You Read What? Book Review: A Mad, Wicked Folly

Author: Sharon Biggs Waller

Publisher:  Penguin Canada

  • Imprint: Viking Juvenile

Date Published:  January 23rd 2014

Format: Paperback/Advance Reader’s Copy

Source: From the publisher for an honest review

Synopsis:

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?

Number of Days It Took to Read: 5

Cover:

a mad, wicked folly

I think this is an OK cover but I expected a lot more risk artistically given the main character’s passion for art. I just expected something memorable and worthy of the subject matter/themes. 

The Writing Score: 3 out of 5

Recommendation: Great book for teens to get a look into feminism at its beginnings

Memorable or Forgettable: Memorable

Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Review:

I recently interviewed the author of this book as part of a blog tour on writing, suffragettes, 1909 and horses among other things. It was fun. It was also a great way to introduce a debut author of fiction to other readers.

A Mad, Wicked Folly is an interesting book in my eyes because the story and themes want me to give it a 4 out of 5 but the execution holds me back a bit. I love Vicki. I think she’s realistic in pursuit of her passion (art) which can be easily described as narrow at first. When you want something so bad, you don’t want to do things that could jeopardize it or think about the institutional boundaries in place that prevent certain people from achieving it. You care about you being able to do it because it’s what drives you in life. What I’ve enjoyed most about this book is that it brings to the forefront the institutional boundaries placed against women in various aspects of society including the art school featured. Vicki is bold and brave within the context of art as she poses nude during her art class in France but the same can’t be said within the context of love and women’s rights. I purposefully didn’t place family in there because Vicki is not only bold in that aspect but also strategic. She chooses to not fight them on her engagement to Edmund in order to be able to apply and attend art school. Vicki is responding to the limitations of her station as a woman in 1909 and she does so with fire and calculation.

She’s smart. She’s someone we’d all love to be but she’s also who many of us are. Love could threaten her dreams and the very limited spots offered to women at art school isn’t something she wants to acknowledge because it could mean making (or not making) a stand. A stand that could cost her like those before her. She redeems herself in many ways in this novel and you’re captivated whenever she’s talking about artsy things like how to look at or approach a nude model and even the difference between nudity and nakedness. This is something Biggs Waller excels at.

I think this novel is a great introduction to feminism for teens. Although it is a particular brand of feminism since it deals with mostly Caucasian, straight and middle class/aristocratic women’s point of view. technically speaking, there was a lot of “telling” but not too much that I was turn off from reading the book. I do think that by dialing back on the telling and doing a lot more “showing”, this book could easily be a 5 out of 5. I also don’t think the descriptors at the beginning of each chapter (Date and Location)  is necessary to the story since I’ve only ever looked at it in the first 2 Chapters.

You go into this book with love in mind but Biggs Waller balances the believable  romance with Vicki as an individual as well as the women’s rights movement. I really do expect a lot of great things from this author.

A. A. Omer

The opinions expressed here are mine and readers are welcome to disagree. In fact, I encourage it! I never believed in putting particular books or authors on some sort of universal pedestal but you’re free to put it on your individualized pedestal because I most certainly will.

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