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3.3 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 11 October 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Fay Weldon has done it again. The Habits of the House is a hoot. Set in the last months of the nineteenth century as the Boer War rages its centres on the Belgrave Square household of an aristocratic family. From the moment the house is thrown into chaos by the early morning arrival of Eric Baum, with news that the family is facing financial ruin and is sent away with a flea in his ear, the scene is set for a spiky (and hilarious) filleting of the life so beloved in TV dramas. But here the Dilbernes are up to their neck in debt but still live extravagantly because they are who they are, even Rosina who sees herself as a champion of women's rights - but not servants without whom she cannot dress or tidy her room. The servants themselves run rings around the family whilst knowing their livelihoods depends on them. So they sneer but also buy into the snobbery and shudder at the thought of the young heir Arthur having to marry the forthright, clever and definitely un-virginal daughter of an Irish-American meat baron.

Historically accurate? Maybe not but who cares? Fay Weldon is not a historian but an iconoclast and not afraid to poke fun at everyone and everything. No-one escapes her excoriating wit. But she does it with such wit and style that I was chuckling to myself from start to finish.

It seems to me reading the reviews here and even in the so-called 'quality' press that most people seem to have missed just how funny this book is. It is also a satire on the current love affair with toffs and titles. What genius thought to sticker the book with the label 'if you love Downton Abbey, you'll love this' or words to that effect.

What a lovely joke. In Downton the toffs are noble and worthy and the servants loyal (apart from a bit of childish silliness.) Here the toffs who run the country are dim but sure know how to survive and the servants rub along well enough. It is the well-meaning and decent folk like the honest but socially upward-striving Baums who are squeezed into the middle and feel aggrieved. The poor old middle-classes. No one likes them. 'Twas ever thus.

I loved it and can't wait for the next two in the trilogy. In my opinion, Fay Welson is woefully underrated as one of the wittiest, most clever and sharp-eyed novelists of our time.
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VINE VOICEon 28 August 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A lot of this seems to have been written on auto-pilot, as it's so formulaic - you'll have to look hard to find anything which surprises, intrigues or engages more than the surface of your thinking. I got the impression that this was written to help pass the time (or pay the gas bill) until the author's next real book was written. The plot is simple, which doesn't matter, but I would have liked an effort to make me have other than neutral feelings towards some of the characters - oddly enough, I find descriptions of the pubic hair of a number of them is not a sufficient substitute for decent characterisations. There is rather a lot of padding (this is volume one of a trilogy), which does make the book drag, and there were only two things which gave me pause - one was the necessity to define a roly poly pudding (is this for a new generation, or the American market), the other a glaring anachronism, using a slang impression which was first recorded in 1939; the latter seems to reinforce the impression that the author's mind was on higher things. (I also noted that 19th century countesses are now acknowledged as possessing 'breasts', whereas previously they were only ever endowed with 'bosoms'). The book is actually complete in itself - the end is taken at a great gallop (train to catch? kettle boiling?) and ties up the few loose ends in a way which means, as far as I'm concerned at least, there's no longing to read the next book. A read which is unsatisfying rather than unenjoyable - but more 'You Rang M'Lord' than 'Downton Abbey'.
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on 21 July 2013
A terrific beginning which is the beginning of the unravelling of social attitudes. Sharply observed, very witty, and I immediately ordered the next in the triology!
It brings home how much we've changed in these last three centuries: and still mutating. Where next, I wonder?
It truly is ( as another author) said: "a dance of the times."
Some of us are doing Stone Age and some are Butterflying, and-in between-just about everything we can do!
The characters ring true, as do all of the author's creations.
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VINE VOICEon 22 August 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I was disappointed to read such a pedestrian novel from such an excellent author. The plot is the well used one featuring the aristocracy and based in London in victorian times. The young heir is "encouraged" to engage with the brash american heiress to save the family from bankruptcy. There are a few allusions to the Boer War and the behaviour of the Prince of Wales, both of which are blamed for the financial difficulties of the family. Any other historical content is limited to the fashions of the time and a description of the lives of those living upstairs and their relationships with those downstairs. The characters seem rather dull and relations between upstairs and downstairs improbable at times. Conversations are stiff and slightly unbelievable. The book is saved a little by the farce like twists that occur towards the end. Having read this book I cannot say that I am excited about the publication of the remaining two books in the trilogy. As I love trilogies this was a major disappointment.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 16 July 2012
We are back in 'Downton Abbey' and 'Upstairs Downstairs' country with Fay Weldon's latest novel 'Habits of the House' - in fact Weldon wrote the first episode of the original 'Upstairs Downstairs' way back in the early seventies, so this is not totally new territory for her. The story begins in 1899 at the London home of the Earl and Countess of Dilberne, and their adult children, Arthur and Rosina. The family are rudely awoken very early one morning by the arrival of the Earl's solicitor, Mr Baum, who has some very bad news for them; the South African gold mine, in which the Earl has invested the bulk of the family's money, has been caught up in the Boer conflict and production has stopped. This is of huge significance to the family who are already heavily in debt, partly due to the Earl's extravagant spending with his friend, the Prince of Wales. If something does not happen to improve the family's fortunes - and quickly - the Earl will become bankrupt, a scandal that must be avoided at all costs.

