After reading "Snobs," there were two facts that I was pleased, but not surprised, to learn about the author. Julian Fellowes, the well-known BBC...
by Julian Fellowes
St. Martin’s Press, 272 pp., $23.95
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After reading “Snobs,” there were two facts that I was pleased, but not surprised, to learn about the author. Julian Fellowes, the well-known BBC actor, Oscar-winning screenwriter (for “Gosford Park”) and now novelist, has a son named Peregrine and a dachshund named Fudge.
Yes, I thought — of course he does.
And so will you, after reading this delicious little ode to the tribulations of the toffee-nosed.
A period novel (but only just, it’s set in the 1990s) “Snobs” is narrated by a journeyman actor with a bit of a foot in the door of upper-crust British society. He becomes a witness to the stratospheric social climbing of one Edith Lavery, a pretty and appealing but not particularly blue-blooded girl who manages to marry well above her station.
Edith deploys her romantic wiles after charming the bachelor earl Charles Broughton at — where else — the Ascot races. Soon she has accomplished the near-impossible: a lavish wedding with royals in attendance and ascension to the Broughton family estate where she takes, like a fish to water, to the luxurious life of the landed gentry.
But what goes up, as we all know, must come down, and Edith soon begins making trouble for herself. Her country existence, with the tiresome shooting parties and the endless blather about hedgerows and farming practices, bores her nearly out of her mind, as does her decent but relentlessly dull husband.
So when the devilishly handsome actor Simon Russell arrives on the scene, Edith begins flirting with disaster. Her mother-in-law, the shrewd and socially expert Lady Uckfield (known to her friends as Googie) would like nothing better than to replace Edith — who remains after all a foreigner in the rarefied country of the British aristocracy — with the right sort of girl.
The battle is joined on a wickedly funny battlefield; “Snobs” clicks along merrily, detailing the foibles and penchants of its characters with skillful precision. It’s not summer yet, but this book, a lighter-than-air confection, will make you feel it is. Ah, you can almost smell the English roses and the Pimm’s Cup at the drinks party.