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Past Imperfect Hardcover – 30 Oct 2008

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: W&N (30 Oct. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297855220
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297855224
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 645,077 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Julian Fellowes, actor, writer, director, producer, was educated at Ampleforth, Magdalene College, Cambridge and Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art. He trained in repertory theatre at Northampton and Harrogate.

As an actor he is probably best known for his portrayal of the incorrigible Lord Kilwillie in the BBC's 'Monarch of the Glen', as well as film roles in 'Shadowlands' with Anthony Hopkins, 'Damage' with Jeremy Irons and 'Tomorrow Never Dies' with Pierce Brosnan.

As a writer for TV, he is responsible for the scripts of 'Little Lord Fauntleroy' (winner of an International EMMY, 1995) and 'The Prince and the Pauper' (nominated for a BAFTA, 1997), which he also produced. His first screenplay for the cinema was 'Gosford Park', directed by Robert Altman, which won a plethora of prizes, not least the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

He wrote the screenplay for the recent version of 'Vanity Fair', starring Reese Witherspoon, and 'The Young Victoria', currently in post-production. His debut as a Director, 'Separate Lies', starring Emily Watson, Tom Wilkinson and Rupert Everett, was released to acclaim in 2006. He presented the BBC series, 'Most Mysterious Murders'.

As well as his novels 'Snobs' and 'Past Imperfect' (UK and US bestsellers), he has written a children's book published in 2006, and the book for the musical of 'Mary Poppins' for Cameron Mackintosh and Disney. Julian is married to Emma, nee Kitchener, and they have one son, Peregrine.

Product Description


A gloriously funny, bumpy ride through modern times. (Andrew Barrow THE EVENING STANDARD)

he knows too, how to create memorable characters. Working with an upper-class cast Fellowes populates PAST IMPERFECT with a gallery of sometimes grotesque but mostly affetionately drawn toffs - acidly observed by the narrator, ever peevish, ever diverting. (Peter Burton THE DAILY EXPRESS)

PAST IMPERFECT is both a historical document for that vanished era and a comedy of manners....... sharply perceptive and required reading for anyone who was there. (Claire Colvin THE DAILY MAIL)

Its plot cannot fail to grip the reader...... what elevates this novel to much more than a comedy of manners is the depth of compassion the author displays for his characters. (Elisa Segrave THE SPECTATOR)

An elegant satire, it offers an entertaining commentary on our times and a heartfelt lament for a kinder, more courteous Britain (Sebastian Shakespeare TATLER)

A witty take on the world as it was and is now' (WOMAN AND HOME)

It is amusingly written, ends neatly, quietly subverts the surface stereotyping of its characters, and will have a certain kind of social historian swooning with pleasure. (DJ Taylor THE GUARDIAN)

Very entertaining - think a more self-aware and sophisticated Jilly Cooper..... the result is that rare thing - an intelligent and insightful blockbuster. (GLOSS MAGAZINE)

An elegy for a long-lost class ill-equipped to deal with its inevitable demise. (Clare Allfree METRO)

A funny poignant story from the actor and Oscar-winning writer of Gosford Park (BELLA MAGAZINE)

Elegantly written, it says much about the times that we've lived through. (CHOICE MAGAZINE)

A witty page-turner for those who love reading about the toffs antics of yesteryear. (EASY LIVING)

compelling (Jane Shilling THE TIMES)

Elegantly written, intelligent, thoughtful and witty (THE GLASGOW EVENING TIMES)

'A sometimes poignant, sometimes rueful elegy to the era when AA men saluted you' (Lizy Buchan SUNDAY TIMES)

Book Description

Sunday Times bestselling author of SNOBS and Oscar winning writer of the screenplay for GOSFORD PARK returns with a thrilling new novel

