Synopses & Reviews
From the creator of the Emmy Award-winning Downton Abbey...
"The English, of all classes as it happens, are addicted to exclusivity. Leave three Englishmen in a room and they will invent a rule that prevents a fourth joining them."
The best comedies of manners are often deceptively simple, seamlessly blending social critique with character and story. In his superbly observed first novel, Julian Fellowes, creator of the Masterpiece sensation Downton Abbey and winner of an Academy Award for his original screenplay of Gosford Park, brings us an insider's look at a contemporary England that is still not as classless as is popularly supposed.
Edith Lavery, an English blonde with large eyes and nice manners, is the daughter of a moderately successful accountant and his social-climbing wife. While visiting his parents' stately home as a paying guest, Edith meets Charles, the Earl Broughton, and heir to the Marquess of Uckfield, who runs the family estates in East Sussex and Norfolk. To the gossip columns he is one of the most eligible young aristocrats around.
When he proposes. Edith accepts. But is she really in love with Charles? Or with his title, his position, and all that goes with it?
One inescapable part of life at Broughton Hall is Charles's mother, the shrewd Lady Uckfield, known to her friends as "Googie" and described by the narrator---an actor who moves comfortably among the upper classes while chronicling their foibles---"as the most socially expert individual I have ever known at all well. She combined a watchmaker's eye for detail with a madam's knowledge of the world." Lady Uckfield is convinced that Edith is more interested in becoming a countess than in being a good wife to her son. And when a television company, complete with a gorgeous leading man, descends on Broughton Hall to film a period drama, "Googie's" worst fears seem fully justified.
In this wickedly astute portrait of the intersecting worlds of aristocrats and actors, Julian Fellowes establishes himself as an irresistible storyteller and a deliciously witty chronicler of modern manners.
"Like a visit of an English country estate: breezy, beautiful, and charming."
- The New York Times Book Review
"[A] guilty pleasure of a novel [that] seems authentic down to the wallpaper and the Wellingtons. Hilarious...sharp, entertaining, and unforgiving."
- Anna Quindlen "Snobs, by Julian Fellowes, is an hilariously snobbish novel about hilariously snobbish people involved in a society scandal. Froth at its best. His writing is as stylish as his story. Mr. Fellowes knows his turf well."
- Dominick Dunne
"I couldn't put Snobs down: Who could resist a great story of a beautiful, ambitious girl on her climb to the turreted top of the castle-hopping set? As witty as he is smart, Julian Fellowes is the Oscar-winning, Oscar Wilde of the minute." - Plum Sykes
"Julian Fellowes's witty, wise depiction of the lives and lunacies of upper-class English life is just my cup of tea...."
- Jane Stanton Hitchcock
"Snobs is everything you would hope for from the writer of Gosford Park. A delicious thoroughbred delight, a guilty treat that is awake to every maddening and appallingly attractive nuance of English social life. The novel somehow contrives to be moral without being preachy or losing for a minute its gracefully shameless delight in the well bred and their satellites. A kind of Louis Auchincloss for our times, Julian Fellowes has written a book that is destined to grace all the bedside tables of all the better houses in the land."
- Stephen Fry
"This is the kind of book Edith Wharton would have written if she were around today."
- Arnold Scaasi
"Snobs is an insightful, funny satire of English upper-crust country life in the tradition of Mitford or Waugh....The best chick-lit book of the season was written by a man."
- The Globe and Mail
"Sparklingly rompish...As long as this world does still exist, Fellowes is a delectable guide to its absurdities."
- Sunday Times (London)
"Illustrated with some cherishably nasty, Gosford Park--style scenes of aristocratic
point-scoring, and far more illuminating than a copy of Correct Form...one of those books one imagines being sent up to Balmoral...where it will be proclaimed divinely funny and quite amazingly true to life."
- The Guardian
"Deliciously waspish satire...Snobs is terrific entertainment, deepened by the sad ache of truth."
- Literary Review
"Fellowes's attractive, faintly cynical voice has overtones of Trollope, Waugh, and Mitford."
- The Independent
"A delicious comedy of manners on the nuances of English social life, which raises laughter and an occasional wince of recognition."
- Daily Mail
"Provocative, titillating, and seductive...Julian Fellowes tells this anachronistic morality tale with such wit, verve, elegance, and schadenfreude that it never loses momentum."
- The Spectator
"Fellowes doesn't try to hide his love of the funny, sealed, above-stairs world of dukes, duchesses, marquesses, nusery maids, herbaceous borders, and breakfast kedgeree under its own silver lid, all of which is what makes Snobs such a good, fresh read."
About the Author
Julian Fellowes is the Emmy Award-winning writer and creator of Downton Abbey and the winner of the 2001 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Gosford Park. He also wrote the screenplays for Vanity Fair and The Young Victoria. He is the bestselling author of Snobs and Past Imperfect. His other works include The Curious Adventure of the Abandoned Toys and the book for the Disney stage musical of Mary Poppins. As an actor, his roles include Lord Kilwillie in the BBC Television series Monarch of the Glen and the 2nd Duke of Richmond in Aristocrats, as well as appearances in the films Shadowlands, Damage, and Tomorrow Never Dies. He lives in London and Dorset, England.
Reading Group Guide
1. What is your opinion of Edith? In what ways do you feel her choices are justified or otherwise? Did she know—or should she have known—what marriage to Charles would entail?
2. Edith might be said to have made a “bargain” in life. She has chosen to provide herself with a position of importance and power rather than to marry for love. Is this kind of bargain immoral in our day and age—or is it her failure to stick to the deal that puts her at fault?
3. Both the narrator and Julian Fellowes have a certain soft spot for Lady Uckfield. How do you feel about Googies approach to life, including the value she places on doing things “properly”?
4. The Uckfields and Charles accept that their largely unearned status carries with it certain public duties and responsibilities. How is hereditary obligation, in exchange for privilege, useful in a society? In what ways is it detrimental?
5. Contrast the actors world to life at Broughton. What are the attractions and limitations of both?
6. Who are the biggest snobs in the book, and how does this affect your view of them?
7. The ending of Snobs could be called cynical. Edith is “happy enough,” which is hardly a fairytale conclusion. Is she right to “settle” for a reasonable level of contentment without continuing to search for more or should she have set off again into the unknown? In other words, is it moral or immoral to be realistic? In fact, what sort of future do you envision for Edith and Charles? How about for the other couples?
8. The narrator describes the English as “addicted to exclusivity. Leave three Englishmen in a room and they will invent a rule that prevents a fourth joining them.” How does this manifest itself in American society? Would you say that Americans are also “addicted” to exclusivity, or is this a peculiarly English phenomenon?
9. F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “The rich are different from you and me.” In what ways do the wealthy characters in Snobs seem different from — or similar to — other people youve met?
10. What do you think of the narrators observation that “one of the basic truths of life is that, as a general rule, the world takes you at your own estimation”?
11. Julian Fellowes says in his interview that he sees Snobs as being more about choice than about class. How do you rate the relative importance of social standing and their own actions in the main characters lives?
12. How do the characters perceptions of the different lives being lived around them differ from the reality? Is Charless view of the stage world accurate? Is Mrs. Laverys idea of the aristocratic life accurate? How much misunderstanding is caused by inaccurate preconceptions of what other people are going through?