As you might be able to guess from the title (which is derived from a very famous quote of Queen Victoria's), this book is about women's suffrage -- a girl from an aristocrat, conservative English family defies her family to pursue her dreams of being an artist -- and of being with a boy who is decidedly too working class for her posh family -- and while it's a fairly standard coming-of-age tale, it's well executed and full of interesting period detail, and I quite enjoyed it.
I was hooked on this book from the first page, seeking out every extra minute I could find to read another chapter! The comment from user artemishi below describes how I felt about it perfectly. Highly recommended.
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.
NYPL Staff Picks
In 1909 London, as the world of debutante balls and high society obligations closes in around her, seventeen-year-old Victoria must figure out just how much is she willing to sacrifice to pursue her dream of becoming an artist.
- Anne Rouyer
A good story about how one woman decided to fight for rights we take for granted today. Victoria is a bit if a ditz at the beginning but she learns she has to depend on herself, not some man.
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