Literary Friday: A Mad, Wicked Folly

Happy Independence Day
Synopsis according to Goodreads:
"Welcome to the world of the fabulously wealthy in London, 1909, where dresses and houses are overwhelmingly opulent, social class means everything, and women are taught to be nothing more than wives and mothers. Into this world comes seventeen-year-old Victoria Darling, who wants only to be an artist—a nearly impossible dream for a girl.
            After Vicky poses nude for her illicit art class, she is expelled from her French finishing school. Shamed and scandalized, her parents try to marry her off to the wealthy Edmund Carrick-Humphrey. But Vicky has other things on her mind: her clandestine application to the Royal College of Art; her participation in the suffragette movement; and her growing attraction to a working-class boy who may be her muse—or may be the love of her life. As the world of debutante balls, corsets, and high society obligations closes in around her, Vicky must figure out: just how much is she willing to sacrifice to pursue her dreams?"

I expected A Mad, Wicked Folly to be okay, but I figured it would be a quasi-historically-accurate Downton Abbey spinoff, like so many current Edwardian YA novels are. (I mean, really- that cover is horrid)

Boy was I wrong!

Sharon Biggs Waller has picked a time period (1909) that's very dynamic and filled with change: social, political, and economic. She clearly has done her research, as tidbits of actual fact play key roles in the life of the protagonist. But she also keeps (for the most part) focused on the story of protagonist, who is not a suffragist but whose life overlaps in several ways. Instead of using the character as a figurehead for the movement, she weaves dual stories of women's equality both in terms of the protagonist's journey and the Suffrage Movement. 

I thought she did an excellent job keeping to the class and gender disparities that existed during this period, and creating a protagonist who is likeable, but flawed- and very realistically a young woman. Huge thumbs up for including romance without romance being the primary motivator for the main character, or her defining characteristic. 

This novel made me want to vote, sew period garb from that era, and thank my lucky stars that, while gender inequality still exists, at least I'm able to earn my own living.

My only two issues with it are that the secondary characters didn't get enough screen time, and that I really wanted an Author's Note at the end, telling me what bits were based in actual historical fact (I know some, but there were a lot of little details I wanted more info on). You did the research, Waller, go ahead and impress me with it!

I recommend this for fans of historic fiction, strong female protagonists, the Edwardian era, feminists of all genders, costume lovers, and artists.

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