Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir That Inspired "Upstairs, Downstairs" and "Downton Abbey" by Margaret Powell
Below Stairs reads like an oral history, though the edition I read makes no mention of a co-author. Margaret Powell speaks directly to her reader, with little asides and references to how different times were then compared to now (1968, when her memoir was first published). Her voice is so engaging: intelligent, frank, and spry.
Powell's memoir is not an in depth accounting of the years she spent in service. She doesn't gloss over unpleasant events or people, but they are not recounted in gory detail, either. This is no soap opera retelling of employers' secrets and downstairs intrigues. It is a recollection of one life, sharing bits about each of the places where she worked - some pleasant, some wretched - but mostly it is about how she reacted to the situations she encountered. Circumstances never robbed her of her confidence or ambition, and it is her integrity that makes her memoir enjoyable to read.