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Snobs - Julian Fellowes

Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle

AS WELL as an actor and film director, Julian Fellowes is a writer and a very good one at that. But don’t take my word for it; just look at his impressive CV.

It includes two scripts for television – the EMMY Award-winning Little Lord Fauntleroy and the BAFTA nominated The Prince and the Pauper – plus two equally acclaimed screenplays – the Oscar-winning Gosford Park and The Young Victoria.

And it doesn’t end there. He also wrote the book of the stage musical Mary Poppins for Cameron Mackintosh and Walt Disney. However, Snobs was his debut novel. That it became an international bestseller and garnished glowing reviews from the likes of Stephen Fry and Jilly Cooper undoubtedly speaks volumes.

Snobs is, in fact, a delightfully satirical novel that focuses on the young and attractive Edith Lavery who marries one of England’s most eligible bachelors, the dull but inherently decent Charles Broughton. But Edith is from a middle-class background and life in the higher echelons of society isn’t quite what she expected. Besides, there’s Charles’ disapproving mother, the indomitable Lady Uckfield, to contend with.

Snobs is stylish yet unpretentious and as such is a pleasure to read. It’s also strangely compelling, with characters that are well drawn and, for the most part, from two very different worlds – one inhabited by the privileged few, the other by showbiz wannabees. And believe me, they’re flawed, Edith in particular. Nevertheless, despite her abominable behaviour, I found myself rooting for her but whether out of respect for Charles or to thwart his mother, I’m not sure.

As well as being humorously critical of his eponymous Snobs, Fellowes displays a delicious sense of humour in his imagery. An example in point is the narrator’s sentiments on climbing into a car beside a somewhat corpulent acquaintance. And I quote: “I felt like Carrie Fisher squeezing up against Jabba the Hutt”. You just can’t help but smile.

But Fellowes is also highly cognizant of the human condition – of time blurring memory and “the old recalling only the sunny days of childhood”, while “lust, that state commonly known as ‘being in love’ is a kind of madness”. And who can argue with that? Small wonder then, that Snobs is also about not appreciating what you have until you think you’ve lost it.

Having previously read and enjoyed Fellowes’ second novel Past Imperfect, I had high expectations of Snobs and I wasn’t disappointed. You won’t be either.