'Fellowes doesn't try to hide his love of the funny, sealed, above-stairs world of dukes, duchesses, marquesses, nursery maids, herbaceous borders and breakfast kedgeree, all of which makes Snobs such a good, fresh read.' (Daily Telegraph)
Edith Lavery is a woman on the make. The attractive only child of a middle-class accountant, she leaves behind her dull job in a Chelsea estate agents and manages to bag one of the most eligible bachelors of the day: Charles Broughton, heir to the Marquess of Uckfield. But is life amongst the upper echelons of 'good' society all that it seems? Edith soon discovers there's much more to the aristocracy than dancing in Anabel's, shooting small birds and understanding which fork to use at dinner. And then there is Charles's mother, the indomitable Lady Uckfield, or 'Googie' to her friends, who is none too pleased with her son's choice of breeding partner.
With twists and turns aplenty, this is a comical tale worthy of a contemporary Jane Austen.
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Well narrated froth
The narrator (a middle class actor who marries an upper class girl) spends a great deal of time giving the reader a social commentary on the manners, morals and general belief system of the English upper classes. This seems to be the focus of the novel, and may explain why the plot and characters are pretty thin.
Characters: Edith, the heroine, is a shallow, vacillating social climber, as bland and uninteresting as a paper bag. The narrator gives away too little of himself to engage the reader in any particular interest in his welfare. Some of the more minor characters are interesting, though, including Caroline, Adler and Lady Uckfield (Julian Fellowes does seem to have a particular genius for drawing dragon-like dames who prove to have more to them than meets the eye!)
Plot: the plot promises more than it delivers. The story has lots of potential. Modern day social climber catches earl then regrets her choice (but will she whistle him down the wind or not, in the end?). Fine, as far as it goes, but it never went further. Fans of Downton Abbey or Belgravia, used to interesting (not to say improbable!) twists of fate, may well be disappointed by the thinness of the plot.
It's easy to pick holes in Snobs. Yet, I finished listening to it and would even say that I enjoyed it. At the end of the day, what saves Snobs from being a dead bore is that Julian Fellowes is an elegant and entertaining writer. He can make his plot thin, and his characters cardboard, and somehow his book is still entertaining. Maybe that is an art in itself.
Richard Mourant narrates beautifully, so if you have already read the book and liked it, then go for it! If you haven't read it, and this review doesn't put you off, then go for it too!