13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
as clever and touching as it is charming,
This review is from: Past Imperfect (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.