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Past Imperfect Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 1, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1 edition (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312570686
  • ASIN: B003STCRMY
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (165 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #670,365 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"It's like a visit to an English country estate: breezy, beautiful and charming." --New York Times Book Review

"All this would be satire if it weren't so much like a diary, and though those who know about such things generally don't tell, Fellowes, a more genial Evelyn Waugh, seems to hide a notebook in his dinner jacket." --People (4 stars)

"Fellowes has a high time skewering the foibles of the landed British gentry..." --Entertainment Weekly

"Julian Fellowes knows a thing or two about British society and those who dare to infiltrate it....delightful" --Vogue

"A guilty pleasure of a novel [that] seems authentic down to the wallpaper and the Wellingtons. Hilarious...sharp, entertaining, and unforgiving." --Anna Quindlen

"It's not only the rich who are different, it's the British upper classes too.  This complicated truth, all the more palatable if delivered amusingly, has been successfully tackled by such insiders as P.G. Wodehouse, Evelyn Waugh and Nancy Mitford, and is now resurrected by Julian Fellowes." --The Miami Herald


More About the Author

Julian Fellowes has had an illustrious career in film, theatre, television and literature. Among his many screenplays are the Oscar-winning Gosford Park, The Young Victoria, and Vanity Fair. He has directed and performed in numerous films and television series, and his novels include the Sunday Times bestselling novel, Snobs. Julian lives in Dorset with his family.

Customer Reviews

I really enjoyed reading this book and liked all the characters- both good and bad!
M. D. Mulhern
The author is equally at home with humor and with drama and so the story is at times funny, always witty, but then also moving, shocking and surprisingly deep.
Tina Morris
I really enjoyed it more than the other as the characters were so very well developed.
Kathryne M. Smith

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

87 of 88 people found the following review helpful By Mae on January 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I picked up this book because of back-cover blurbs mentioning P.G. Wodehouse, Evelyn Waugh, Nancy Mitford, and Oscar Wilde, not realizing until later that the blurbs were in praise of Snobs, Fellowes's first book. I don't know about Snobs, but Past Imperfect was nothing like Wodehouse or Wilde, not much like Waugh, and maybe a very little bit like Mitford.

I enjoyed it so much I looked the author up here and was surprised to find relatively negative reviews. The author does sometimes come across as snobbish and frequently expresses strong opinions and tastes, but I liked that it was written from a distinctive point of view, whether or not I agreed with his various judgements. It was also pleasant to read a book so careful in its language (in the sense of grammar, punctuation, usage, and general style).

The five star review, however, is for its living up to all the good-book cliches: I couldn't put it down, I didn't want to stop reading, etc. Characters are introduced gradually; most are multifaceted enough that the reader's opinions of them change throughout the book. The writing is skillful enough that one barely notices that the narrator's name is never given, and it is similarly unobtrusive when a character is referred to simply as, for example, so-and-so's husband for a while, and then when the name is given, one learns it is actually an already-introduced character, so there are small surprises and revelations throughout the story as well as the answer to the book's main question at the end.

I finished it today and now I want to get Snobs ASAP.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In 1968 the London Season was on the wane. At one time it referred to the annual period when it was customary for members of the a social elite to hold posh debutante balls, dinner parties various soirees, large charity events, etc.. This period could begin any time after Christmas, depending upon the success of the hunting season in the country. It also coincided with the sitting of Parliament. London became a virtual marriage market during the Season. There were only a few short months for eligible debutantes to be officially presented to the queen, attend approximately 50 balls, 60 parties, 30 dinners and 25 breakfasts in order to, hopefully, find themselves a wealthy, titled husband. And a young lady was not considered approved for the marriage market until she was presented at court - her curtsy to the queen had to be impeccable if she were to succeed.

However, in 1968, the world was in a period of flux - politically and socially. This was the end of one era and the beginning of another. Although many of the traditions and customs remain, the official organization of the Season no longer exists The presentation of debutantes at court was abolished by Queen Elizabeth II in 1958. And while the London Season continues - young debs still have to be married, as do eligible bachelors - the scale of events has been cut-back significantly.

Boutique clothes and micro mini-skirts from Carnaby Street were "in," as were the Beatles and the Rolling Stones in 1968. Charles, Prince of Wales, was probably dating his Camilla - although both were single at the time. And the unnamed narrator of "Past Imperfect," fresh out of Cambridge, was enjoying himself, along with his circle of friends. Prominent amongst these friends was the handsome, debonair Damian Baxter.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Chuck Crane on March 22, 2011
Format: Paperback
This novel further confirmed my belief that John Calvin must have been thinking of the English when he made "Total Depravity" the first point of Calvinism. Not to say the worse of it. A little depravity now and then is relished by the wisest men.

Damian Baxter, a dying, friendless self-made billionaire who crashed the London debutante scene in 1968 when a poor young man engages a former enemy, now a moderately successful writer, to determine if any of his debutante conquests bore him a child who can inherit his fortune. During his quest, the writer interweaves amusing flashbacks to the declining debutante scene that followed the abolition of "Presentment" by Queen Elizabeth II in 1958 with the subsequent histories of the women on Damian's list, all the while reflecting, with genuine insight and humor, on what the English have lost and gained as a society in the intervening years. For many readers, these reflections will be the most memorable passages in the book.

I would compare Past Imperfect favorably to A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell. Though much less ambitious than Powell's 12-novel cycle, and sometimes weaker in characterization, it nearly matches Powell's humor, and if the characters are less vividly drawn, they are always believable. Being an American who resides in the west, I found the botoxed and face-lifted LA infomercial host with imaginary food allergies, in particular, to be spot on. I meet her every day.

The characters are all upper-middle or upper class, so if you think that squalor and degradation are the only fit subjects for literature, don't read this book. Go read Erskine Caldwell instead.
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