Book Quick Facts
Author: Julian Fellowes
Julian Fellowes’ Belgravia introduces us to a familiar world where Young Queen Victoria has just recently taken the throne. Aristocrats remain firmly on top of the social world. Servants still scurry to do 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 the society of their social superiors—ones she knows will never accept the Trenchards because they are merchants from low origins. Yet, it’s at one such afternoon tea party, when Anne Trenchard sits surrounded by Duchess and Countesses, that she 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, love-struck 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 the viewpoints of countless characters 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 action that happens simultaneously in different places. The depth of historical research clearly shines through the story.
The ending of the novel was predictable (I knew what was coming from chapter 2). However, I felt like the end wrapped up the plot line well and left the characters where they each deserved to be. After all, do readers really want all their suppositions for how it will end to turn out wrong?
Despite the excellent writing, strong character building and wonderful research, I could not bring myself to entirely like the story. Because we get to see so many of character’s thoughts and motivations, we get to see how many of them are shallow, self-serving and manipulative. Which left me feeling rather irritated by a lot of the characters after a while. The NYT review on the back of the book says that Fellowes creates characters that people “love to hate.” I suppose in this book he decided to create many of those.
Recommendation: 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.