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Review: Snobs, by Julian Fellowes

Snobs is the story of London "society," and the people who aspire to live in the kind of world where everyone has a title. There is "a subconscious urge on their part to create the comforting illusion that England, or rather the England of the middle and upper classes, is criss-crossed with a million invisible silken threads that weave them together into a brilliant community of rank and grace and exclude everyone else."

Everyone pretends to know everyone else, even if they have never been introduced. In addition, there's a secret code whereby people know each other: in the bestowing of casual, rather ridiculous nicknames such as "pookie" and "sausage." The upper class "think the names imply a kind of playfulness... but they are really a simple reaffirmation of insularity, a reminder of shared history that excludes more recent arrivals, yet another way of publicly displaying their intimacy with each other." Newcomers can't use these nicknames without feeling ridiculous; but they can't use one's title, wither, because that would imply that one is not acquainted with that social set. It's a complicated world in which these people live, eh?

David Easton is an upper-class wannabe, who, although he has money, is not "society." Edith Laverty is in the same position, and aspires to a marriage into English High Society. That's why her marriage to Charles, Earl of Broughton, is of the utmost importance- at least to her and her decidedly middle-class parents. Everyone is surprised, yet not surprised, when their engagement is made public at a garden party at Broughton Hall. His mother, "Googie," is not inclined to favor the match, thinking that Edith Laverty is only after her son's money and title. And at first it would seem that she is only after that. But I think that Edith really and truly did care for Charles himself. A little.

Our narrator is an unknown actor; friend to the Lavertys and Eastons, but acquainted with the world that the Broughtons occupy. He is rather like the character the author is; an actor himself, he wrote the screenplay for Gosford Park (as the book jacket makes abundantly clear). And Snobs is really not much different from Gosford Park- same milieu, same kinds of characters, etc., though of course without a murder. We've even been given the same kinds of interlopers: actors and societal wannabes. This is a highly entertaining book that chews up and spits out the people who live in, or aspire to live in, upper-class England. Fellowes has been compared to Wodehouse, though I would argue that this author is a little less polished than his literary forbear.


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