Saturday, April 12, 2014

Review: A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Release Date: January 23rd, 2014
Source: Library
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?
"A Mad, Wicked Folly is an engrossing, enthralling, empowering read that has left me thinking about it and its message even nowThe messages about women's rights and about fighting for equality are still so pertinent today..."

I'm sending all my love to historical fiction with this book. Seriously. I love historical fiction, and this book just blew me away in so many ways. I've always loved historical fiction, and after not having read any historical fic in a while, A Mad, Wicked Folly reminded me of why I love the genre so much.

A Mad, Wicked Folly was filled with rich history, ranging from art history to the history of women's suffrage and women's rights. There's also a lot put into the setting, and I could almost imagine myself in Edwardian England. In the way that Pride and Prejudice takes readers into Regency England, this book does that for the Edwardian era. Everything, from the cover to the writing, just makes the setting and history stand out.

As a feminist, reading about women fighting for their rights really drew me in and made me feel empowered. I may not necessarily agree with everything the Pankhursts believed in, but so much of their struggle still resonates in our society today. There's still a universal struggle for women's rights and gender equality, and this highlights one of the major stepping stones to where we are today, whether you consider the progress to be great or minimal.

I also really enjoyed Waller's writing. It drew me into the story, and I personally enjoyed every moment of it. The plot was generally character-based, but there was enough going on to keep me from putting this book down. I was just so engrossed by the book, and part of the reason was Waller's writing.

Another reason I was so engrossed by the book was the amazing cast of secondary characters. I love Will to pieces, and one of the reasons I love him, besides his personality and kindness and everything else, is that he would probably be an ardent (male) feminist if he lived in today's time. Although he tries not to draw attention to himself, it's clear that he really wants to help them/the cause. And he supports Vicky and encourages her to pursue her dream, and he doesn't hesitate to help her and the others. (I do wish we had learned a bit more about his family/background or at least left it with a bit more closure.) Speaking of the others, I love Sophie as well. She's fiesty and bold, yet kind and gentle. I feel like we'd be really great friends, although SOME of her philosophy regarding the women's rights movement were a bit...annoying/aggravating at times. The same applies to Lucy. I love her as a character because she's so well-written and interesting, but most of the time, I couldn't figure out how I felt about her. And even Edmund, whom I have mixed feelings about, was a really solidly written character.

My one complaint was that, at times, Vicky REALLY annoyed me. I often questioned whether or not she really supported the suffragettes' cause, and I still question it a bit today. The thing is, most of her actions throughout the entire book were meant to give her one thing: an acceptance into the Royal College of Art. The question that kept popping up in my mind was: do the ends justify the means? Does Vicky possibly getting accepted justify all the deceit she employed to get there? It was obvious that she was often just using people to get what she wants. I questioned her helping the suffragettes--did she really want to help them or was it mostly to help her get into art school? Maybe it was a mix of both, but many times, it didn't feel that way. It frustrated me because she's such a headstrong character, but she's also someone that could really make a change or at least fight for it. She's certainly not like the majority of other women at the time period, but at the same time, does she really support the cause? And then this brings up more questions of feminism. Do I have a right to say this? Is it okay/is it feminist to criticize another woman's actions and personal choices? But it just bugged me as I read it.

Overall, this book was every bit as amazing as I had heard. It blew me away with its rich history and setting and it's well-written and complex characters. A Mad, Wicked Folly is an engrossing, enthralling, empowering read that has left me thinking about it and its message even now. The messages about women's rights and about fighting for equality are still so pertinent today, and this is sure to help spur some discussion on the subject.
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  1. What a great review! You covered a lot of information that not only perks my interest, but makes me want to read A MAD, WICKED FOLLY even sooner. I haven't read many historical fictions lately, so this one will be added to the top of my to be read pile. Once I read it, I'll be sure to let you know so we can discuss it. ;)

    1. Woohoo! Thank you for the kind words! So glad this has perked your interest. :D

      Yay! Definitely one I'd love to discuss. Lemme know. :)


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