|Snobs by Julian Fellowes, author of Downton Abbey|
Snobs is basically a novel about the upper classes, how they spend their time, the rules of their society and a story of how a young social climber manages her way into their society and almost manages her way back out again. Julian Fellowes' novels seem always to have a version of himself as the narrator, which works quite well as he grew up as a peripheral member of the upper classes. Having attended Cambridge and apparently spent many weekends at large estates in the English countryside, this gave him many characters and properties on which to base his first novel Snobs.
"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." This gives one an idea of what the heroine of Snobs is up against in trying to marry into the upper classes in the 1990s. So if you loved Gosford Park and Downton Abbey, this is the modern day story which will give you a much more insightful look into the country homes and lives of the English aristocracy.
Past Imperfect is another novel narrated by a Lord Fellowes type character which delves into the world of the London debutante of the 1960s. It is told in flashback, with the nameless narrator taking a trip back through memory lane, and reliving his youth, attending balls and parties given by the debs of the day. Because it is told in flashback, we also get to peek into the modern day lives of these same individuals and see how their lives and their loves turned out.
Because Julian Fellowes actually has been a part of both the "Country House Weekend" group and the "Debutante World", he speaks with an authority that makes you believe you are really there and not just seeing what it might have been like to be there. Apparently, some of his acquaintance truly believed that they were being described in Snobs with only their name and their nickname (Googie being one) being changed, but he denies this except in one particular instance. (See the fascinating interview with Lord Fellowes in Bookreporter.com which includes some wonderful photos of his world in the 1960s).
So if you need a light escape and want a peek into the world of Lady Diana, Sarah Ferguson and all the Sloane Rangers of the 1980s and 1990s (as well as a look at how their mothers would have "come out" a generation before), these books will rivet you while you await the next royal wedding.