Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Review: A Mad, Wicked Folly

A Mad, Wicked FollyTitle: A Mad, Wicked Folly
Author: Sharon Biggs Waller
Genre: Historical, Romance
Release Date: Jan. 23, 2014

A Quick Introduction: Victoria Darling wants to be an artist. This is easier said than done, as she's the daughter of a wealthy family in 1909. While at finishing school in France, she sneaks off to art classes, but, when she poses nude, she is found out and expelled, sent back to London, when she is back under her parent's watch as they try to repair her reputation. When these attempts to save her reputation involve confiscating her art supplies and getting her engaged to a man she's only met once, Victoria takes matters into her own hands, secretly applying to the Royal College of Art. As Victoria struggles to follow her dreams an a society that doesn't believe that women ought to dream of anything but marriage and motherhood, she encounters to suffragette movement in London and finds herself falling in love with a boy below her class while she's engaged to someone else.

Review at a Glance: A light, historical read about a girl trying to follow her dream.

Review: I found this an enjoyable read. While Victoria was a frustrating character at times, it didn't ruin my reading experience. In the end, I don't really have any complex feelings about this story.

As a character, Victoria was a little lost at the beginning- she knows that she wants to be an artist, and, while she takes steps toward that dream, she still isn't very sure of herself. She wants to feel like she's good enough, and that results in her reckless decision that is the inciting incident of the book. She's quite reckless throughout the book, and utterly committed to her art. She's willing to lie and to use people if it gets her her freedom. Her initial motivation in spending time around the suffragettes was to draw them, and to get a letter of reference for her application to art school, but the more time she spends with them, the more she finds herself swaying toward their cause as well. Victoria had her moments of being frustrating, but I didn't find myself hating her single-minded determination, even though I disagreed with some of her choices.

I only have an elementary knowledge of women's suffrage in in Britain, but the book provided a fairly good background for what was going on at the time. The fight for women's right to vote is really heating up- people are going to jail and going on hunger strikes. Women in Britain wouldn't gain the right to vote until 1918, almost ten years after this book is set. Victoria initially doesn't really work with the suffragettes out of a belief in their cause, but as the book progresses she begins to see that she might want the same thing- a right to be treated equally to a man, and to be able to pursue her goal without being held back by her gender. This, in her case, is her artwork. I took art in high school, so I have a background understanding of what she speaks of when she talks about her work, but it was never something that I thought to make a career out of (I was never much of an artist).

I didn't feel super interested in the love interest. He seemed like a decent person, but I didn't really develop any complex feelings about his character one way or the other. The relationship between Will and Victoria was a little bit stop-and-go, what with her being busy with art school applications, and, you know, engaged to someone else (not that she tells him that). As I mentioned, she was a little bit manipulative and deceptive when she was struggling to get what she wanted.

The plot mainly focuses around Victoria's determination to become an artist, in spite of the fact that her entire society opposes it, and her learning who she is, and what she is willing to do to chase her dreams. It interesting, but it wasn't something that I couldn't put down. That said, I still wanted to know how it ended- I just didn't want to know super badly.

The writing seemed fairly accurate to the time period, though I'm a little surprised Victoria found it as easy to sneak around like she did. I also sort of feel like London was too clean- I know that it improved  lot with the popularity of plumbing, but it seemed like it was pretty tidy (maybe we didn't see the grittier parts of London, but I kind of wondered none the less). The book has a bibliography in the back, and some historical notes on artists and the suffragette movement.

To conclude, this book was interesting, and I think something that I enjoyed most about it was reading about Victoria's art, and how much she loves it. She's certainly a determined character, and this works both in her favor and sometimes serves to make her a frustrating character. Overall, this was an light, enjoyable read.


  1. Sounds perfect for when I want something light--thanks for the recommendation!

    1. It was definitely a favourite debut of mine from this year. I hope you enjoy it when you get to it.