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Book review: 'Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey' is a backstage pass to the show

Published: Saturday, Dec. 21 2013 5:20 p.m. MST

"Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey" is by Emma Rowley. (St. Martin's Press)

Editor’s note: The fourth season of “Downton Abbey” will start airing on Jan. 5 on PBS, and a fifth one has recently been announced, too. Until then, here is one of several books that have crossed out desks recently that explore aspects of the show and the era.

BEHIND THE SCENES AT DOWNTON ABBEY: The Official Backstage Pass to the Set, the Actors and the Drama,” by Emma Rowley, St. Martin’s Press, $29.99, 286 pages (nf)

It’s odd to see photos from the set of “Downton Abbey” with a camera in it or ones of the cast wearing distinctly modern coats between takes. Or there’s the peek into the costume trailer with racks of clothes organized by character and the notes the costume mistress uses to construct a character’s wardrobe.

Photos from the filming of the Edwardian period drama “Downton Abbey,” including from season 4 — which will air in the U.S. starting in January — are included in “Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey.”

Michelle Dockery plays Lady Mary in Michelle Dockery plays Lady Mary in "Downton Abbey." The fourth season of the show premieres in the U.S. on Sunday, Jan. 5. (Nick Briggs, Carnival Film and Television)

Insights into details behind the scripts, sets and locations, props, costumes, makeup and other historical details are from the cast and crew as they share the intense attention to the smallest detail that goes into setting up a scene to get it historically accurate.

What’s shared about season 4 shouldn’t spoil any of the surprises in the upcoming season but rather give an eye to what to look for in costumes and hairstyles for both the family and the staff, as the influence of the 1920s increases, with details in set dressings and locations, as many of the characters travel back and forth to several places in London.

It’s set up like a scrapbook, making it easy to read a section at a time.

Having “Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey” is like having a backstage pass to the show.

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