6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 18 April 2010
I like being taken somewhere in a book I wouldn't normally go and that's perhaps why I loved Snobs. It gave an intriguing insight into the upper classes. How they behave, why they do so, what motivates them. We're not talking about the slightly rich here but a world most of us will never inhabit. I devoured Snobs feeling like a fly on the wall, lapping up the details of privilege and wealth. While the leading lady's motives were not always likeable, I certainly understood her now and then. In its entirety Snobs was not just a story (and it was a decent story which moved at a good pace but it's not a hard-hitting drama, more of a study of people) but also about settling in life, about wanting different things and being a different person as the years pass. For this reason, it's one of the few books that made me think about it a few days after I finished it. And I think a few clever observations will stay with me for a long time. Recommended for sure. Perhaps not if you want a thrilling ride, but for a gentle, clever think about society, it's a winner.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 17 May 2006
This book is set in an upper class milieu with which I am not familiar - and to be fair, wouldn't want to be. The author is not exactly a revolutionary! He sends the upper class characters up, but does so with affection. Something I particularly liked was the long passages of explanation interpolated into the dialogue. There is a first person narrator reminiscent of the narrator of A Dance to the Music of Time. That is fine, but the author also describes the heroine's sexual experiences with another character, which the narrator cannot possibly have witnessed. This jarred on me a bit. However, I am not saying that the descriptions were bad in themselves. In fact, they convey everything we need to know in relation to the personalities of those involved and the relationship between them, without being pornographic in any way. This is basically a comic novel, but the plot moves at a reasonable pace despite the long (and enjoyable) explanations, and the ending is a satisfying one. I would not say that this is a profound book, but it contains some intelligent observations on life. An enjoyable read, provided you are not left wing and like social comedy.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 24 February 2009
This was an enjoyable easy read, although I agree with the reviewers who point out that the first person narrative jars with a great deal of what could only be third person description.
As for the rest - I have decided that I am utterly bored with the assumption that we should all deride the Upper Classes. I will never be party to their world, but what the heck -they are patriotic, have a respect for History and tradition, cannot be bought (Cash for Honours, anyone?) and as the book makes clear, husband the countryside as opposed to Genetically Modifying it - ergo, they have not been replaced by anything better.
I know Mr Fellowes' has an entrée and all that but it is surprising how much of the detail and characterisation could have been adapted from a thorough reading of the 1982 `Sloane Ranger Handbook.' Nevertheless, this is nicely written, highly absorbing and entertaining stuff. It also contains what now looks like a highly astute bit of forecasting with the character of the `U' New-Style Tory Tommy Wainwright - a rising Conservative MP stuck at the end of the Major years, Wainwright could be a projection of the currently resurgent Public School `Progressive' Tory.
Lady Uckfield, by the way, is a superb literary creation and her son Charles a moving portrayal of sheer goodness.
30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
This not-quite-debut novel (Fellowes wrote several romance novels in the mid-'70s under the name Rebecca Greville, including "Poison Presented" and "Court in the Terror") ought to appeal to fans of his 2001 Oscar-winning script for the film Gosford Park. A straightforward satirical comedy of manners set among the upper classes of mid-'90s England and those who aspire to join them, the book is a frothy comic brew which skewers both parties with the kind of pitch-perfect subtle writing that it seems only the British can pull off. The story is quite simple, a pretty woman from an upper middle-class family whose mother has pretentions decides to ensnare a hugely wealthy and dull aristocratic man in order to "marry up" into the upper classes which still hold such a mystique and importance in British society. The man's mother, a formidable Marchioness aims to prevent this from occurring but fails. The young woman discovers that life at the top isn't as exciting as she anticipated and runs off with an handsome actor to great scandal. Will anyone find happiness at the end?
This is all more or less narrated by a semi-aristocratic actor (clearly very much like the author) who is able to move between all worlds due to his upbringing and career. He starts the book as a friend of the young woman and a very passing acquaintance of the young man, and ends up becoming a bridge between worlds and at the latter stages, a kind of discreet go-between. It is his penetrating sardonic insights and the witty formulations thereof which lend what substance there is to this otherwise straightforward love story. Much of the novel involves the narrator spelling out the unspoken rules of the game for the reader in deliciously mocking detail. The main flaw in most satire is that it is too broad or unsubtle, but here the narrator's mockery of the artificially preserved world of the aristocracy is all the more effective from its insider position. To be sure, the characters are mostly "types" without a whole lot of substance or depth to them (the boorish rich pig, the nasty arriviste, the brisk no-nonsense wife, the ice queen, the social climber, etc.), but that's kind of the point as well. A great deal of the satire is that these upper crust people have no personality, that they are all just filling the roles they've seen before them and imagine will extend after them forever. Ultimately, the book is somewhat bittersweet in that the writing is quite amusing, but one can't help but feel slightly sorry for how unhappy so many of the characters are (even if they aren't particularly deeply drawn). On the other hand, it's not too hard to feel like it's a case of them getting their just desserts...
