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  • Snobs
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80 of 86 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon June 3, 2005
If EM Forster had a modern day equivalant, he would go by the name Julian Fellowes. An Oscar winner for his wonderful screenplay of 'Gosford Park' this satiric stab at the upper crust of British society is great fun, and a pleasure to read. The nameless narrator, a witty actor and wry observationist, befriends Edith Lavery, an attractive if slightly average woman itching to move from her ho- hum existance to the Royal lap of luxury. What follows is her steep ascent and almost as rapid descent, told through various dinners and social gatherings where the elite go to play, or at the very least be seen. The whole time reading I felt I had been steeped in a Merchant Ivory picture, or was sitting with the cast of 'Four Weddings and A Funeral' as their voices bobbed through my head. The story is very simple, serving as a backdrop to the larger strokes he paints about class and society, much like Alan Hollinghurst's 'The Line of Beauty'. The difference between the two is in tone, where Hollinghurst's is bleak, this is like a breath of fresh air.
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44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on March 3, 2006
This book makes for great entertainment in its portrait of a way of life quite alien to most Americans, or known only to devotees of certain PBS fare. The English "aristocracy" retain a certain fascination, with their rituals and sense of "class", for the most part a matter of the lucky gene pool club rather than any real personal accomplishment. The author obviously feels an affinity for the aristocracy, notwithstanding the skewering he gives them. The book never quite has the feel of a "novel", although that hardly detracts from its entertainment value. On the whole, the book reads more like "new journalism", as the first person narrator for the most part describes, rather than creates, the characters, who are more than one-dimensional, but not quite three dimensional. The "form" tends to break down, as the author does not maintain consistent first person narration, but occasionally lapses into a conventional omniscient narrative, portraying incidents, conversations, etc. which the first person narrator could not have known. The most interesting character is Lady Uckfield, keeper of the flame, and it's a pity she was not the focus of the story rather than Charles and Edith, who emerge more as stereotypes than fully fleshed-out characters. The book is rich in trenchant observation and subtle wit, although the ending (I won't give it away) seems contrived and not up to the standard of the rest of the book. This would make a most delightful movie.
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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 2, 2005
As a big fan of Gosford Park I was absolutely thrilled when I heard that its award-winning screenwriter had released a novel. And what joy! 'Snobs' has all of the wit, honesty, and intrigue of Gosford Park without feeling at all like a retread. It is about Edith, a socially ambitious woman who marries into wealth and privilege; however, once she has achieved her dream she becomes restless and hopelessly bored with the life she has chosen. Her life spins into scandal and, possibly, redemption as Fellowes uncovers just how shallow our ambitions can be. The true success of 'Snobs' is that it doesn't feel critical of human nature, just honest. Fellowes' prose is a joy to read, being both light and humorous. I would highly recommend this book.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on March 2, 2005
This book is an Anglophile's delight. If you are a fan of Masterpiece Theatre, Jane Austen, William Thackeray, Noel Coward, et al., then this is your perfect cup of tea.
SNOBS is immersed in the lives of the upper crust of British society and with those outsiders who desperately aspire to become a part of this rarified, privileged world. The plot centers upon the initially fortitious marriage of a beautiful, middle class young woman to a wealthy Earl from an illustrious British family. The Earl is earnest but dull and his new wife quickly tires of him and their lifestyle. Consequenly she creates a scandal by embarking on an affair with an extraordinarily handsome but callow, supercilious actor. This rather pedestrian, derivative plot is nonetheless made up for by Fellowes scintillating prose. He knows his territory well and provides the reader with an entertaining, clever and oh so sophisticated work.

The author's witty aphorisms concerning the upper set are exceptionally fun and insightful: "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 upper classes are not, as a whole a complaining lot. As a group they would rather not 'go on about it'. A brisk walk and a stiff drink are their chosen methods of recovery whether struck in the heart or the is not lack of feeling that marks them apart, rather it is a lack of expression of feeling." "The English always say you shouldn't have bothered to thank them, when, of all races on earth, they are the most unforgiving when one does not." Despite Fellowes satirical and acerbic commentary concerning the snobbish and frivolous nature of the English upper crust, the overall tone of this book leads one to believe that the author has a personal fondness and high regard for this set.

On a relatively minor negative note, Fellowes continuously alternates the narrative voice from the first person to the third person. I found this to be rather awkward and disconcerting. However, I MUST SAY (as the Brits repeatedly do), all minor criticisms aside, this novel is a joy and a delight.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on October 7, 2005
I bought this book for my flight back home, because (yes I must admit!) the cover art was very good. Fellowes' writing style is very tight and succinct, developing Edith in a character as comparable as the ruthless femme fatale of Thackerey's Vanity Fair. Her duplicity is remarkable, succeeding in even convincing herself of her 'innocent' intentions. I laughed through every page (amidst stares from fellow passengers whom I'm sure must've thought I'm mad...and the white jacket didn't help!!) but at the back of my mind it was shockingly apparent that it could hardly be fiction at all but a brutal satire, Fellowes' spars with his quill as brilliantly as Wilde and Voltaire did in their day. It is brilliantly, paradoxically done. Portraying stereotypes amidst the English aristocracy as simply two-dimensional but developing each character in such a way that adds a human dimension to the stereotyped characters we see in newspapers. Fellowes' adds an exquisite spin on an everyday English occurence and that is the gift of a brilliant artist, to make the ordinary appear extraordinary.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on November 4, 2012
I found "Snobs" a very slow read full of very boring people. I kept waiting for a purpose in the lives of the main characters and never found one. It could have been named "Boring Snobs." I am a lover of all things British, but this left me cold.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon July 14, 2005
Snobs is the story of London "society," and the people who aspire to live in the kind of world where everyone has a title. There is "a subconscious urge on their part to create the comforting illusion that England, or rather the England of the middle and upper classes, is criss-crossed with a million invisible silken threads that weave them together into a brilliant community of rank and grace and exclude everyone else." Everyone pretends to know everyone else, even if they have never been introduced.

