Belgravia by Julian Fellowes
Genre: Historical Fiction
Julian Fellowes’ Belgravia introduces us to a world where Young Queen Victoria has recently taken the throne. Aristocrats remain firmly on top of the social world. Servants scurry underfoot, completing their backbreaking work for little pay and even less dignity. And Mr. Trenchard, a merchant, and builder, has just built Belgravia Square, the most fashionable neighborhood in London.
A relentless social climber, Mr. Trenchard embarrasses his wife by forcing her into their social superiors’ society—ones she knows will never accept them because of their common origins as merchants. Yet, it’s at one such aristocratic afternoon tea party when Anne Trenchard meets someone from her family’s past, the Countess of Brockenhurst. Her brief conversation with the Countess rips open an old wound, an old secret, an old heartbreak that threatens to ruin them all.
Scheming servants, lovestruck youths, and lecherous nephews fill the cast of Julian Fellowes’ novel of how two families from different social spheres collide.
Julian Fellowes writes in an omnipresent, third-person voice that changes between countless characters’ viewpoints throughout. We see the personal hopes and ambitions of maids, Duchesses, merchants, and gamblers. The story moves rather quickly, often due to quick scene changes between simultaneous action in different places. The depth of historical research shines through the story as I expected from the author of Downton Abbey.
The ending of the novel was predictable (I knew what was coming from chapter 2). However, I felt like the end wrapped up the plotline well and left the characters where they each deserved to be. After all, do readers want all their suppositions for how it will end to turn out wrong?
Despite the excellent writing, strong character building, and outstanding research, I could not entirely like the story. Because we see so many of the characters’ thoughts and motivations, we see how many of them are shallow, self-serving, and manipulative. This all left me feeling irritated at spending so much time with characters I liked so little.
The NYT review on the back of the book says that Fellowes creates characters that people “love to hate.” For me, it’s more like characters I hate to hate and wish I could read less of. But if you appreciate that sort of thing, then this might be to story for you.
- Overall Rating 20% 20%
- Historically Researched 90% 90%
- Characters 15% 15%
- Plot 75% 75%
- Style 25% 25%
If you like Julian Fellowes’ other books, you may like Belgravia. It’s well written and developed, yet the plethora of self-serving characters can become irritating after a while.
Shop new and used copies of Julian Fellowes’ Belgravia by clicking here.
You can also watch the miniseries of Belgravia found here.