I am so excited to be a part of Julian Fellowes' Belgravia Progressive Blog Tour. I am sharing my thoughts on Episode 9: The Past is a Foreign Country. If you are just hearing about Belgravia for the first time, here's a general synopsis.
"Julian Fellowes’ Belgravia the story of a secret. A secret that unravels behind the porticoed doors of London's grandest postcode. Set in the 1840s when the upper echelons of society began to rub shoulders with the emerging industrial nouveau riche, Belgravia is peopled by a rich cast of characters. But the story begins on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. At the Duchess of Richmond's new legendary ball, one family's life will change forever."Last week, the progressive blog tour stopped at Mimi Matthews and focused on Episode Eight. After reading this episode, I was very worried for Lady Maria Gray and her unfortunate betrothal to John Bellasis. How will Lady Maria get out of this one? Plus, John Bellasis and Oliver are relentless; they have been investigating Charles Pope on the sly. Will the truth come out regarding who Charles Pope really is?
A Re-Cap of Episode Nine:
Episode Nine starts off with a bang. Anne and James are discussing the possible damage control that will ensue if Lady Brockenhurst acknowledges Charles as her grandson. Anne and James wonder how this impact their relationship with him and how will this impact their daughter, Sophia's, reputation?
At breakfast, Anne notices her daughter-in-law, Susan, is not only acting strangely, but she seems distracted. Has she put on weight? What could it be? (Readers knows that Susan is having an affair, so could she be pregnant? But isn't she barren? Gasp!) During breakfast, Anne also receives a note from Sophia's former maid, Croft. Croft is concerned, because Ellis, Anne's current maid, has been making inquiries about Charles Pope. It seems that inquiring about Charles Pope has become everyone's favorite pastime!
Meanwhile, Lady Maria Gray's mother realizes that her daughter has feelings for Charles Pope. This just won't work, so she wants to send her daughter away while she plans the upcoming wedding to John Bellasis. Mother of the year, yes? Speaking of John Bellasis, he is channeling Sherlock Holmes and is continuing to investigate Charles Pope. He is coming up with many theories, but the readers know they are all wrong.
Ellis meets with Sophia's former maid and steals letters from her that she was going to share with Anne. Uh-oh. These letters are filled to the brim with family secrets.
Even the men experience drama in this episode of Belgravia. Oliver and James have an unfortunate blow-up in public about (you guessed it!)....Charles Pope. Oliver feels his dad is playing favorites and Pope is getting preferential treatment.
We finish off the episode with some scandalous behavior. Lady Maria writes Charles saying she wants him to meet up with her in secret. You see, she wants to run away with him, but Charles knows better than to sully her reputation. They go to Lady Brockenhurst for her opinion on what to do and she happens to be in the middle of hosting a tea party. Guess who is a guest at this party? Lady Maria's mother! While Lady Brokenhurst and Lady Maria are in the other room, Lady Maria's mother takes this opportunity to sharpen her claws and warn Charles to stay away from her daughter. Meanwhile Lady Brockenhurst is just about to divulge the truth about Charles to Lady Maria. Is the cat really out of the bag?
I've really been enjoying Belgravia and one of my favorite aspects of the novel is the fact that it's serialized or it can be read in "episodes." This makes the cliffhangers even more exciting. I know in the past this was a popular technique used by Charles Dickens and many others. I can see why it's so compelling when presented this way.
I also really enjoyed Fellowes' use of dramatic irony in Belgravia. We, the readers, are aware of who exactly Charles Pope is, but many of the characters are still left guessing. This only adds to the suspense and drama. Obviously Fellowes uses this technique very well.
I also really enjoyed the upstairs/downstairs vibe that Belgravia possessed. There's always drama and secrets amongst the upstairs crew. In episode nine when Ellis starts sneaking around for John Bellasis, it only adds to the supspense. What will she find out? Will she get caught?
Even though Belgravia takes place in the 1800s, I think people can still relate to the many issues in the novel. There's scandals, affairs, crazy in-laws and relatives, families fighting over money, issues with inheritance, jealousy, parents trying to control children, secret pregnancies, and so much more.
