Belgravia by Julian Fellowes
Published by Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: June 30, 2016
Genres: Fiction, Historical
I decided to leave the gloom of October behind and start November with an uncomplicated, lovely novel that opens in a time that seems quiet to us, but was tumultuous for those living it. The novel is Belgravia and it begins with a very real event, the Duchess of Richmond’s ball in Brussels in 1815. In history, this glamorous event, attended by some of the highest aristocrats and military officers, was interrupted by the announcement that Napoleon’s army was marching on the Netherlands. Within days there’s the battle of Waterloo, Napoleon is defeated, and many of the young men at the dance have perished. In Belgravia, one of them, a Viscount, leaves behind his brokenhearted lover, Sophia, marking the end of a secret love affair whose repercussions unfurl across the novel’s pages.
Sophia’s father, James Trenchard, a tradesman who parlayed his hard work into becoming one of London’s wealthiest and most successful developers has always longed to be welcomed in society. Not something likely to occur in Victorian England, with its rigid rules of etiquette. But, like it or not, the Trenchards now live in one of the new mansions in London’s elite Belgravia neighborhood. A home within walking distance of the Brockenhursts, parents of the deceased Viscount. Needless to say, despite James’ best-efforts Lady Brockenhurst has no intention of welcoming any of the Trenchards into her circle.
Belgravia’s plot is not a unique one; star-crossed lovers, the newly rich, and haughty aristocrats have been battling it out in fiction for centuries. What makes the novel irresistible is its author, Julian Fellowes—the creator of Downton Abbey. He uses familiar ingredients—snobbery, avarice, love, entitlement, secrets, and lies—but he handles them with such care that they emerge as a delicious souffle. It may be mostly air and fluff, but given the confounding and exhausting world we live in now Belgravia is perfection as light, decadent entertainment.
Looking to immerse yourself in a different time and place? Try Anthony Trollope’s Palliser series. Or another of my favorites by him, The Way We Live Now.
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