Saturday, March 11, 2017

Belgravia by Julian Fellowes

Hey there Downton Abbey fans - Julian Fellowes is back with a new drama. Released in an app (a new ground for Fellowes) as an episodic novel in the style of Dickens of a former time, the novel follows the story of two families: the Ballasis family of the Aristocracy and the Trenchards of the upper working class.

Secrets abound between the two families as mostly the women work their magic in how to deal with the possible scandal of it all. Starting with the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, an untoward romance, a possible sham of a wedding, a ruined reputation, and a child out of wedlock set the stage for veiled upperclass mystery spanning twenty-five years of both households. Servants gossip, ladies maids divulge, and slighted nephews seek to destroy out of jealousy. Belgravia has all the elements of the elitist upper class and its power pit against the desire to inherit such wealth.  Timeless emotions that spurn us all..."ambition, envy, rage, greed, kindness, selflessness..." run high in the ongoing plot to find out who really earns their keep, and their coveted title.

I did not read this in episodes from the app (found here - click!) but rather in novel format. The writing is superb and the historic details add the feel of time travel for the modern-day reader. As an avid watcher of Downton Abbey, it was easy for me to immerse myself in the world created in Belgravia, a suburb of homes in West London outside the city of Westminster that still exists today. I can't quite call this a #pageturner, but the story does move forward in a fairly brisk pace. I found myself talking to some characters, and not in a nice tone of voice, on more than one occasion. Scandal brings out the worst in us all it seems.

But only ☕☕☕ from me. While it has a Downton Abbey feel, it did not hold my attention like I had hoped. The characters were a little whiney and somewhat predictable. I saw the ending coming half-way through the book, and while that's okay, it did make the story a bit lackluster for me. I think there were so many twists and turns in Fellowes known work (to me) that I wanted more of that level of drama. This book was good - no doubt about it - but I could have put it down without knowing the ending. However, it was so well written, I wanted to finish it for that purpose alone. It's an easy read, not too much "thinking" involved, and sometimes that's just what a reader needs; a good, solid story and Belgravia delivers on that front. I think a mini-series would do the work more justice, and maybe that's Fellowes true strength - the screenplay, seeing the characters come to life in real time.

Maybe coming off of Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald tainted my reading a bit - hard to top a novel like that. So take this review with a grain of salt. Belgravia is good historical fiction - it is.

What's next in the pile?

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