Snobbery snubbed

Julian Fellowes: Snobs
Picked up at an airport for light summer reading, this little novel about social climbers fits the bill, though I was a little disappointed. The main story is about Edith Lavery, a woman of middle class and high aspirations who marries into the landed aristocracy of England, to her later disappointment (her husband is crushingly dull). She is forced to choose between dull status and lively indistinction.
What she chooses really isn’t that important – it seems the author ran out of steam towards the end, anyway – but the writing has its moments. The chief character in the book is not Edith, who is rather shallowly portrayed, but the narrator, an actor who has been born into the right social circles (knows everyone from school etc.), has the right manners and strategies (the convoluted explanations of WHY everyone behaves as weirdly as they do carries much of the writing), but also knows life outside stately homes and Sloan Square.
Surprisingly, the aristocrats are portrayed rather sympathetically: They are secure in their positions, but rather narrow in their mindsets and occupations (maintaining their homes, hunting and farming, as well as being present at the requisite social functions). Their way of life is threatened, but they are too well-bred to notice. It is the social climbers that are skewered. One high point comes when the aristocrats are invited out to a fancy restaurant by someone who wants to impress, without knowing – as the narrator, of course, does – that certain people never goes to restaurants for fancy dinners, preferring to do that at home. The evening ends up as an expensive disaster for the host, though entertaining for the readers.
All in all, an enjoyable book, but not one I will re-read in the immediate future.

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