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Past Imperfect Hardcover – September 1, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"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
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
is this some autobiographical in nature? Enjoyed the development of the plot and descriptions of characters.Published 3 days ago by sally
This was such an interesting book with excellent character development. If you enjoyed Downton Abbey, you will love this period in time.Published 5 days ago by Creek girl
sophisticated, witty British humor, giving a sociological picture of prewar Britain..Published 10 days ago by Mary M. Thacher
I really liked "Snobs," so was a bit let down not to like this one nearly as much. The same great writing and wit that we can expect from Julian Fellowes is still here... Read morePublished 21 days ago by Ga303
Actually, like a modern day Forsyte Saga, in its description of the changes in English culture after World War II. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Susan Campbell
A bit slow to start with but couldn't put it down afterwards, I enjoyed the jump between generations and the difficulties in juggling the different generations and their ideas.Published 1 month ago by lindsay pilbeam
Vaguely interesting and certainly well-written but fundamentally ho-hum.Published 1 month ago by Amy R. Shapiro