Going into Snobs by Julian Fellowes, I thought I was going to see more criticisms of the upper-class.  That wasn’t the case and it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The story begins with a group of late twenty, early thirty-somethings who are trying to find their way in life and the British class system.  The Narrator, who’s name isn’t given, meets a young woman named Edith at a mutual friends from the weekend.  All of these friends were educated at the big name private schools, brushing elbows the upper-class, landed gentry.

SnobsIt seems that half of them are happy with their upper-middle class lives, but most of them are trying to break into the upper-class either through marriage or through intimate friends.  This is where the novel of manners begins.  Edith finds herself romantically attached to an heir and Narrator ends up being her only ally in this new world.  Apparently, Narrator has some connections and Lord and Lady Uckfield are happy to accept him into their circle to act as their ambassador to Edith’s world.

What follows is the consequence of all of Edith’s jockeying to make the leap into the aristocracy.  Narrator keeps up with them all and is our guide into this odd world.  The ultimate point of the novel is that while every one admires the upper-class, their world isn’t perfect.  The sacrifices it takes to make it into the upper-class through marriage comes with consequences.  The choice is whether one is willing to take responsibility for it.

With a mix of Austen and Dickens, a dash of Ishiguro, and a side of Fitzgerald Julian Fellowes draws us into the the landed gentry of contemporary Britain. It’s not quite a criticism of class but rather an exploration of the consequences of our decisions and how people face challenges no matter the class.

Code Name Verity

VerityThis book continues my march through the Printz Award winners.  Just as I was considering switching to another list, I read my way to Code Name Verity and it’s reinvigorated my commitment to reading the Printz winners.

The story is set in the WWII era and is told through letters written by a Nazi prisoner who was on a secret mission for the British.  Through flashbacks we learn how she arrived there and who the other characters are that we will meet later in the book.  I can’t provide the names of the characters because there’s a question of who is actually writing the letters and why she’s giving so much information to the Nazis.  By the end of the novel you realize, through other characters, that all is not as it appears.  And I loved it.

I love a book that I can’t guess the ending or the outcome of certain conflicts.  Plus I like almost anything that has to do with WWII and on top of the good writing it’s a book that I highly recommend.  Not only does it keep readers engaged but it enlightens readers to the roles women had in WWII Britain.  I didn’t realize so many women were involved.  Although they weren’t allowed to fly combat missions they were important to flying other pilots and agents around Britain so that they could get to the air fields.

The author, Elizabeth Wein, in her afterwards, describes the research she did in preparation for the book.  I appreciate that she has put so much thought into it because I think it gives the book credibility and it makes it a good recommendation for young adults, male or female.  The other good thing is that it doesn’t sound like a book of facts.  It’s well plotted and definitely has the reader in mind as Wein develops her characters and conflicts.

It’s hard to tell you what the theme is in the book because it’s so intertwined with the plot.  But I can say that it deals with truth and friendships and how sometimes both truths and friendships aren’t what they appear to be on the surface.  I highly recommend this read.  It will definitely be an entertaining read.