Skip to main content

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.


Popular posts from this blog

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972 Originally published: 1944 My edition: 2000 (Chicago Review Press) How I acquired my copy:, 2004

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is…

Review: Jane Austen's Letters, ed. by Deirdre Le Faye

Pages: 667 Original date of publication: 2011 My copy: 2011 (Oxford University Press) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy:, April 2013
This is a compilation of many of Jane Austen’s letters, most of them sent to her sister Cassandra between 1796 and 1817, the year of her death. Although many of Austen’s letters were destroyed by her sister in order to preserve the family reputation, the collection contains over 160 letters in which Austen gives her sister details about her life in Chawton—as well as giving us a tantalizing glimpse of what was going through her mind as she was writing her novels (especially the novel that was to become Pride and Prejudice, First Impressions). There are other letters here, too, giving advice to her niece and professional correspondence to publishers—as well as a couple of letters that were written by Cassandra Austen after Jane’s death.
To the sisters, the letters acted in the way that phone calls do today; Austen’s news is all about pe…

Review: Midnight in Peking, by Paul French

Pages: 259 Original date of publication: 2013 My copy: 2013 (Penguin) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Phoenix bookstore, May 2013
In January 1937, the body of a young British girl, Pamela Werner, was found near Peking’s Fox Tower. Although two detectives, one British and the other Chinese, spent months on the case, the case was never solved completely, and the case was forgotten in the wake of the invasion of the Japanese. Frustrated, Pamela’s father, a former diplomat, tried to solve the crime. His investigation took him into the underbelly of Peking society and uncovered a secret that was worse than anything he could have imagined.
At first, I thought that this would be a pretty straightforward retelling of a true crime, but what Paul French (who spent seven years researching the story) reveals in this book is much more than that. Foreign society in Peking in the 1930s was stratified, with the British colonials at the top and the White Russian refugees at the bottom, but…