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Snobs: A Novel Paperback – May 8, 2012
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From Publishers Weekly
Wodehouse gets a modern twist in this brilliantly acerbic tale of snobbery and marital tomfoolery in 1990s London. Our nameless protagonist, a jovial, perceptive sort of 30-something fellow hanging affably about the fringes of society, introduces his middle-class but sleek and beautiful friend Edith Lavery to the earnest but dull Lord Charles Broughton. Much to the dismay of "civilized" society, Charles falls in love and proposes to the social-climbing but largely indifferent Edith. Even after she is married, Edith is snubbed and humiliated at every turn (in the slyest, politest possible way, of course), until she moves out in a huff with her married lover, Simon Russell, an actor/ego-on-legs who is eating up the publicity that comes with being seen with a countess and eager for this entrée into society (he doesn't realize Edith has been cast into the societal dung heap). To Edith's consternation, the glittering world of theater turns out to be just as small-minded and dull as that of society, with the added disadvantage of it not involving much money. Gossipy and dishy, this debut by the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Gosford Park is a merciless and hilarious sendup of snobbery and social jealousy, revealing the pettiness and self-absorption of both the envious and the envied.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From The New Yorker
Fellowes, a late bloomer who wrote the script for "Gosford Park," again portrays the British upper class in his début novel. One Edith Lavery marries up, snagging the Earl of Broughton, a man who lives for his country estates and thanks his wife after each of their brief sexual encounters. Edith soon takes up with a handsome actor and runs for cover from her mother-in-law, the formidable Googie. The polite firefights that ensue are very readable, but their presentation is somewhat muddled. Fellowes, who, the dust jacket reveals, has a son named Peregrine and a dachshund named Fudge, may identify too closely with this social stratum. Although he convincingly portrays the habits of the entitled, they escape the skewering that the title leads us to expect. The result is a watered-down satire that eventually becomes an apologia for Edwardian England, where everyone knew his place and no one was tacky.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Definitely worth reading
What's *not* a particularly valid criticism is "I love Downton Abbey and this is nothing like Downton Abbey, so I hate this." Julian Fellowes is the *creator* of Downton Abbey, and he has also written some books. I don't know why there's such confusion there. Besides the fact that this is set in England, and focuses a great deal on the ins-and-outs of the aristocracy and on class disparities, no, this isn't Downton Abbey. (That's like saying I love "Pet Sematary" by Stephen King, but Stephen King wrote "The Stand," but because "The Stand" isn't "Pet Sematary," I hate "The Stand.") It doesn't seem fair to pigeonhole a talent like Mr. Fellowes into one very small space of the entertainment spectrum. Especially when there are so many other things out there that *are* like Downton Abbey, although varying wildly on the scale of "as good as."
I am an admitted Anglophile, and that probably has much to do with my enjoyment of this book, which I would think anyone interested in English society would also enjoy. But another huge portion of my enjoyment of the book has to do with my appreciation of the writing -- in places, the wit is so sharp it'll give your eyes a paper cut right then and there. I finally stopped highlighting all the places in the book where I appreciated this (although I do remember one of my favorite analogies ... likening an actor's wig to something "taken off a dead body found floating in the Thames").
A very enjoyable read, bitingly sarcastic at times, so it doesn't welcome a thin-skinned reader. If a good serving of wry-on-rye sounds good to you, and you gobble up anything English, go for it.
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.