From the creator of the Emmy-Award winning Downton Abbey ...
"The English, of all classes as it happens, are addicted to exclusivity. Leave three Englishmen in a room and they will invent a rule that prevents a fourth joining them."
The best comedies of manners are often deceptively simple, seamlessly blending social critique with character and story. In his superbly observed first novel, Julian Fellowes, winner of an Academy Award for his original screenplay of Gosford Park, brings us an insider's look at a contemporary England that is still not as classless as is popularly supposed.
Edith Lavery, an English blonde with large eyes and nice manners, is the daughter of a moderately successful accountant and his social-climbing wife. While visiting his parents' stately home as a paying guest, Edith meets Charles, Earl of Broughton, and heir to the Marquess of Uckfield, who runs the family estates in East Sussex and Norfolk. To the gossip columns he is one of the most eligible young aristocrats around.
When he proposes. Edith accepts. But is she really in love with Charles? Or with his title, his position, and all that goes with it?
One inescapable part of life at Broughton Hall is Charles's mother, the shrewd Lady Uckfield, known to her friends as "Googie" and described by the narrator---an actor who moves comfortably among the upper classes while chronicling their foibles---"as the most socially expert individual I have ever known at all well. She combined a watchmaker's eye for detail with a madam's knowledge of the world." Lady Uckfield is convinced that Edith is more interested in becoming a countess than in being a good wife to her son. And when a television company, complete with a gorgeous leading man, descends on Broughton Hall to film a period drama, "Googie's" worst fears seem fully justified.
In Snobs, a wickedly astute portrait of the intersecting worlds of aristocrats and actors, Julian Fellowes establishes himself as an irresistible storyteller and a deliciously witty chronicler of modern manners.
Listeners will have little trouble believing that reader Morant was born into the rarified world that serves as the setting for this gossipy tale. He narrates with the lightest of touches, truisms about the English upper crust rolling off his tongue with powerful understatement. Fellowes is the author of the Oscar Award winning screenplay Gosford Park, and his deliciously satiric debut highlights the foibles and snobbery of the contemporary British upper classes. Morant effortlessly embodies the narrator, a jovial unnamed actor content to remain an observer of his own social class, and he does an equally fine job portraying the people under the narrator's purview. With the proper blend of disdain and understanding, Morant gives voice to the social-climbing Edith Lavery, who marries to advance herself, but his interpretation of Edith's mother-in-law, Lady Uckfield, trumps even this achievement. As Fellowes explains, "Googie" always speaks in an intimate, girlish tone, as if she's letting one in on savory gossip, but listeners don't have to take his word for it. Morant tackles this delicious characteristic with gusto while still revealing the three-dimensional character underneath. Simultaneous release with the St. Martin's hardcover (Reviews, Jan. 17).
View from the not-so-cheap seats
Fascinating look into a quirky and closed (to most of us) world of the Titled from the not-so-cheap seats. Julian Fellowes' French phrases and obscure references are a quiet but constant reminder just how unfathomable the world of the aristocracy is. He clearly knows it well, and I found his portrayal of both sides to be honest and sympathetic. Couldn't put it down.
Spare Yourself the Agony!
This was painfully boring, much like Charles Broughton himself. The only positive thing I can say is that it greatly improved my sleep quality because four pages in every time I picked up this book I fell fast asleep!