Tuesday, April 08, 2014


A Mad, Wicked Folly
BY: Sharen Biggs Waller

PUBLISHED: January 23, 2014 by Viking Juvenile
GENRES: YA • Historical Fiction • Romance • Art • Social Issues • Philosophical • Intellectual • British • Women's Right to Vote

MY RATING: (technically 3.7)


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 scrumptious, decadent meal of a novel. Full of vivid imagery, elaborate detail and poignant social issues. However, I did find concerns with the book. But back to the social issues. You would think that humanity would learn from its mistakes, but no. We repeat them again and again. Why? Hate. Hate of what's different, what's "better" than us, what we can't understand. What we fear.

Waller did a good job addressing the cruelties to women as they fought for the right to vote. The suffering was intense for all women, whether they were active protesters or silent sufferers at home. She was somewhat heavy handed on the extreme feminist ideal, which had me rolling my eyes and somewhat too prejudice against certain groups. 

You can't lump everyone into such rigid boxes. I felt that conservatives were all lumped together and if you weren't praising anti-marriage attitudes. I'll be honest. I'm a Conservative. I'm an Artist (I have a B.A. in Art from Virginia Tech). I'm also a feminist. But we don't have to agree on every line-by-line item, and that's where I felt the difference in mindset.

Vicky had a tough go. As an artist myself, I sat through hundreds of life drawing classes with nude models. I know exactly where she is coming from. You don't see a human, you see lines, shapes, shadow and texture. We treated our models with utmost respect. You even hint at hitting on them and you are out. Fail. F. I got a lot of looks from people who could not see it for what it was, a creative yet analytical study of the human body. It wasn't a gawking, get-your-kicks class. 

The women during the turn of the century had some of the worst treatment in my opinion. The ideas of society were beyond bizarre and restrictive. Women have always been seen as goods and services rather than equal beings, but when women started to voice their opinions openly, there was a great deal of backlash. The torturous devices they had to wear were barbaric... but they were suppose to grin and bear it.

There were some long winded sections of the novel that slowed the pacing. I also thought the beginning was very slow. Vicky and the whole taking clothes off aspect was odd, awkward and frankly not necessary. My art teachers NEVER had students take off clothes if our model wasn't there. I honestly don't know what classes were like then, but the idea that you can't study lines, shapes and form of a human if they aren't stripped naked is false. I felt that was added to push this idealised feminist idea. It wasn't realistic. 

William was my favorite character. He was realistic. Organic. Tangible. William rang true and was a well thought out character. Vicky's character seemed hung up and stuck in trying to portray certain ideals, especially at the end. 

I felt the ending was somewhat weak. The main body of the book held solid and was engrossing. There were some very heartfelt scenes in the book that had you grabbing a tissue. The secondary characters really stole the show. It was filled with gorgeously detailed imagery and was a great catalyst for discussion. 

If you are into women's lib, historical fiction or social issues then you will DEVOUR this book. Happy Reading!