Series: Standalone Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance, Realistic Fiction Publication.Date: January 23, 2014 Pages: 384 (Kindle) Published By: Viking Website: Sharon Biggs Waller A Mad, Wicked Folly on Goodreads My review copy: Borrowed from library
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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 wanted critics to laud my work. But most of all, I wanted to express myself through my art as I fancied, and not be told what or whom I could draw or paint.
"I don't expect you to understand the value of art. It's not a subject dullards and buffoons would be interested in," I said.
"Now see, that's where you'd be wrong. I find the illustrations on the Guinness beer adverts most inspiring."
A familiar feeling washed over me as I drew. I twas the one I'd had with Bertram and the other artists in the cafe that day in France after I had posed. I felt accepted for who I was. I didn't have to sort the words in my head first, making sure they were socially acceptable before I said them. I groped around for a word that fit.
Peace. I felt peaceful. I had come looking for a reference, but I had found so much more.
Then I knew: this wasn't just a passion I felt for my model. My feelings about him had nothing to do with how his looks inspired me; he was far more than a muse. With every stroke of pencil and crayon, I had drawn Will into my heart.
A Mad, Wicked Folly is one of those books that make me angry. Not because they're bad or anything along those lines, but because they portray and take place in a time where women had no voice. It's hard for me to fathom a time when women were truly considered the weaker sense and had no "understanding" about certain things. Where they went to school to learn how to be a wife and mother.
One of the characters even comments that if a man were to do what Vicky is doing he would be admired, but because Vicky has a vagina she is considered to just have bad behavior. Okay, he doesn't actually say "because she has a vagina," but I'm paraphrasing here.
I like Vicky, a lot. All she wants to do in the world is draw. She sneaks away from her reform school to draw with a bunch of boys, disobeys her parents demands, and applies to an art school all on her own and in secret. She is defying everything she has been taught to follow her dreams. How can you argue with a character like that?
Lucy, an American that Vicky meets outside one of the suffragists' events, I knew immediately that I was going to be fond of. She's the one who initially puts the thoughts of helping / becoming a suffragette into Vicky's head and it's her words that appear to push Vicky in the right direction (or wrong direction depending on your view point). And slowly but surely, becomes an excellent friend and confidant of Vicky's.
Then there's Will and Edmund. To those of you who detest love triangles, and I'll admit I've come across one or two in my time that were rather annoying, don't fret! Sharon handles this issue with dignity and grace. It is neither annoying nor obnoxious, nor is it cliche. Nor is it really a love triangle, but I can't go into those details without stating spoilers. Just know that the romance aspect of this novel is perfect.
I have a soft spot for historical novels and A Mad, Wicked Folly is not different. Sharon clearly did her research (she also includes some notes at the end about this time period) and I loved turning to Google to look up the fashion and the historical figures she discusses. Sharon's characters come alive in a real time period during a real struggle for women. One of things I love is that she shows characters (men and women) on both sides of the suffrage struggle, which allows us a full glimpse into early 1900s London.
Filled with a sweet romance, women fighting for their rights, an exceptional cast of characters, and wonderful writing A Mad, Wicked Folly is definitely a novel that any one a fan of history and even those who aren't (yes, it's that good!) will enjoy.