This is an extremely silly book. Julian Fellowes should really stick to writing TV scripts. Isn’t Dynasty supposed to be being revived? Maybe he could get a job writing scripts for that, because the storyline in this was about as believable as the plots we used to get in American soaps back in the ’80s! I’m not knocking them – I loved Dallas and Dynasty! – but you can get away with a lot more on TV than you can in a book.
It starts off quite promisingly, with the Duchess of Richmond’s famous ball before the Battle of Waterloo … but it goes wrong before the ball’s even over. The Duke of Wellington, before he’s even left the party, starts going on about how Waterloo is rather a silly name to go down in the annals of history as the site of the great battle which ended twenty-odd years of warfare. Er, right, because obviously he knew in advance that it was going to be the end of the road for Napoleon (who’d already escaped once, after the war was supposed to be over), and that the term “met his/her Waterloo” would enter the English language. His crystal ball must have been working overtime!
It got steadily sillier from there on. Various people get involved in a farcical tangle involving someone who has been brought up as the adopted son of a country vicar but is actually the heir to an earldom. Some of them try to murder each other. One of them has an affair and conceives a child by her lover, but her husband is OK with it. There are gambling debts. And false allegations of dodgy dealings. And unsuitable romances – which turn out fine when it turns out that the bloke is actually the heir to an earldom. Every cliché going. It’s just very, very silly. It would be fine if it were intended to be a farce – think Oscar Wilde – but it seems to be intended to be taken as a serious historical novel. Oh dear!
We get some Downton Abbey-esque anachronisms, as well. It isn’t quite as bad as a housemaid in the 1920s talking about eating all the pies, but we do get names that weren’t really in use at the time, words which probably wouldn’t have been used at the time, and announcements worded in completely the wrong way. It’s not good.
Dear Julian. Please stick to writing TV scripts. You’re good at that!!