Readers who want a Downton Abbey fix will enjoy Belgravia. Some of the servants were reminiscent of some of Downton's and the family dynamics as well as the rules of society were all very similar. The whole struggle of finding and/or dealing with an heir is also similar to Downton and of course the deep rooted family secrets are as well. Fans of historical fiction will savor Belgravia, especially in its serialized form. The next stop on the blog tour is on June 9th at Laura's Reviews. I am looking forward to discussing Episode Ten.
Questions For Discussion:
1) Do you think Anne and James should protect Sophia's secret or should they come out with it if Lady Brockenhurst does as well? What would you do?
2) What do you think of Susan? Do you feel badly for her or do you think she is just as conniving as Oliver? What do you think of her "secret?"
3) Do you think Maria will be able to get out of her arraigned marriage? Even if Pope's secret comes out, do they actually have a chance?
4) This whole episode revolves around secrets. A lot of the family drama is brought on by people hiding the truth. There's people who keep secrets, people who try to uncover them, and people who make new ones. Other than Charles, who is impacted the most by these secrets?
5) Downton Abbey fans, can you make any connections to Belgravia? Are there any similar characters or themes?
Looking to follow along? It's not too late! You can get the Belgravia APP. The free app will be launched via the Belgravia website on April 14, 2016 and is also available via Googleplay and iTunes. The first episode, “Dancing into Battle” will be free to download. You can subscribe to the full 11-episode weekly serial for £9.99/US$13.99 (both text and audio) or purchase individual weekly episodes for £1.49/US$1.99 which will be delivered automatically to your device the moment they air every Thursday.
BELGRAVIA PROGRESSIVE BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE:
April 14 – Austenprose.com: Episode 1: Dancing into Battle
April 14 – Edwardian Promenade: Episode 2: A Chance Encounter
April 21 – Fly High: Episode 3: Family Ties
April 28 – Calico Critic: Episode 4: At Home in Belgrave Square
May 05 – Luxury Reading: Episode 5: The Assignation
May 12 – Risky Regencies: Episode 6: A Spy in our Midst
May 19 – Book Talk and More: Episode 7: A Man of Business
May 26 – Mimi Matthews: Episode 8: An Income for Life
June 02 – Confessions of a Book Addict: Episode 9: The Past is a Foreign Country
June 09 – Laura’s Reviews: Episode 10: The Past Comes Back
June 16 – Gwyn Cready: Episode 11: Inheritance
Educated at Ampleforth and Magdalene College, Cambridge, Julian Fellowes is a multi-award-winning actor, writer, director and producer. As creator, sole writer, and executive producer of the hit television series Downton Abbey, Fellowes has won three Emmy awards. Fellowes received the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Gosford Park (2002). His work was also honored by the Writer's Guild of America, The New York Film Critics' Circle and the National Society of Film Critics for Best Screenplay. Other writing credits for film include Piccadilly Jim (2004), Vanity Fair (2004), Young Victoria (2009), The Tourist (2010), Romeo & Juliet (2013), and the upcoming three-part drama Doctor Thorne for ITV. Fellowes also directed the award-winning films Separate Lies and From Time To Time. Fellowes wrote the books for the Tony-nominated stage production of Mary Poppins and School Of Rock – The Musical which opened on Broadway in December 2015, and is written and produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Fellowes has authored two novels: the international bestsellers Snobs (2005) and Past Imperfect (2008/2009). Julian Fellowes became a life peer in 2010. He lives in Dorset and London with his wife, Emma.
In celebration of the release of Julian Fellowes' Belgravia, Grand Central Publishing is offering a chance to win one of the three (3) hardcover copies of the book!
To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment on any or all of the stops on the Julian Fellowes’ Belgravia Progressive Blog Tour starting April 14, 2016 through 11:59 pm PT, June 22, 2016. Winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments and announced on Austenprose.com June 23, 2016. Winners have until June 30, 2016 to claim their prize. The contest is open to International residents and the books will be shipped after July 5, 2016. Good luck to all!