Books »Snobs

snobs julian fellowesSnobs is written by Julian Fellowes, beloved author of one of my favorite Robert Altman films, Gosford Park. The English aristocracy is still in his sights as he takes us through the sometimes funny, sometimes pathetic life of Edith Lavery, a common girl with ambition who snags a wealthy but boring Earl with no thought to the consequences.

As it ends up, she is immediately bored with the cold, country houses and the exclusivity of her new peer group. Her mother-in-law, an elegant woman hardened into the perfect upper crust, is not her biggest fan as she is fully aware (as is most everyone) that Edith did not marry her son for love.

Soon Edith does find love (or so she thinks) with a mid level actor who's good in bed, vain, lively, and fun. The opposite of her new husband, Edith can't help but run off with him, leaving the world she spent so long climbing her way into in a state of scandal.

Still, Edith is not the only one to get a wry and critical eye from Fellowes, partly she's helped by the story's narrator, a remarkably charming young man who straddles the upper class and the world of actors. His voice lends a bit of sympathy to our gold digger and honesty to the foibles of an aristocracy that may not have the sheen and glamour one might expect.

If Fellowes had not peppered the book with a few references to the 1990s, I would have had a very difficult time placing the story historically. The idea of Earls and such is so foreign to myself (and to most Americans, I assume) that it was actually hard at first to picture all of this traditional snobiness still existing and meaning so very much to people.

Ultimately, it's not as complex and engaging as Gosford Park, but it's still a smart, entertaining and buoyant read about the rules of a strange and amusing society.

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Posted on December 15, 2008

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