Author: Julian Fellowes
Publication Date: 2004
How I Found It: Julian Fellowes wrote Downton Abbey
Date Completed: 9/7/16
Summary: When Edith Lavery meets Charles, Earl Broughton and heir to even bigger titles, she seems to have met her dream. With Charles comes acceptance into the high-brow world of English aristocracy. But is it enough to make Edith happy?
What I Thought: This book was delightful. My Anglophilia was well sated. Think of this as Downton Abbey set in modern times. All the intrigue and colorful characters without the historical bent. After all, Fellowes was the writer and creator of that hit show not long after he wrote this book.
I think what I enjoyed most about this book is how much it poked fun at the world. I love the idea of this world - my obsession with British royalty should have made that clear by now. And, because of the 100 Best Novels challenge, I have read so many books set in this world. Not the modern version, to be sure, but the antiquated Britain of Downton Abbey and the surrounding decades. If you've been following my progress on that challenge, you know I am bored to death with that genre at the moment. It's a genre I used to love, and yet the list is so saturated with it, the stories have become too familiar for me. Enter, Snobs.
Fellowes has created one of those stories with which I have become so familiar. This plot could survive nearly perfectly if written and set in 1900. Yet, the modern twist and Fellowes subtle jabs at the hypocrisy of the world make it feel so fresh and funny. Fellowes narrator stands on the edge of the aristocratic world and, thus, can offer a bit more of a balanced perspective on the whole affair (literally). We are allowed both to note the stiffness and cultural traditions and to laugh at them.
I really wanted to like this book. I've been a big Downton fan since the beginning and I was hoping that Fellowes earlier writing would carry some of the same themes and elements. I could not have been more pleased. Not only is Fellowes dealing with some of those same big questions about class and its value, he's doing it while replacing the melodrama of Downton with satiric humor. That's right up my alley.
Ultimately, the big question of the novel is about happiness. I found the ending a bit sad, but also very satisfying. Edith is hardly a sympathetic heroine, but you still hope for her happiness in a way. Or, at least, I hoped for happiness for Charles, who continually seemed to be getting the short end of the stick. I thought Fellowes gave the reader a nice, realistic ending, despite it being quite far from the saccharine conclusion of Downton.
Has anyone else read this one? It's one of those I'm rather itching to talk about and hear what other people think, especially Downtown fans...
Will I Re-Read: Maybe
A Reduced Review: Julian Fellowes has crafted a biting, funny look at the elite world of British aristocracy and its hypocrisy.