While We Were Watching Downton Abbey by Wendy Wax

This book surprised me.

Usually when you buy a book that has a tie-in to a movie, tv show, or other story, you expect it to show a lot of similarities to that tie-in. In this case, I was expecting this storyline to parallel some of the issues that the Grantham family and household servants faced throughout the show. Maybe there would be a heartbreaking romance like Matthew and Mary, or someone would be fighting against “the system” like Daisy, or something relating to hospitals, war or death like anything that happened in season two! It made me think of all those high school dramas where teens have to perform shakespeare in drama class or read a classic novel in English class, and then they discover that their problems are similar to those in the story, so they use this information to help them solve their own issues. I expected the characters in Wax’s novel to learn from the characters of Downton Abbey

I was certainly wrong.

When you break it down, the storyline of downton abbey is barely mentioned in Wax’s novel. Her references to the show are actually quite similar to what I did above: she just simply states something the girls just saw.

They watched Matthew’s surprise at becoming the heir.

They laughed when Maggie Smith said “What is a weekend?“.

They hated O’Brian for causing Cora to lose the baby.

They were in awe as the house turned into a hospital.

Matthew was still missing in action.

Cora has the flu, and could die.

Etcetera.

Just quick remarks on the facts.

And then when consider the title of this novel, you assume all the action takes place WHILE THEY ARE WATCHING DOWNTON ABBEY.

But it’s not that literal.

The lights dim, the screening starts,  and then Wax cuts to the moment when the episode ends (it’s rare that something actually happens during the screening, and the few times it does-… well, it typically lasts only a moment or takes place outside of the screening room to not disturb the rest of the viewers.

No, the title is completely misleading. So this is why this book surprised me. But I have to say, it was a good surprise.

All of the action takes place between episode screenings, which happen every Sunday evening at the apartment complex our four main characters live or work at. The Downton Abbey screenings served their purpose in bringing our four characters together, making them the best of friends. But their problems have nothing to do with the show itself, nor do they parallel it.

I loved the fact that all three girls were vastly different in their personality, life situation, and family life, and yet they still became great friends. Wax doesn’t hide their faults, making them relatable and human. 

Claire reminded me if Lorelei from Gilmore Girls. She’s a single mom with an odd sense of humour, and she’s a little flighty, unreliable, and she bends the truth to keep others happy. The fact that she is a novelist with writers block gives us a reason to pity her (that is if you didn’t already after her daughter leaves her for university… yes, I imagined her daughter to be like Rory from Gilmore Girls haha). She is a self-made woman, and I respect that.

Brooke was just too adorable not to pity. Her ex-husband is an asshole who neglects his two daughters and parades his new pregnant girlfriend around like a trophy. OF COURSE YOU’RE GOING TO PITY BROOKE. But you got to love her support system; Claire, Samantha and Edward are like her bodyguards! When Brooke finally stands up to Ken and Barbie in the end, I actually wanted to give her a standing ovation. And the fact that she finds romance with a single father makes her situation quite relatable to many divorced or single mothers out their; blended families are not so uncommon (obviously).

But I have to say that Samantha had most of my pity, which is surprising because she has been married to the perfect man for 25 years and is super rich. What more can she ask for? Well, a clarification of love. I don’t want to give too much away, but I have to say that Samantha’s story was my favourite because she represents the the kind of woman who seems to have it all in the surface, but fears she has nothing underneath. She and her husband explore the possibility of finding a new form of love after 25 years of marriage. Love comes in many shapes and forms, and over time it can evolve or devolve. It’s hard to describe without giving away the story,  but I think it’s safe to safe that her love did both! Seems impossible to evolve and devolve at the same time, but that’s truly the only way I can describe it. 

And Edward was a very interesting character as well. He may not have been as involved as the girls, but it is thanks to his Downton Abbey screenings that these women became friends in the first place. His troubles with Hunter add an interesting edition to the overall story, especially in relation to Samantha’s problem. So even though he didn’t share a couch with the ladies, I still felt like he was included in their inner circle.

Overall,  I would say that it’s the character’s flaws that really draw you into this story. You’ll spend your time rooting for the underdog, satisfied when things seem to work out in the end. That being said, it’s not like it ends with a grand parade of HELL YEAH moments…

(SPOILERS AHEAD! I only do this to make my point about the simplicity of Wax’s ending.)

Yes, Claire has finally overcome writers block. No, we don’t read about the awards it gets or her subsequent fame. It ends with her still in the process of writing it, but she is happy.

Yes, Brooke finally insults her ex-husband and is confident enough to start dating. No, she doesn’t passionately kiss Dalton or receives an engagement ring. It ends with her going on one date with the promise of more, and she is happy.

Yes, Samantha fixes her marriage. No, she doesn’t announce a pregnancy or so extravagant gift from her husband. It ends with her sharing her feelings with her husband, and they are happy.

Yes, Edward makes a deal with Hunter. No, we don’t see how wealthy he gets or how famous his business is. It ends with him making a difficult business decision that will alter his future, but he is happy.

Simple endings that make people happy. REAL ENDINGS that a reader can get behind.

(SPOILERS OVER!!)

I really enjoyed this novel, Book Babies. It was surprising in all the right ways! I garantee you’ll fall in love with one at least one character, if not all. And you don’t need to be a Downton Abbey fan to enjoy it! It’s not like a knowledge of the show helps you understand the characters and their problems. But of course, it doesn’t hurt! Haha! Being a fab if the show made me want to join the Sunday screenings with Brooke, Claire, Samantha and Edward. Who knows, maybe the brief mention of certain plot points from my blog and Wax’s novel will be enough to peek your interest about the show?

Either way, I hope you enjoy this novel Book Babies! And for those watching Downton Abbey, I hope you enjoy that as well! 

I’m off to binge watch the show… for the fifth or sixth time. Ha!

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