Published by Viking Juvenile on January 23, 2014
Genres: Historical FIction
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?
I want to hug this book. If you like historical fiction, you need to read A Mad, Wicked Folly. Hell, even if you don’t, I’m going to order you to read it anyway. I’ll even say that it would be a mad, wicked folly for you to skip this book. Heh heh. I’m sorry. That was terrible. I’ll try to make it up to you by sharing all of the reasons I loved this book.
A Mad, Wicked Folly is set in London at the beginning of the twentieth century. For Vicky’s family, class is everything. They are members of the upper class, but they are not blue bloods. Vicky’s father earned his fortune in toilets. Yes, toilets. It might not have been the most glamorous way to climb society’s rungs, but it secured their position in London society. Vicky enjoys all of the benefits of her parent’s wealth: a beautiful home, a household of servants, gorgeous clothes, and the ability to mingle with royalty. But along with the glamour comes a life in a “golden cage,” especially for women. Women are to be seen and not heard, wives are expected to be subservient and submissive to their husbands, and to many people, the idea of giving women the right to vote is ludicrous.
This is Vicky’s soon-to-be life. Her options, however, were more promising before she impulsively makes the decision to pose as a nude model in her art class. She expects this to remain a secret – she is attending a school in France, after all. But when administrators at her school find out, she is expelled and sent back home to London in shame. Vicky becomes a subject of nasty gossip among the upper class, and her parents are mortified. Her prospects for marriage are severely diminished, and her parents set to work trying to salvage her reputation.
Vicky wants to please her parents, but art is her passion, and she can’t do both. It’s considered an inappropriate hobby for a young woman like Vicky, and the thought that she would try to do it professionally is scandalous. So Vicky practices in secret, and thus begins a series of rebellious acts against her parents and society, each of whom has her trapped. She agrees to a marriage arranged by her parents, to a young man from the right family, but who also has his own tainted past. Vicky sees the marriage as a means to an end – the freedom from her parents will allow her to continue with her artwork.
But life gets a bit more complicated when Vicky witnesses the first stirrings of the suffragette movement. She recognizes the parallels to her own oppression, and as she sees these women fighting so passionately for the right to vote, she finally begins to question all of the restrictions placed upon her.
Every character, even the secondary ones, has layers that are peeled back as the story progresses. Vicky herself , seems like a very realistic depiction of a young, upper-class woman of her time. She is not a clear-cut heroine, but she has moments of heroism. She also has many moments of weakness. She constantly questions herself as she battles with whether to follow the path her parents laid out for her or whether to blaze her own path. Either option will require great strength and great sacrifice.
I LOVED the ending to this story. I can’t stop myself from thinking of how I will rate a book as I’m reading it. This was 5 stars all the way, and as I approached the ending, I started worrying that it would end on a false note, and that would likely have destroyed this reading experience. But I should not have worried, because it was perfect, and it was true to all of the characters. Don’t you love when that happens?