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Author Brings Real Stories Of English Housekeepers To San Diego

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The lives of servants in great houses are often fodder for popular entertainment, but Tessa Boase's book aims to clear away some of the fantasy, and presents the equally fascinating realities of English housekeepers through history.

There is something compellingly tragic about characters like Mrs. Hughes in "Downton Abbey" and the stoic Mr. Stevens in "Remains of the Day," who forgo their own fulfillment and happiness to serve their families.

"The Housekeeper's Tale: The Women Who Really Ran the English Country House" examines the life of six real life housekeepers, spanning the decades from 1832 to now, and looks at how their roles have changed over time.

Boase said many families had more than one house, and housekeepers had an immense amount of work.

“The house had to be ready all the time in case these highly mobile families dropped in,” Boase told KPBS Midday Edition on Thursday.

Boase said modern-day television shows featuring British housekeepers would probably be less watchable if they were realistic.

Boase will discuss her book at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Timken Museum of Art in Balboa Park.

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