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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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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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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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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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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 wallet...it 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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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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on July 14, 2013
Julian Fellowes educates the reader on the social caste system of 1990's England. And as much as things change, ultimately they stay the same. The landed gentry want to be treated like everyone else, unless of course you actually forget that they matter. The social circles widen only by birth and marriage (preferably within the circle, but alas, not always) and the shared experiences of childhood are the glue that bind these people. Didn't attend Eton? Don't have a house in Sussex? You can never really belong.

The characters are unsympathetic and totally unlikable. The writer does nothing to make you care about them or what happens to them. The writing is tedious.

The self-absorbed arrogance quickly gets old. Skip it.
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on May 4, 2013
I was excited to purchase this book and read a novel by the author of the well known Downton Abbey show. That is the best that can be said about this book. I found it slow to catch my interest. However, I stuck with it thinking the interest would begin at the next page. I read more than half the book before it was slightly interesting. It was confusing, the person talking in the third person was never identified yet told the story of Edith and her life. It was this third person voice that I found confusing and less than interesting. I felt this book was a huge waste of my money. I would not recommend it.
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on November 5, 2014
Boring boring boring and some how, I wound up with two of these books.

I am obsessed with DOWNTON ABBEY, I will stick with PBS and hope that Julian Fellowes puts all of his efforts into Downton, and forget's the other projects in his life, e.g. writing SNOBS. A total waste of time, in my opinion.
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on November 9, 2015
Detailed trip into the English class system exposing values, beliefs, traditions and a very interesting look at some complex characters. This is the Cinderella fantasy of a middle class girl who wins the prize, a English Earl. And then she opts out. Complex emotions, lack of forethought and confusing reactions drive the girl into rash decisions. Very interesting study of human frailties.

Most interesting is the narrator of the story who is never named or actually described. Although deeply involved, he tries to be neutral as he presents the tale to the readers. Different and excellently handled the POV of the narrator allowed you to be truly present in the action of the events. Absolutely great device. Definitely a favorite.
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