From the creator of the Emmy Award-winning Downton Abbey...
"Damian Baxter was a friend of mine at Cambridge. We met around the time when I was doing the Season at the end of the Sixties. I introduced him to some of the girls. They took him up, and we ran about together in London for a while…."
Nearly forty years later, the narrator hates Damian Baxter and would gladly forget their disastrous last encounter. But if it is pleasant to hear from an old friend, it is more interesting to hear from an old enemy, and so he accepts an invitation from the rich and dying Damian, who begs him to track down the past girlfriend whose anonymous letter claimed he had fathered a child during that ruinous debutante season.
The search takes the narrator back to the extraordinary world of swinging London, where aristocratic parents schemed to find suitable matches for their daughters while someone was putting hash in the brownies at a ball at Madame Tussaud's. It was a time when everything seemed to be changing—and it was, but not always quite as expected.
Past Imperfect is Julian Fellowes at his best--a novel of secrets, status, and a world in upheaval.
A middle-aged Londoner is forced to revisit his past in Fellowes's slick and dexterous second novel (after the bestselling Snobs). Former friend Damian Baxter, after 40 years of estrangement, convinces the unnamed narrator to locate the woman Damian believes to have borne his child in 1968. As the narrator looks back on the events of that fateful summer, Fellowes exercises his considerable talent for observing the nuances of custom and class distinction. Especially interesting are the frequent digressions to consider the peculiar juncture of their "safe little, nearly-pre-1939 world" with the Swinging Sixties. In the narrator's circle of friends-who would fit comfortably into a Trollope novel-the ossified conventions of the upper class still hold sway, yet the '60s make an appearance as well, enlivening a debutante party with surprise hash brownies. We quickly discover that middle-class Damian (a "social mountaineer") managed to insinuate himself into this smart set until a terrible scene tears apart the group of friends. Deservedly compared to Tom Wolfe, Fellowes, with his ability to document the aristocracy with a sociologist's eye, fashions intriguing narratives.
This was a satisfying tale written from the perspective of a man dragged back in time, in a way. It had been his history he was pulled back into. His friends and acquaintances. He performed a task for a dying man that ended up clarifying his own past and brightening his future.
Past Imperfect has everything one wants in a novel.
It is a mystery wrapped in a love story, seasoned with insight into the sixties debutant scene with a peek behind the curtain at the life of the English upper classes. The writing is superb and it keeps one engaged through the last sentence. I loved this book!