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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