Out of the thousands of women who file through England's stately country manors in any given year, how many can help but imagine themselves mistress of all that they survey? How many can resist linking their name, if even temporarily, with the words "Lady," "Countess" or "Duchess" just to see how it sounds? How many refrain from dreaming of a meeting, an acquaintance or even friendship with a member of the family? Not many, I'd be willing to bet.
Edith Lavery is no different from the rest of us except that she accomplishes what most of us only dream of. While traipsing through Broughton Hall, a chance encounter with Charles, the Earl of Broughton, is long enough for Edith to catch his interest. When they meet again at Ascot, Charles wastes no time asking Edith out. One dinner leads to another and soon her engagement to the Earl of Broughton is announced.
Edith is surprised to find a bit of her social-climbing mother in herself as she is drawn to the allure of a country estate, a title and marriage to the Earl of Broughton. While Edith is thrilled with her new relationship, Charles's mother, the Duchess of Uckfield, is less than impressed. Nonetheless, Lady Uckfield tries to make the best of a bad situation once the couple is wed.
It doesn't take Edith long to grow bored in the country and with her husband, whose interests revolve around riding, shooting and country life. When a film company comes to the area to shoot a movie, Edith finds herself drawn to one of the lead actors and trouble ensues.
While it might be acceptable to conduct a discreet affair of the heart quietly and on the side, it absolutely is not acceptable to leave one's husband and set up housekeeping with an actor, no matter how good-looking he may be. Edith struggles to find what she's searching for and comes to some startling conclusions by the end of the book.
The story is told through the eyes of a male friend/acquaintance of Edith's who little by little is drawn into the saga of Edith's marriage. While acknowledging an attraction to Edith, the narrator is aware that romance is not destined for them but cannot help relating his involvement from the fringes of Edith's life.
SNOBS is full of witty revelations and one-liners about daily life in the aristocracy. In his debut novel Julian Fellowes --- a writer, actor and director whose screenplays include Gosford Park and Vanity Fair --- gives us an insider's peek at a life most of us will never know. His writing style is engaging and entertaining, and one can't help reading just a bit further to see what happens next in the saga of Edith.
Reviewed by Amie Taylor on January 23, 2011