In an endearing, humorous style, Carol Ann P. Coté deftly weaves the captivating true story of her grandparents’ lives at the turn of the century with her own childhood memories of the Fabulous Fifties and the Seismic Sixties. Her grandmother tells the story of their lives in service to Ambassador and Mrs. Robert Woods Bliss of Dumbarton Oaks, Georgetown, surrounded by sumptuous wealth in mansions and palaces around the globe. As the eldest of four girls in a nurturing, although sometimes contentious three-generation household, Carol transports the reader to a much simpler time. You’ll find yourself laughing and crying while rooting for Carol as she comes of age and finds the love of her life. ~via Goodreads
Downstairs Upstairs: The Seamstress, The Butler, The “Nomad Diplomats” and Me – A Dual Memoir
Carol Ann P. Coté
Published May 13th 2017
This title has been sitting on my TBR shelf for quite some time and I am so happy that I finally had the opportunity to pick it up over the weekend! Downstairs Upstairs is one of those memoirs that reads like old friends sharing stories over tea. The charm of it all captures you almost immediately and tenderly walks you through page after page of shared stories from a simpler time, like a best friend.
Before I go any further and get ahead of myself, I really must confess two truths of sway for this book. The first truth is this – my Nanny (grandmother) read the book before I did and so my review is more of a “shared” review. Nanny’s always have a say. The other truth is that I am a sucker for books with old photographs and Downstairs Upstairs has 30+ pages of beautiful captures, connecting you to the stories that much more. So many pictures and cards, too!
So, now that those truths are out of the way, let’s dish about this memoir.
The way that much of Downstairs Upstairs is written was a bit unexpected for me. Many moments are shared through conversations between Carol and her grandmother, starting when Carol was only 4. These conversations illustrate the relationship that Carol had with her grandmother and lays the foundation of family dynamic. Honestly, I was not sure what to make of this way of story-telling at first but as we explored Carol’s world more I found it to be very endearing.
Faith, family, and life in America’s golden age – we are smitten! My Nanny mentioned to me that she loves Carol’s devotion to her church and she loved reading about “family life”. Three generations all together! Though, her favorite bits of this book are in courtship of Carol and her beau Frank. Nanny is a sucker for true love in the same way I am a sucker for older photographs! Personally, I am just glad that when Carol finally warmed up to The Beatles, she chose George (me too, me too!).
Kidding aside, we need so much more of this. Downstairs Upstairs is nostalgic, wholesome, heartwarming, and reminds me of a The Wonder Years or a Hallmark special in all the great ways that make me adore them. Truly. My journey with this book was sweet, even if quick. I laughed, I smiled a whole lot and there were even moments where I found myself tear up a bit. It’s all about connecting to the story and the people. I connected.
We are happy to give Downstairs Upstairs 5/5 stars