People who, like me, are still mourning the loss of our Sunday evenings with the Crawley family – Lord and Lady Grantham, the unpredictable Lady Mary and her sisters, the irascible yet loveable dowager countess, and the always loyal downstairs staff – take heart. Downton Abbey’s creator Julian Fellowes has written a book just for the likes of us.
Belgravia’s story begins on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. The Duchess of Richmond holds a ball that is famous for decades as the highlight of social elegance. In addition to the standard social set, the duchess invited several newly-rich industrialists, shocking many of the aristocrats. A romance that is set in place at this ball between the son of an aristocrat and the daughter of a wealthy but not aristocratic working class man and woman sets off a string of intrigue, romance, scandal, and family secrets that would make Dowager Lady Grantham blush.
Fast forward to the 1840s, when secrets are revealed that set the story into play. Much like Downton Abbey, Belgravia has both the upstairs and the downstairs drama. The story, while admittedly predictable, is still fun and dramatic and a fascinating look at the mores of the the early- to mid-19th Century, when the Industrial Age was making common people wealthy.
Belgravia won’t win any literary awards. Fellowes’ novel reads more like a screenplay than a novel. But the characters are interesting and it’s fun to get a peek into their world, and the world around them. Unlike the Downton Abbey downstairs staff, the maids and cooks and butlers are not so good and open to corruption if the price is right. Lots of dastardly deeds.
A fun read for fans of Downton Abbey.