Julian Fellowes's Belgravia is the story of a secret. A secret that unravels behind the porticoed doors of London's grandest postcode. Set in the 1840s, when the upper echelons of society began to rub shoulders with the emerging industrial nouveau riche, Belgravia is peopled by a rich cast of characters. But the story begins on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. At the Duchess of Richmond's new legendary ball, one family's life will change forever.
©2016 Julian Fellowes (P)2016 Hachette Audio
"...the story is expertly narrated by [Juliet] Stevenson, who paces it expertly in her highly listenable voice. Her delicious characterizations include some aggrieved and unctuous younger sons, a breathtakingly crisp countess, a good-hearted hero, a spirited heroine, shiver-inducing cardsharps, and oh so many more." (AudioFile)
With Belgravia you get exactly what you expect from Julian Fellowes. After the success of Gosford Park and Downton Abbey as well as previous novels, he espouses the idiom of 'write what you know.'
If you liked one of his works, you will probably like the others. No surprises here with Belgravia. Aristocrats and strivers, upstairs, downstairs and melodrama. Factual events and people mixed with the fictional. What I found annoying in his other works (particularly Downton Abbey) I found annoying in Belgravia. Fellowes can be a very lazy writer. He will describe in detail a woman's attire, but when it comes to pivotal turns in the plot he glosses over with exposition rather than dialogue and action. (Without spoiling anything I will point out that there is a MAJOR dinner party scene where truths are laid bare that is told in the most wan expositional fashion.) Lazy. He often did this on Downton Abbey. On many episodes throughout the series, important scenes took place off camera, or worse, Fellowes would flash forward to avoid having to illustrate real drama (the time shift from Matthew's death to Lady Mary in mourning comes to mind). Fellowes also seems to revel in the petty. His characters seem so small minded. Are they a product of their time or just a laboured plot device? Hard to tell.
But you do get what you pay for. Like Campbell Soup or Kleenex tissue, Fellowes is a marketed brand. Nothing fancy or remarkable, just reliable. So if you are looking for a comfortable historical fiction detailing the haves and have nots with engaging dialogue, but nothing too taxing or revelatory, you will keep good company with Julian Fellowes Belgravia.
I will make mention of the fantastic work by Juliet Stevenson. Her narration is remarkable in its depth and variety. She is comforting and dramatic and empathetic. I know her as an extraordinary actress (Bend It Like Beckham, Mona Lisa Smile, and especially Truly,Madly, Deeply ) But she absolutely dazzles as a narrator! I have listened to some of her other audio narration ( the novels of Jane Austen, Bronte, E.M. Foster and my particular favorites: the novels of Sarah Waters) and it was her name in the notes that made me purchase Belgravia. Brava!
If I'm in the mood for a predictable historical novel of status, rank and melodrama.
She has an amazing range: dramatic, comforting and empathetic. I seek her out as a narrator. She never lets me down.
An overly predictable and melodramatic soap opera with lazy writing. Only several chapters completed and I find I can't continue with the book. Terrible.
Not as good as I expected. Juliet Stevenson did a fabulous job with the narration. No complaints at all with that. She made the book much better than it was.
This was not anything like Downton Abbey. Not that I expected to be a clone. It wasn't even close. It was an overly long book (and I love long books) whose ending was obvious early on. I didn't find the characters easy to like and none really got my interest. Ann may be the exception.
There were parts that were good; the section in Brussels being the best.
I listened to the whole thing but I found it disappointing. Without the excellent narration this would have been 2 stars overall in my estimation.
I love well-written books in virtually every genre. Quirky characters delight me, and it breaks my heart when a good plot is badly done.
Julian Fellowes is a very skilled writer. Belgravia seems to be set up to be a serialized TV show, like Downton Abbey but taking place at a different time in history (1825 and 1840).One of Julian Fellowes' and thus Belgravia's strengths is the depth of knowledge of history and culture that make this book more than just a fluff piece. I particularly enjoy a novel that is enriched with that kind of detail, although it was interesting that he chose to assume ignorance on his readers' part and use the term market cart seller rather than the usual term costermonger. All he had to do was provide the definition once and his readers would be smart enough to remember that. A very small quibble.
I did enjoy istening to this book. It is by no means great literature, it is rather like a period soap opera in book form, but well enough done that it is a fun escape. The beginning is particularly well done; as the book goes on, the plot is fairly predictable. I found the characters engaging (Anne in particular) and was very invested in their various stories.
I am glad I listened to it, overall, it made for some fun hours of escape from every day life.
Juliet Stevenson is a narrator whom I trust; I've listened to her read many classics. She is as good as ever reading Belgravia. She is a bit more emotive at various times than is usual for her, but I thought she did her usual excellent job.
So disappointed. I'm an Anglophile and adore Downton. This one failed to catch fire. I didn't even care to finish it. His other books are better. Sigh.
The author could stop treating his readers/listeners like we are fools. Throughout the story, nefarious characters searching for information to bring down two families just pop into the homes of strangers and get them to tell their life's story (plus dirt on others). It is insulting , to at least this listener, that he thinks we will believe an absolutely ludicrous story line like this.
Typical Fellowes writing- "Hi there, I don't know you but I was walking down the street admiring your beautiful tree and thought You'd ask me in and talk to me and answer anything at all and while you put on the kettle for some tea I'll just burrow through your personal items......"
Just that the author won't be Fellowes
She was alright.
I think I've made my point
Here's the problem. The worries of these super privileged group of people are so far removed from my life that it was hard to have any sympathy for them or identify with their trouble. I suppose that these characters were true to their times and station in life. But I could not have cared less about them.
Overall it was a good story and perhaps if I had seen a production of this I might have found someone sympathetic enough to attach to. But hearing the story didn't endear anyone to me.
Loved this book! Very Downton Abbey-esque, in the best ways possible. There are heroes, there are villains, and there are those who will surprise you. The writing is sharp and the storytelling is superb.
Perhaps not the most unpredictable of plots, but an enjoyable read nonetheless. Julian Fellowes is just as good on paper as he is on the screen, and I couldn't put this one down.
I also loved the narrator, so an all-around win!
I just loved this book! The wonderful descriptions of life in 19th century England, and all the ridiculous ways of the class system. There is plenty of intrigue brought on by secrets and household staff that are looking to pad their own pockets rather than be loyal to their employers. Love and mayhem in arranged marriages and the line of inheritance. Juliet Stevenson is an amazing narrator giving just the right pace and tone for the story. Highly recommended!
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