Snobs: A Novel

Snobs: A Novel

by Julian Fellowes

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429904186
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 01/24/2006
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 24,859
File size: 485 KB

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 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.


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 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

MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Julian Fellowes is a English writer, actor, and film director who was born in Egypt and educated at Ampleforth College, Yorkshire. He went on to Magdalene College, Cambridge University, and the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art.
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.
As a screenwriter, his first feature film was Gosford Park, directed by Robert Altman, which won awards for the best original screenplay from the National Film Critics Circle, the National Society of Film Critics, the Writers Guild of America, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He has since worked on the new film version of Vanity Fair starring Reese Witherspoon, as well as adapting Piccadilly Jim by P. G. Wodehouse.
He made his debut as a film director with Separate Lies, starring Emily Watson, Tom Wilkinson, and Rupert Everettt, for which he also write the script; and he wrote the book for the acclaimed Cameron Mackintosh/Walt Disney stage musical of Mary Poppins, which opened in London at the end of 2004.
In 1990 Julian married Emma Kitchener. They have a son called Peregrine, a dachshund called Humbug, and a border collie called Meg; and divide their time between London and Dorset.
Snobs is his first novel.

JULIAN FELLOWES ON CLASS

Q: Your own background is not so different from some of the aristocrats you write about in Snobs. Is this book an indictment of the British upper class? Affectionate teasing? A little bit of both?
A: My background is not quite as lustrous as it has been painted by some of the media. I mean, in one newspaper I was given a childhood in a Scottish castle with 19 servants (why 19?). But I grew up as part of a junior branch since my grandfather was a younger son. And so, although I do belong to one of those families and my name is in Burke's Landed Gentry and all that kind of thing, it's in a very minor capacity. I think that was what gave me a unique perspective as an observer.

When I was 18 or 19, the London debutante season was still very much going on. You'll hardly credit this, but there was a chap called Peter Townend who really ran the season. In order to find escorts for the debs, he would go through Burke's Peerage and Burke's Landed Gentry and take the names out of young men who were the right age and invite them for a drink. If you passed this test, and were deemed "safe in taxis," you were put on a list and given to the mothers of these girls to be invited to the various balls and cocktail parties. So you spent a lot of time going and staying with complete strangers in the country to attend the dances of girls you hardly knew. I was on that list. I was what was then called a "Debs Delight," but I was simply "making up numbers." I wasn't good looking, I wasn't a great heir, I didn't have a title. So I was there, but no one noticed me. I was the one who had the bedroom next to the nursery with a lumpy bed, and what my mother used to called "starvation corner" at the table. And I think it gave me a much better kind of viewpoint. There is a famous moment when someone went to the Comtesse Greffulhe, who is the original of Marcel Proust's Duchesse de Guermantes in his great novel, and they said to her, "What was it like having Proust at your parties? That must have been incredible!" And the Comtesse replied, "Que j'ai jamais su! (If only I'd known)." And of course, although he was in that society (not that I'm comparing myself to Proust), and attending their gatherings and strolling among them, because nobody thought he was of the slightest importance, nobody adjusted their behavior for him.

As for whether my novel is an indictment of that world, I have come to a conclusion in my late middle age: I'm not convinced anymore that there is a kind of life that makes you happier than any other. I mean, I know - of course - there are lives that are happier than other lives, but I think you're just as likely to come upon them among coal miners or middle-class business men or people living in the suburbs or the very rich and great aristocrats. I think it's a cliché to make out that everyone with money and success and birth is unhappy. I don't think they are, I think there are lots of them that are very happy. But it's also a cliché to suggest that these things make you happy. And I hope that in the novel (and in life too) I take a fairly unprejudiced view of all of them. I do poke fun at them and there are sort of observations and customs and habits that are rather amusing to the rest of society, but I don't think you hate any of the characters at the end, not Lady Uckfield nor poor Mrs. Lavery (the greatest "snob" of all of them, I think) nor any of them, really. I just hope that I paint a picture of a group of people who, in the last analysis, are trying to do their best like all the rest of us are.


Q: It's striking that both Gosford Park and Snobs explore the world and manners of different classes. Do you think this is a particularly English preoccupation?
A: Class does interest me; I won't run away from that. I can never really decide whether class is a kind of honorable thing: that you are brought up with these traditions - whether you are working class or aristocratic or whatever - and it's your job to keep all this stuff going and make sure people don't forget. Or is it a sort of terrible practical joke that's being practiced on 98% of the world? Telling them that they're not good enough. That, from the moment they're born, there's this other group of people who know more than they will ever know and who have standards they can never aspire to and who are more cultured and elegant than they will ever be. In the end, I sort of fall in-between those two really. It is odd that you take a baby, and you place them in this group, and you bring them up in a certain way with a certain vocabulary and prejudices and manners, and after that, they are indelibly stamped from then on. But on the other hand, isn't some variant of this happening in every civilization on earth?

Obviously, it's more obvious in Europe than it is in America. I mean, where I do think America has achieved something that is very enviable is that here you have a very strongly entrenched hereditary upper-class. People think you don't, but you do. Where else in the Western world could you have two generations of the same family being president? This would be quite impossible with the role of prime minister in England as, to us, it would smack uncomfortably of privilege. Added to which, you have enormous inherited fortunes here, enough to launch ten dukedoms. But at the same time, you have self-made men and women who have come up in one generation. And they live together - the old money and the new - in a very un-jostling way which doesn't seem to create any difficulty. They mingle freely and contentedly. This, of course, was Napoleon's vision, his dream - to create an aristocracy in France which was a mixture of old families with old traditions, keeping things going, and new blood and new high achievers and that they would mix on equal terms. I can't think of any country, other than America, that has truly managed that.

