Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Review: While We Were Watching Downton Abbey

While We Were Watching Downton Abbey
By Wendy Wax
Published: April 2, 2013

When the concierge of The Alexander, a historic Atlanta apartment building, invites his fellow residents to join him for weekly screenings of Downton Abbey, four very different people find themselves connecting with the addictive drama, and—even more unexpectedly—with each other…

Samantha Davis married young and for the wrong reason: the security of old Atlanta money—for herself and for her orphaned brother and sister. She never expected her marriage to be complicated by love and compromised by a shattering family betrayal.

Claire Walker is now an empty nester and struggling author who left her home in the suburbs for the old world charm of The Alexander, and for a new and productive life. But she soon wonders if clinging to old dreams can be more destructive than having no dreams at all.

And then there’s Brooke MacKenzie, a woman in constant battle with her faithless ex-husband. She’s just starting to realize that it’s time to take a deep breath and come to terms with the fact that her life is not the fairy tale she thought it would be.

For Samantha, Claire, Brooke—and Edward, who arranges the weekly gatherings—it will be a season of surprises as they forge a bond that will sustain them through some of life’s hardest moments—all of it reflected in the unfolding drama, comedy, and convergent lives of Downton Abbey. 

My review:

I think that watching Downton Abbey in a group with themed desserts and drinks and a discussion afterwards would be a lot of fun. I kind of envied the characters on their Sunday night Downton Abbey viewings! I thought the premise of this book was very interesting because of the Downton Abbey angle but the book is about so much more than the show. 

The three main characters all come from different backgrounds but I like how the show (and Edward) brings them together. I did find that Claire's story was not as compelling as that of Samantha or Brooke. I wish her character received more development but I thought that the other characters were well drawn. 

Brooke is a single mom with two young kids and her ex-husband is a swine (a plastic surgeon who dumped her when she wouldn't go under the knife herself even though she put him through medical school). While his character is rather two dimensional I liked how Brooke grows throughout the book and starts to heal from the damage he inflicted on her self-esteem. To the other women, Samantha seems to have a perfect life and at first they are standoffish towards her but they gradually see her as a real person with real problems.

While the characters gather to watch and discuss Downton Abbey, the show does not parallel what is going on in the book. This is in a way refreshing. I think it would have been too much if there were similar characters or storylines or a portrayal of class differences, etc. We do get the character of Edward whose family was in service to British aristocracy and he himself is a concierge and takes it very seriously. We also see some snobbery in Samantha's brother and his reaction to working in service careers but the book does not dwell on the same themes as the show. Instead the show is a vehicle for the characters to come together and form friendships which I kind of liked.

For those who haven't seen Downton Abbey, be warned that there are spoilers for the first and second seasons of the show. For those who have seen the show, this might be a fun way to revisit it. I enjoyed While We Were Watching Downton Abbey even with its minor flaws. I only wish I could live at the Alexander and be part of the club! 

I would suggest this book to fans of Claire Cook and similar authors and especially to those who enjoy Downton Abbey and contemporary fiction for women.

Note: I received an e-ARC for review purposes courtesy of Netgalley and the publisher


  1. Not sure how I feel about their lives NOT mimicking the plot of DA because I actually like that trope. I like how it reinforces things. But it can be refreshing to not do that. I might suggest my mom and I check this out together since we both love DA so much.

  2. I've been so curious about this book and I'm glad to see you liked it overall. I was afraid that there would be too many similarities between DA and the story, but like you said, DA was just a vehicle to bring them together. I think that is really cool--plus, I would totally want to join a group like this as well...such a fun idea! Thanks for the great review, Christina!

  3. It sounds like a wise choice to not have the book echo the show. If I wanted that, I would just watch the show again!

    That said, I've only just started season 2, but my husband and I both love it. Seriously. I have a co-worker who keeps rushing me to watch faster. "I don't have anyone to talk about it with! Let me know when you're caught up!" So I guess I have my ready-made group just waiting for me.

  4. I love, love, love Downton Abbey. I watch each episode religiously while I tweet about it with all my friends! lol I would love to read this book in a group, but I probably won't get the chance to. I like how you said the book doesn't parallel the show exactly. That is definitely a good thing. I agree it would probably become too much if it had done that. I can't wait to start reading it!


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