Friday, January 24, 2014
Review: A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller
Review: A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller
Release date: January 21st, 2014
Publisher: Viking Juvenile (Penguin)
Source: Print ARC from the publisher
Rating: A delightful and romantic historical novel. A must-read!
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?
This book! Oh, I adored this book. It's everything I want in a historical novel. It focuses on characters and plot and never bogs you down with historical information. The information just seeps into your brain as you read, and you're never bored for a minute. I read most of this book on a plane, and I'll say it kept me quite entertained, and that I think I scared my seatmate a bit with all the squealing and clamping of the book to my heart.
We first meet Vicky, our plucky, artistic heroine in boarding school in France. She's got a lot of artistic talent, and what's more, she's got drive, determined not to let limitations imposed upon her gender inhibit her (that's my girl). So of course, she volunteers to pose nude for the all-male art class she's not supposed to be a part of, and of course there is une scandale magnifique, and Vicky is sent home to London in disgrace. It's all great fun, and the best part about it is that Vicky really is very honey badgerish about it. She don't give a shit. She just wants to draw, okay? She's a bit reckless and extremely stubborn, but she's also funny and brave and my God, I love this girl. She's not afraid to speak her mind, and she makes a hilarious accidental drunk. And I love that she's determined to take charge of her own life.
Her wealthy (and misogynistic) parents are determined to make a lady of her and have arranged to marry her off, but Vicky's set on getting into art college. As she tries to achieve her dreams in a world in which women are not meant to dream, she crosses paths with the suffragettes, aka the female protestors endeavoring to win the right to vote. That's right. Any time you watch a gorgeous period drama and get taken in my the lavish costumes and the courtesy and what not, and think you'd like to live in that time, read this book and realize that, if you're female, you'd basically be an object that gets passed around from man to man and has no say in... well, anything.
I loved the suffragists. Loved, loved, loved. There was so much fun and swoon (more on the swoon later), but this book also touched on serious issues affecting women in 1909. While British History is my most beloved nerd-topic, I'll admit to not knowing too much about Emmaline Pankhurst and her brethren besides the fact that they're Mrs. Banks' sisters.
Vicky becomes more and more drawn into their cause, and I fell more and more in love with her. Vicky, my GIRL. Also, the art bits. As someone who's also done art her entire life, I could relate completely to her artistic drive and the way she'd become absorbed in her sketches. Her desire to conquer paint, a medium, she's not yet comfortable with. The desire to be taught. The desire to draw certain subjects (she gets an overwhelming urge to draw the suffragettes, which starts this whole thing off). Vicky's artistic talent was incorporated very naturally and wonderfully into the plot and really helped round out her character.
Okay. Swoony swoons. All the swoony swoons. Vicky is engaged to be married to a wealthy young man, Edmund, and though she realizes he's not as wretched as he could be, she crosses paths with a handsome, working-class police constable named Will, who... well, I think I need a moment.
I really don't want to tell too much, because the wonder of this story is watching Vicky discover herself and find independence in a world that's determined not to let her. But you should know there is also a very cute boy who supports her dreams, and there's nothing more romantic to me than that. If you're anything like me (and you shouldn't be, I'm a bit insane when it comes to ships. You might have noticed), you will squeak and squeal and grin like a mad person basically whenever they make eye contact.
Obviously, I loved this book. Get thee to a bookstore, fool! You need this book in your life.