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Snobs 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
TeechTX More than 1 year ago
It should be no surprise that Julian Fellowes's prose in "Snobs" is elegant. As a confection taking on the English upper crust, it is seasoned with just the right amount of salt, honey, and spice. I loved every bite, excuse me, page of it, and I don't think it requires much experience with the foibles of the Brits to enjoy it. However, about midway through the book, I realized that one could enjoy it without any knowledge of England at all. Fellowes has simply used his own world as the example of a universal fact: any society of humans will eventually settle into classes of haves, have-nots, and moving-in-betweens, and the classes will each have their own inviolable rules and protocols. Consider the divisions of people in the equally delightful novel and film "The Help." Compare Imperial China to Maoist China; only the names changed, not the actual bowing to strict class structure. Snobs are everywhere! It is true, however, that snobbery is more tolerable with a British accent - at least to a Yank like me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jullian fellowes is fun to read. His characters are well developed and likeable, and it is really enjoyable to glimpse into the English upper class.
MitzibeeShe More than 1 year ago
An easy but packed read with lots of quirky and fun details about the characters lives and loves; showing just how persnickety people can really be regardless of their station in life. Fellowes let's you in and allows you to become involved with the characters and their thought processes. This was a highly entertaining look at the snobbish gentry in the UK offering up their foibles as well as their redeeming qualities. Loved the book, had a hard time putting it down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am surprised by some of the disappointed reviews here. I spent a year in England so maybe there is a little something I see that the average American may not. I loved this book, the premise is stretching it a bit but it is still very entertaining. Many characters and scenes come right off the page. Mr Fellows is a good writer. I love British writing/ writers: Anita Brookner, Barbara Pym, Monica Ali. Even if the story isn't perfect, the change in culture adds a layer that an American novel of the same quality would lack.
Guest More than 1 year ago
¿Snobs¿ is a quirky and lively look at the side-by-side worlds of hypocritical snobbery in the social set of London and the equally hypocritical snobbery of the theater scene populated by egos on legs. A brilliantly written, sly book full of insight and delicious entertainment. I would also recommend: ¿My Fractured Life¿, ¿Saturday¿, ¿The Right Address¿ and ¿Bridget Jones Diary¿
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Entertaining, witty and interesting.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A poisonous little novel by an author/actor/aristocrat that examines the nuances of the social system in Britain. Though he mocks it, the author ultimately buys into the whole ugly process. Story line is minimal and predictable. Lady Uckfield is the most vividly drawn character. No compelling reason for the 'happy' ending. This is no 'Vile Bodies'.
sloepoque on LibraryThing 3 days ago
I love books about the British social classes, so of course this story about a woman who marries for the status she will receive when she becomes a member of her husband's upper crust family was right down my alley. I particularly enjoyed the way in which Fellowes wrote his story. He wanted the reader to understand the way in which the titled British elite think of themselves and others. His explanations of the etiquette and behavior of those who have vs those who have not were often amusing and certainly entertaining. However, Fellowes did not lose sight of the fact that an entire class of people honestly do live as those he describes in this novel, and that they have problems and the occasional moral dilemma just like the rest of us do. In this particular case, a woman has to decide how she will spend what she knows will be a boring life no matter what choices she makes for herself. While there may be humor in how seriously the gentry takes itself, for this particular woman there's also a bit of sadness that envelopes her painfully shallow life. Because I enjoy this kind of story and this particular subject, it was hard for me to put the book down; but I believe Snobs has a good enough story to appeal to anyone who wants to read about how "the other half" lives.
SeriousGrace on LibraryThing 3 days ago
Edith Lavery is middle class society with big upper class ambitions. When she inadvertently meets the Earl of Broughton, Charles, it is with an admission ticket to tour his home in her hand. Little does she know, but the introduction, with her good looks, is also her ticket to upper echelon snobbery. Soon Edith works her way into the aristocratic family by marrying Charles. As his wife she discovers the high life isn't all that it's cracked up to be and finds herself becoming bored. The real trouble begins when Edith's wandering eye settles on a less than successful actor. Things turn from bad to worse when it's more than Edith's eye that starts to wander. What makes this hungry-for-status story so funny is the wicked clashes of culture. Julian Fellowes seductively pokes fun at all types of cliques: actors, the fashion world, the genders, society, but none are funnier than the English.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read it nonstop.
DianaH-Maine More than 1 year ago
I became acquainted with Julian Fellowes after the release of the movie, Gosford Park, and The Masterpiece Theatre series, Downton Abbey. He is a master screenwriter. SNOBS by Julian Fellowes is a quiet, reserved, detailed, intriguing, very witty story. Its form is quite interesting with a first-person, nameless narrator. I felt that the characters in the story were real people and described by the narrator, rather than created by the author. I was quite taken with the narration and enjoyed it. Edith is a middle-class woman, befriended by the narrator, and enjoys a rapid rise in society. The story of Edith’s rise and fall is superbly told against the backdrop of English class and society. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and noted many of the narrator’s comments and remarks. I also liked the book’s cover art.
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Really rather tedious - especially the earliest chapters, which would have benefitted from some editing, and the book should have been titled 'Class' not Snobs. Mr Fellowes does much better with the upper classes historically - and should stick to screenplays.
ebsargis More than 1 year ago
My book group chose this novel, but I couldn't stop putting it down. I often read works by Brits, but this read like unrefined travelogue. Unless you are a dyed in the wool Anglophile, skip it.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
A real treat for lovers of the English language and humour
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have been a fan of Julian Fellowes for years but was bitterly dissapointed by his novel. For a man who championed the love of Young Victoria and highlighted the relationships in Downton Abby I expected love and integrity to win out over class and station. I feel betrayed that I bought this book on my admiration of his work in film adeptation but I would like my money back. I was left with no heart but all bitterness.