Our lucky British friends get Downton Abbey back this weekend, while those of us on the wrong side of the pond have to wait until 2012 for season 2. Thanks a lot, PBS! If, like me, you’re looking for something to fill the time, or if you’re curious about what life in the Downton Days was like, Juliet Nicholson’s book The Perfect Summer: England in 1911, Just Before the Storm is a fascinating, dishy read. Nicholson, a descendant of Vita Sackville-West, covers a lot of ground in this–we hear anecdotes about how Lady Diana Manners and her friends turned the tragedy of a child’s death into a parlor game, and also get a glimpse into the lives of the lower classes, many of whom suffered and went on strikes during the long, hot summer. Want to learn just how empty the life of Lady Mary could be before the war came along and shook things up? Grab a copy of this book.