STORY: In 1928, Rosina Harrison arrived at the illustrious household of the Astor family to take up her new position as personal maid to the infamously temperamental Lady Nancy Astor, who sat in Parliament, entertained royalty, and traveled the world. “She’s not a lady as you would understand a lady” was the butler’s ominous warning. But what no one expected was that the iron-willed Lady Astor was about to meet her match in the no-nonsense, whip-smart girl from the country.
For 35 years, from the parties thrown for royalty and trips across the globe, to the air raids during WWII, Rose was by Lady Astor’s side and behind the scenes, keeping everything running smoothly. In charge of everything from the clothes and furs to the baggage to the priceless diamond “sparklers,” Rose was closer to Lady Astor than anyone else. In her decades of service she received one 5 raise, but she traveled the world in style and retired with a lifetime’s worth of stories. Like Gosford Parkand Downton Abbey, Rose is a captivating insight into the great wealth ‘upstairs’ and the endless work ‘downstairs’, but it is also the story of an unlikely decades-long friendship that grew between Her Ladyship and her spirited Yorkshire maid.
REVIEW: Rosina (Rose) Harrison was born in 1899 and grew up in Yorkshire. Hers was a close family but one where there was not much money. Her goal was to obtain a job as a maid in a wealthy home. After some years training and working as a maid, she is offered the position of personal maid to Lady Nancy Astor. Knowing of her temperamental personality, Rose, finally accepts. Thus, begins a journey of 35 years together.
The story takes the reader through the everyday life of Rose and Lady Astor including dressing her, care of her clothes, extra duties, responsibility for her jewels and traveling all over the world with her. Rose shares with us Lady Astor’s angry outbursts, as well as her kind and generous gestures to lesser fortunate people. While being extremely wealthy, Lady Astor was also known to be extremely tight, especially when it came to Rose. She demanded Rose’s complete loyalty and attention. We read how she verbally abuses Rose, but Rose learns to stand up to her resulting in a most unusual kind of lifetime friendship.
As one reads the book, it’s as if Rose is talking in an informal tone to the reader sitting right next to her. I found myself completely fascinated with the book and enjoyed reading about the trips they took and the famous people that were a part of Lady Astor’s life.
With the introduction of Downton Abbey, I find I truly enjoy reading more and more about the lives of those who served downstairs during that time period.
I highly recommend this biography and found it a great learning experience. If you do read it, you will laugh along with me when you find: “Shut up, Rose.”
Connie for b2b