Belgravia – Julian Fellowes….and a Book Town

We have just returned from a lovely week in Scotland – the cottage was great, with a lovely reading conservatory ( not its original function…) and lots of lovely bookshops! Northernvicar chose the area partly for its proximity to Wigtown, the Scottish book town. An excellent choice! I could get into five bookshops with Esme (the wheelchair) which is a very good average. I particularly enjoyed Readinglasses, with its shelves of women’s writing. As it has an excellent cafe as well, I would recommend it strongly. See for details.  has lots of stuff about what else we got up to, or at least it will when he writes everything up .Meanwhile, a picture I found of the entrance to the town, not taken by northernvicar this time….

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A book I actually read before I departed for holiday would actually have suited a restful read rather well. Not a great literary effort, and it probably will not be troubling any prize lists, but it’s an enjoyable read nonetheless. Predictably sold on the success of Downton Abbey, as it is by Julian Fellowes, it is an enjoyable fake Victorian tale of family tensions, social class, reputation and inheritance. Obviously set pre Downton era, it deals largely with the Trenchard family, who have made their money (gasp!) in trade, and the aristocratic Bellasis family. Opening on the eve of Waterloo, there are illicit romances, social climbing and  quiet comment on the tragic waste of war. The story then jumps forward a couple of decades when the Trenchards have made money and developed the expensive houses of Belgravia. The scene is set for Anne, a grieving but determined mother, to try and find out the truth about her daughter Sophia and Edmund. The whole situation rapidly becomes more complicated with a devious daughter in law, a lot of debts, and an exciting conclusion.

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I believe this book started life as an app, but not being that organised I think that the book is easier! I had enjoyed Fellowes’ other books, so thought that this may well be worth a read. My advice is, keep going, even when it seems that it is another saga when everyone is going to end up unhappily/dead/destitute or all three. I was also fooled into thinking that it was  going to be a simple story of a rich family with one big secret. Gradually other characters emerge, including some servants who reminded me of the Downton conniving downstairs. In the end I was intrigued to know how this was all going to end, and rushed through the last few chapters. It does not quite come off as a grand Victorian novel, but is probably a lot easier to read. If you enjoy historical novels, this is a good read and much less taxing than more pretentious efforts. (Though with two historical researchers credited at the beginning, I suspect that all the descriptions of dress and social conventions are correct, and form a worthy background for the action). This is a reasonably paced, interesting book that I would recommend tracking down for a cosy afternoon ( or two) read, especially if you are not interested in the contemporary offerings abounding in romance and family issues. Not for the literary purist, but if you enjoyed Downton for the story you will find this a satisfying read.