Published by Viking Juvenile on January 23rd, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance, Young Adult
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?
One of my goals for 2014 was to finally read some historical fiction. I don’t know what held me back from the genre, to be honest. I eat up historical fiction movies and TV series and adore them, but it never really occurred to me that I could also read some. Anyway. Enter A Mad, Wicked Folly. It popped up on my radar because of the lovely Christina and Gillian. Their reviews got me extremely pumped, and the synopsis sounded awesome, so I was all for it. It went on my most anticipated 2014 debuts list, and I even pre-ordered a copy. When it got here, I started reading it the very same day. (It did help that this book is one of the most aesthetically beautiful books I’ve ever owned.) Nothing could stand in the way of me and this book, and nothing did. With all that excitement and those high expectations, how did the book fare? It is my favorite book of the year so far and will almost certainly remain on my 2014 favorites list.
First of all, probably my favorite part of A Mad, Wicked Folly is the writing. I absolutely love Sharon Biggs Waller’s writing style. It is just amazing. Her prose felt extremely authentic for the time period. It felt British. It felt like it was from the early 1900s. I loved that. But not only that, she just finds the most beautiful combinations of words and phrases (“You look as though magic has taken hold of you.” *melts*). I didn’t want to stop reading this for a second. I actually grabbed post-its(!!) after 26 pages to start marking some beautiful quotes and passages, which, honestly, I have never done before. And this for a debut author! I can sense there will be author stalking in my future, and I regret nothing.
But anyway. The story focuses on Vicky, an aspiring artist from a well-off family, who gets expelled from her finishing school after posing nude in her art class. To mitigate the scandal this causes, her parents want to marry her off as soon as possible. Her only wish in life, however, is to go to art school and one day be able to exhibit her art. I absolutely loved the artistic part of this story. Vicky is very passionate about it, and when she describes techniques used in types of artworks, it gave me a better appreciation of art. I know nothing about art, to be honest, but I felt like I learned something here, and it really opened my eyes. But also the way she talks and thinks about her desires to work on nothing but her artwork was absolutely beautiful. (Again that also reflects this beautiful writing style. *gush*) I clearly need to find more books about artists, because between this and Daughter of Smoke and Bone, it’s clearly an element that I love to read about.
Overall, Vicky is a character I loved straight off the bat. Not only was her love for art inspiring, but her personality is sassy, and she is strong and independent. It only took a couple of pages for me to know that I loved her. She fights for what she wants, she keeps a cool and logical head, and just all around yes!
“If I’m going to be a student here, treated on equal terms, then I have to be willing to do everything that they do,” I said. “There can’t be two sets of expectations, one for them and one for me, the only girl in the class. How will I earn their esteem if I don’t pose?”A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs WallerObviously, her desire for rights, equality, and freedom clashes with the time period and with her family’s status. She’s expected to do nothing in life except get married, raise children, run the household and pay too many social visits to count. Well, that’s not what she wants in life. This gets her caught up in the suffragette movement, which I honestly wasn’t really expecting from the book beforehand (as per usual, I cast the synopsis out of my memory). But I absolutely loved it. It was a really well-researched and intriguing representation of a historical period that I honestly didn’t know too much about. I felt really connected to the story and what all the suffragettes were going through, and I found myself cheering for them. I’m not a big feminist by any means, but hell yes to this story and to these characters. I think it’s a very empowering story for women, so seriously, all of you, read this.
So while this story isn’t romance-centric, there is romance, and may I just say that it is unbe-freaking-lievably amazing, adorable, attractive, addictive and awesome? Honestly when I was done with the book, the only remotely negative thing I could say was that I wished there was more romance. But that would have detracted from the rest of the story, so I don’t even care. WOW, does Sharon Biggs Waller know how to write slow-burn beautiful chemistry. I am an addict and I need my fix. She used exactly the right tropes to get me to ship this from the first encounter. Will is just an awesome character right off the bat. He is the dream. That’s it. Strong, silent, supportive… The further I read, the deeper I fell in love with him.
Without any warning, tears filled my eyes. No one had ever given me such a kind and thoughtful gift before. I pictured Will going into the shop, looking over the books, and then discovering the very one he knew I would love. I even pictured him watching as the clerk wrapped the volume in brown paper. I wondered if the clerk had tied the green bow on it or if Will had gone into a notion shop and chosen it himself. These were all small things, but kindness was built of small things.A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs WallerThere’s one chapter around the middle of the book that was just so beautiful regarding the romance that I honestly wanted to cry. I cannot help myself. I ship it like FEDEX. I am not okay.
Then I knew: this wasn’t just a passion I felt for my model. My feelings about him had nothing to do with how his looks inspired me; he was far more than a muse. With every stroke of pencil and crayon, I had drawn Will into my heart.
I was in love with him.A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller
Summing Up:I could go on about all the different ways I love this book all day, but I think you get the point. This awesome and empowering story about art and women’s rights, set in a wonderfully depicted London in 1909, boasts a powerful main character, beautiful supporting cast, and an addictive romance, which is all complimented by one of the most beautiful writing styles I’ve yet encountered. It evoked all of the feels: I laughed, I wanted to cry, I flailed, I cheered. I devoured this book and can hardly say anything but that I want more from this author. My heart demands it.
GIF it to me straight!
Recommended To:asdfjkl; I can’t help but say EVERYONE.
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