In addition, there's a secret code whereby people know each other: in the bestowing of casual, rather ridiculous nicknames such as "pookie" and "sausage." The upper class "think the names imply a kind of playfulness... but they are really a simple reaffirmation of insularity, a reminder of shared history that excludes more recent arrivals, yet another way of publicly displaying their intimacy with each other." Newcomers can't use these nicknames without feeling ridiculous; but they can't use one's title, wither, because that would imply that one is not acquainted with that social set. It's a complicated world in which these people live, eh?

David Easton is an upper-class wannabe, who, although he has money, is not "society." Edith Laverty is in the same position, and aspires to a marriage into English High Society. That's why her marriage to Charles, Earl of Broughton, is of the utmost importance- at least to her and her decidedly middle-class parents. Everyone is surprised, yet not surprised, when their engagement is made public at a garden party at Broughton Hall. His mother, "Googie," is not inclined to favor the match, thinking that Edith Laverty is only after her son's money and title. And at first it would seem that she is only after that. But I think that Edith really and truly did care for Charles himself. A little.

Our narrator is an unknown actor; friend to the Lavertys and Eastons, but acquainted with the world that the Broughtons occupy. He is rather like the character the author is; an actor himself, he wrote the screenplay for Gosford Park (as the book jacket makes abundantly clear). And Snobs is really not much different from Gosford Park- same milieu, same kinds of characters, etc., though of course without a murder. We've even been given the same kinds of interlopers: actors and societal wannabes. This is a highly entertaining book that chews up and spits out the people who live in, or aspire to live in, upper-class England. Fellowes has been compared to Wodehouse, though I would argue that this author is a little less polished than his literary forbear.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on March 13, 2005
"Snobs" by Julian Fellowes is a thoroughly delightful read that I've just, unfortunately, come to the end of. I might be tempted to refer to the book as "satire," in that Fellowes makes caustic observations on the behavior and mindset of the British upper class, its hangers-on, and those who aspire to enter its orbit if not its rarefied atmosphere. To me, an American with no first-hand experience of this world, these observations, as well as the depiction in general, sound dead-on.

But I have trouble with the "satire" label in that Fellowes' characters are such full-blooded, three-dimensional character studies. These are people that one begins to care about, despite sometimes atrocious behavior and the fact that many of them are, indeed, snobs.

The book is extremely well-written, and is an utterly absorbing, satisfying read. For a few precious hours, i feel i entered this foreign but often charming world, rubbed shoulders with upper-class cads, twits, and "arrivistes," and came to appreciate the level-headed moral center of the novel, the narrator. I came away feeling I had gained some understanding of this world, even while i consider myself fortunate not to have to reside there for any time.

Well done, Mr. Fellowes! I look forward to his future efforts in fiction.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on February 8, 2006
...but once Julian Fellows `SNOBS' took off it was a very enjoyable and engaging novel, unfortunately it took about one hundred and fifty pages too long for me to actually get into it. I've found that many novels from the UK either take off with a bang or are very slow going in the beginning, there seems to be no in between. `SNOBS' was definitely slow going, however, I thought the pay off was satisfying and I found many of Mr. Fellows observations on class to be spot on and very funny. I also found it ironic that although the narrator attempted to be an impartial reporter on the ways of the upper-middle and upper classes he often fell into their same belief system. I did enjoy the portrait of society life painted by Fellows, which shows that it isn't always lavish parties and hob-knobbing with various celebrities and royalty and that it can often times be incredibly mundane, a fact which the main character Edith quickly realized. I recommend `SNOBS' to those who enjoy a novel with a bit of wit and a lot of irony, 3 ½ stars!
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on April 11, 2005
Edith Lavery is the beautiful daughter of a wealthy accountant and his wife who aspire to marry their daughter into the aristocracy. She manages to enthrall Charles, Earl Broughton, heir to the Marquess of Uckfield, when she meets him as a day visitor to his "stately home"(shades of Hyacinth Bucket)and they marry, to the delight of her mother and the total dismay of his.After nearly two years of boredom, Edith realises that the fairytale life that she had imagined accompanied the title of Countess, just simply didn't exist and she succumbs to the charms of an actor who is starring in a tv series, using the familys country home as its backdrop. Simon is stikingly handsome in a slightly effeminate way and, as sex with her worthy but dull husband has never been more than perfunctory, embarks on a sizzling affair with ends with her leaving her husband and moving into a small flat with her handsome but totally self obssessed lover. The gilt wears off the gingerbread after 8 months and poor stupid Edith does everything she can to win back the trust of her husband. The story of a certain type of hangers-on who live in the shadow of the truly uppercrust is bitingly spot-on and the efforts that they go to in an effort to be included with that set is really pathetically accurate. This was SUCH a good laugh, albeit a slightly guilty one!
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