30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Although they might intermingle within the pages of Hello! the aristocrat and the A'list celebrity live in different worlds. However, Julian Fellowes has a foot in both worlds and, like many before him, his first novel is set within an environment he is familiar with. The plot is a sort of 'menages trois' (Julian's characters have a fondness for lapsing into French) but like Gosford Park the plot isn't that riveting, where Julian excels is in social anthropology. If you believed, like John Major, that we were on the brink of a classless society then let Julian reveal the truth to you as he explains little oddities such as the upper classes usage of their nursery nicknames throughout their life. Peppered with insights and seasoned with scandal but not over done, a rare treat for escapist reading.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Edith Lavery, having been given the rather out-dated Christian name of Edith to suggest she has been named after an Edwardian upper-class ancestor (when, in truth, Edith has no upper-class ancestors), is the only child of a middle-class accountant and his socially aspiring wife; they live in a large flat in Elm Park Gardens (almost at the wrong end of Chelsea) and both Edith and her mother are beginning to worry that at the age of twenty seven, Edith really should have found herself a wealthy husband. However, Edith, a very attractive young woman, bored with her job in a Chelsea Estate Agency, is not prepared to settle for second best and when she meets Charles, Earl Broughton, heir to the Marquess of Uckfield, and one of the most eligible bachelors around (and so upper-class that even his hair is described as aristocratic), Edith decides that although Charles is not quite the handsome, intelligent man she hoped to spend the rest of her life with, the time has come for her to climb the social ladder and to get a husband at the same time.
However, Charles' mama, the doughty Lady Uckfield, is rather dismayed at Charles' choice - how could he possibly consider marrying someone from the lower orders instead of one of the nice girls in his own social circle and already known to his family? And Lady Uckfield knows a social climber when she sees one and, if necessary, she knows exactly how to put them in their place. But does she put Edith firmly in her place, or is she cleverer than that? And does Edith manage to enter the upper-classes unscathed, or does her relationship with Charles reveal that the effort involved outweighs the reward and that life in the top drawer is not all that it is cracked up to be?
With some rather smart settings in the Royal Enclosure at Ascot, at Annabel's, White's and St James's Palace, this is one of those novels that some of us might dismiss as silly nonsense and cast aside in preference for something with more literary weight - however, feeling the need for something light-hearted, I searched for and found this book, which was given to me ages ago, and started reading. And I must say that I found this book strangely compelling, rather amusing and, I have to admit, a bit of a guilty pleasure of a read. 'Snobs' is written with a gloriously cynical tone and is appallingly accurate - Julian Fellowes knows a snob when he sees one and there are plenty of examples to enjoy between the covers of this entertaining, tongue-in-cheek story. Recommended as a light-hearted weekend, bedtime or holiday read.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 13 November 2004
A thoroughly enjoyable book and one, I was surprised to find, that stayed with me longer than usual after I'd finished it - probably because beneath the humour and even despite the happy ending, it is quite sad. It seems awful that Charles, the heroine's decent husband, should suffer so merely because he is titled and rich but not interesting or clever enough, and I couldn't help feeling that the strength, intelligence and self-discipline of the Lady Uckfields of this world could sort out the entire planet, if only the business of snobbery didn't demand so much of their time and all of their resources.
The satire is beautifully done - it has bite, true, but Fellowes does not fall into the tedious and common trap of either despising or glorifying the people about whom he writes. The detail is glorious and funny. Strongly recommended - and I do hope he keeps on writing!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 14 October 2010
Snobs is a meticulously detailed satire of upper class living. The English aristocrats that inhabit its pages are carefully, and sympathetically, drawn. I knew little about Julian Fellowes before picking up this book but after a little research that sympathy is easy to understand for Fellowes, like his narrator, is an upper class actor with a penchant for nice things, and a foot inside the drawing room door.
The novel is slightly reminiscent of P G Wodehouse in as far as both provide a historical account of a certain type of society. As with the former, Fellowes' plot is secondary to the characters within it. With Wodehouse the fact that the plot is predictable is part of the fun. It breeds a comforting familiarity and requires little concentration on clues and events, leaving the reader to bask instead in the undeniably glory of the prose. Wodehouse crafts language like no-one else, least of all Julian Fellowes. Whilst Fellowes' characters are well observed, he does not possess the razor sharp wit of his predecessor.
Snobs offers an entertaining peek into another world - that mostly appears grotesque - but not much more.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 31 December 2009
excellent book, written by someone who obviously knows all the right things to do and say as well all the things not to do and say when meeting the 'snobs'. Very intuitive writer, but as well as that, he writes a very good story line. Makes you think - thank god I'm not one of them - at least i choose my friends because I like them and not because they come from the 'right' family
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 20 June 2012
I wasn't sure if I was going to enjoy this book at the start but I soon got stuck in and ended up thoroughly enjoying the way JF sent up some of the characters, described the manners and expectations of others and sympathised as appropriate. As others say, the 3rd person writing was a bit lost at times but it didn't detract from the enjoyment as far as I was concerned. For those, like myself, who do not belong to this elite gathering I feel this gives an insight into how the aristocracy have been brought up and value things that matter: although they may choose to differ with my opinion. In essence I thoroughly enjoyed the book, found it hightly amusing and like the aristocracy or not, they're here and here to stay so enjoy the book for what it is, a highly amusing and insightful piece of writing