Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)

Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)
Oh, to be in England...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Julian Fellowes-His novels are as good as his films

Snobs by Julian Fellowes, author of Downton Abbey
Julian Fellowes, (Baron Fellowes of West Stafford) is best known these days as not only an actor and the screenwriter of Downton Abbey, Gosford Park and Young Victoria but he is also an author of several novels. I decided to order these as I enjoyed his screenwriting so much, and he seems to have an inside knowledge of the upper classes of England. Being rather nosy about how this class system works (living in the New World as I do), especially with the royal wedding of William and Catherine later this month, I ordered his two novels Snobs and Past Imperfect.

SnobsSnobs 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 ImperfectPast 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 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.

SnobsPast Imperfect: A NovelMasterpiece Classic: Downton Abbey (Original UK Unedited Edition)Gosford ParkVanity Fair (Widescreen)From Time to Time ( Chimneys of Green Knowe ) [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.2 Import - Netherlands ]


  1. I've considered reading one of Fellowes' novels and noticed mixed reviews for them. I might still look into them but I somehow wish they were set during Edwardian years or earlier! It is odd though I think that in this modern day, the class system still seems to hold such weight in Britain. Glad we don't see things the same way for the most part, on this side of the pond!

  2. I think we should tell him that he needs to write a Downton Abbey book. He could put so much more detail into a novel than a screenplay. I've really enjoyed these 2 books, although I'd be the first to admit that they aren't classic literature.

    I think Past Imperfect is probably the better book, although Snobs gives you more of the idea of how the English Country House culture hasn't really changed since Edwardian times!




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