In order to boost the family's finances the Dilbernes, like many other families in similar situations, decide to look to America to provide new money and that means finding a wife for Arthur and, if possible, a husband for their daughter, Rosina. This is not going to be easily accomplished - Arthur is only really interested with the new motor cars appearing on the scene (and also in a dalliance with a certain young lady) and is not ready for marriage, and Rosina is an early feminist who keeps a parrot she has taught to screech: "Votes for Women" at any man who approaches. Enter the O'Brien family from Chicago, whom the Dilbernes would not normally give 'house room' - but I won't say too much more, as I have no wish to spoil the story.

I suppose it is inevitable that there will be some comparisons made with this novel and 'Downton Abbey' but Fay Weldon does have her own style of writing and this book, with its rather tongue-in-cheek look at the upper classes, does have its own story to tell. It was interesting to see in a broadsheet newspaper an interview with Fay Weldon where the author commented that her story "...is written very much like a screenplay..." so I think it is quite possible that this book (the first of a planned trilogy) is likely to be made into a television series in the not too distant future. This was an amusing and entertaining read, but it is one that doesn't go very deep and would, therefore, be a good choice for the holidays, whether you are lounging in the sun, loafing on the sofa or tucked up in bed. I wonder how long we shall have to wait for episode two.

3 Stars.
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on 27 April 2015
I needed a period of easy reading but equally by someone who writes well. Fay Weldon exactly filled this gap for me with this amusing and informative series set in the Edwardian period. Fay Weldon writes with such a relaxed and humorous style. I always feel she is giving a delightful wry look at her subject . she is a perfect distraction from worries and makes one want to snuggle away and read on and enter someone else's world.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
"If you liked "Downton Abbey", you'll love this!" says the sticker on the cover, and, truth is, I'm probably not the intended reader of this upstairs-downstairs tale. I'm not really a fan of Downton Abbey and I certainly didn't love this. I have enjoyed Fay Weldon's work over the years, but Habits of the House is not one of the author's best.
It's hardly an original tale - that wouldn't matter much if it had other things to offer, but the writing is pretty horrible throughout. Some sentences are so strangled they made no sense at all, even after several readings. Worst of all, after such an intricately detailed story, the ending was peculiarly rushed. I felt short-changed.
Which is not to say it's a BAD book, exactly, it's a perfectly readable tale. The characters are a little cardboard, but the story runs along pleasantly enough. It makes no demands. It was perfect bedtime reading. If you're a big Fay Weldon fan, or even, maybe, a fan of Downton Abbey, you'll probably enjoy it very much more than I did, and maybe even love it.
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on 9 October 2012
I love the fact Fay Weldon has given us this Upstairs Downstairs/Downton-esque novel. It was a treat. I loved the characters - particularly the women, felt for them and found their particular troubles utterly credible. The period details are a joy and I found the exploration of what is and isn't moral which runs throughout the book intriguing. When I had finished reading, I felt that world would carry on. I am just glad it ended earlier enough so they didn't all get on the Titanic and drown.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 29 October 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I must admit although I have heard of Fay Weldon (who hasn't) I hadn't read any of her books.
Although some have criticised her for writing on auto-pilot, I found this really rather good.
She has a style that makes the narrative simply jump from the page.

I do think there's a tendency in the UK to kick popular writers when they write more than acceptable prose.

That said, this is a funny, sharp and well written romp. For fans it won't disappoint and for newbies, like me, it's a rather nice introduction to her writing style.
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VINE VOICEon 21 March 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I really expected to like this book, but it didn't really live up to my expectations. Plot is aristocratic family, land rich and cash poor and what are they going to do about it. Nothing really new there either. Some other reviewers have seen this as a brilliant satire, but I'm afraid for me it was just a novel with lots of characters, many very undeveloped and most of them not even very likeable.

It is supposed to be the first part of Weldon's Love & Inheritance trilogy, but a lot of lose ends are tied up and this could really be a standalone novel. Certainly I'm far from feeling the compulsion to read the next two volumes.
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