A Countess Below Stairs, by Eva Ibbotson

[Jenny Davidson’s The Explosionist was released yesterday. Sorry for forgetting it!]

I’d been looking for a good copy of this for a while; someone else had reviewed it (I’ve forgotten whom, ampoule unfortunately), and it piqued my interest. Ms. Ibbotson was born in Germany in 1925, but moved to England shortly thereafter. She published her first novel in 1965, and has gone on to publish quite a few since. I’m rather confused that I’d never manged to read anything by her before this, considering that she writes YA and children’s fantasy and other kinds of novels. Her books have even been mentioned as similar to J. K. Rowling’s, in that way where she was writing English children’s fantasy many years before JKR and just got the boost recently from having, “If you like Harry Potter, try these!” put near her books. (Rather like Diana Wynne Jones, that way.)

Anna was the oldest child of Count Grazinsky in St. Petersburg, but then the Russian Revolution came, and they moved, penniless (an old maid had disappeared with all their jewels), to England. Eventually their small stock of money runs out, and Anna decides she must get a job to support her mother and brother. The only jobs available (this being just after the war ends) are as maids, so she accepts a job as a temporary housemaid to the Earl of Westerholme. The earl is coming home from the hospital he had been in (he’d flown planes in the war), and he is engaged to be married shortly. Anna has tried to hide the fact that she is a countess; she’s not conventionally attractive, but she has endeared herself to the entire staff and all the neighbors. And, perhaps unfortunately, the Earl of Westerholme . . . Continue reading A Countess Below Stairs, by Eva Ibbotson