Title: A Mad, Wicked Folly
Author: Sharon Biggs Waller
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
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?
As I’ve already mentioned multiple times here, I tend to shy away from historical books for some reason. There are plenty of historical books that I enjoy, especially from Libba Bray, but I still tend to avoid them for some reason that I’m not even sure of. So, when I heard things about this debut, I kind of ignored them. After reading so many raving reviews, though, I just had to know what I thought of this book. It isn’t a new favorite of mine, but it was still an enjoyable debut.
From the very beginning, this was a very readable book. Even when there didn’t seem to be much happening, I was interested in reading on to see what would happen. I know at some point it kind of slowed down for me and I wasn’t reading it as quickly, but whenever I was reading, it still had that readable quality that kept me interested.
The Victorian era is a pretty common time period in historical YA, but the next time period – the Edwardian time period – isn’t as easy to find. So, even though it seemed quite similar to other historical YA books, it focused on different events that are just as interesting, mainly the suffragette movement. I love reading about feminist issues, and one of the biggest feminist issues – the right to vote – is definitely high on my list of interesting topics. Even when I wasn’t really interested in Vicky’s story, I was interested in hearing more about the suffragette movement in England, which I now less of than the movement in America.
Even though this book is obviously a realistic story about a real movement, there were times it bothered me, though. Recently, I’ve been getting frustrated by the high number of fantasy books that revert to a highly patriarchal society where women are little more than baby incubators, books where women are forced to be second class in a sad attempt to add feminism into the book. In the various scenes were women are treated as second class citizens, I wasn’t thinking about how this was, unfortunately, a real thing – instead, I was thinking about how tired I am of seeing these kind of scenes in any book. Yes, it’s perfectly realistic, and it wouldn’t be genuine if there weren’t any scenes like it, but that wasn’t what I was thinking while reading these scenes, which put a bit of a damper on the book.
I think it was partially the mood I was in, but the further I got into the book, the longer it seemed to take me. It wasn’t that the book was bad or anything, but the more I read, the less I cared about the romantic drama in Vicky’s life. I didn’t actually care for Will that much – he was a pretty great guy, but I was kind of neutral toward their relationship. With every additional scene of romantic drama, I got a little more tired of their relationship rather than more invested.
I know I’m sounding quite negative, but I really did enjoy much of this book while I was reading it. The story was quite engaging, and if you liked the romance more than I did, then this’ll probably be a real winner for you. I’m definitely interested in checking out future things from Sharon Biggs Waller.