wanda McCaddon’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No.

Did Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey inspire you to do anything?

No. I'm visiting Britain for the first time, so my upcoming trip inspired me to read this book. Plus, I'm a HUGE Downton Abby fan, like many other people.

Any additional comments?

I'm being a little hard on the author. I'm more of a mystery lover. So, my rating is based on a lack of intrigue in a book like this. It felt a little stuffy. I did enjoy the war history lessons though.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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not what I expected

What did you like best about Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey? What did you like least?

I enjoyed hearing about Lady Almina, but I expeted it to be more in story form

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

The life that the Lady and her husband led, was indeed, very interesting.

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

I rather enjoyed the English accent, it really brought the book to life.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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It was ok

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

It was just ok. I learned a few facts that I had not known before.

Would you be willing to try another book from The Countess of Carnarvon? Why or why not?

No...rather dry

Did the narration match the pace of the story?

Yes

Did Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey inspire you to do anything?

No

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Anne
  • Redding, Ca, United States
  • 04-12-12

Fluffy

Is there anything you would change about this book?

I wish to book had been less like a greeting card! <br/>It reminds me of the Marion Crawford book, "The Little Princesses", in its saccharine infused prose. A biography of Mother Teresa would have been less gooey! I wanted a more three dimensional view of Almina, instead we are given treacle coated view!<br/><br/>

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

Most interesting: Almina's drive. Least interesting: the superficial treatment of very complex personal relationships.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

Probably in hopes of a screen writer who was less protective than the author!

0 of 1 people found this review helpful