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Bluebell TOP 500 REVIEWER on 1 Dec. 2008
Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed this book. It evokes a world, that few of us have experienced, of aristocratic families and the social gatherings that underpinned the marriage-market of debutantes coming-out into 'Society'. It starts in the 1960s when this world was also changing and follows the lives of a group of bright young things who met at these gatherings. As with his Gosford Park, Julian Fellowes gently satirizes the foibles, petty snobberies and unearned privileges of this world. However the book is far more than this as there is a strong central story of a dying man's quest to find a son he didn't know he'd fathered until decades later and through this search the often sad and disappointing life stories of the central characters unfold and greatly enrich the book.
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42 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Cassandra on 17 Jun. 2009
Format: Paperback
I started off being just a little dubious about the cover plot summary and its implications. But Julian Fellowes not only knows his stuff he has the rare ability to conjure up an era with both great sincerity and a light touch. The marks of a good novel ( for me, at any rate) were all there: I genuinely cared about the characters-even those who were pretty obnoxious-
I could 'see' every moment with cinematic clarity ; detail was what it should be-detailed; the 'human condition' was clear for all to see but was portrayed with compassion and kindness and there was enough dry and wry humour scattered throughout to stop us taking ourselves too seriously.
It kept me engrossed throughout. A pretty near perfect novel.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By E. Chaplin on 22 Jun. 2009
Format: Paperback
This is a very well written book and one that evokes a bygone age. It is especially apealing to the 50 somethings for whom it is a very nostalgic read. The characters are far from perfect and all the more life-like for being so. The social commentary is extremely amusing. I look forward to reading more work by the author.
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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful By F. S. L'hoir TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 4 Jun. 2009
Format: Paperback
"Past Imperfect" produced a profound feeling of ambivalence in me; on the one hand, I wanted to devour it, and on the other, I did not want it to end. With the first sentence, Julian Fellowes caught my attention; by the end of the first page, he had me hooked. As a consequence, I found it very difficult to put the book down for the next three days, as I navigated the intricacies of its complex plot. It was as if I were being conducted on a special tour by a knowledgeable guide into a fascinating and privileged world to which I would otherwise have no entry: aristocratic London of the 1960s, an era in which Bright Young Things--and a few Dim Bulbs--still danced the night away at debutante balls.

Such a topic might, at first glance, seem frivolous, but the author soon dispels this notion by tightening the strings of suspense, introducing and repeating a key word--a place name, which I shall not reveal--and then adroitly deferring the resolution until the last chapter. With lucid prose and sharply honed wit, he cuts through the pretense and pretensions of his characters, which are delineated so thoroughly that one comes to care for each of them. (They are, in fact, so well defined that I was already casting a BBC series in my head!). The book, furthermore, comments on both past and present, being peppered with clever allusions to literature, theatre, and politics, sometimes in a single phrase (e.g., "The Curious Case of Gordon Brown" [p. 406]).

I recommend this book as an antidote for sundry books that I've picked up lately, which seem to have been knocked off in a hurry for persons in a hurry. Plot-driven, such books are like fast food; they fill one up only momentarily. With its memorable characters, wit, and suspense, "Past Imperfect," which recaptures the flavor of a vanished era, will leave one both satisfied and nourished long after the book has been closed reluctantly for the last time.

Reviewed for Vine;
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A. Craig HALL OF FAME on 5 Oct. 2009
Format: Paperback
I loved SNOBS but was rather put off this by the endless reviews which focussed on the Society element of the story and ignored what it's really about - ageing, memory, ugliness, love and yes, the poison of snobbery. Although you could say Fellowes has his cake and eats it in that he so obviously enjoys the lost world of the Ruling Classes of '68, he makes no bones about how it was time for change.

One of the many interesting aspects of PI is that most novelists, being middle-class, would have told the story from the point of view of Damien Baxter, the man the narrator hates but who is commissioned by to track down the unknown love child conceived in their shared youth. Damien's rise to fame and fortune, not the hollowness of it all or the devastating quarrel that wrecked the chance of happiness for three people, would have been the focus.

Instead, what we get is so much more subtle and well-crafted, I couldn't put it down. Shuttling between the narrator's quest to discover which of four women the dying multi-millionaire impregnated, and the events which introduced Damien to his gilded circle of Debs and Debs' Delights this is a marvellously funny and sympathetic examination of how things used to be. Very few novelists have the insider knowledge Fellowes does - I can think of only Nancy Mitford and Mary Wesley - and his forensic understanding of class is, as you might expect from the screenplay of Gosford Park, exceptional. Many of his sentences are almost aphorisms - eg, "anyone with a brain gets nicer as they get older" - though of an optimisitic bent. His observations on marriage, and why clever women marry bores, are particularly acute.

I hope the many publishers who turned down Snobs feel as stupid as they are. Fellowes is the Thackeray of our time, and shows that the long-derided "silver fork" novel is just as fascinating as it always was.
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