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Past Imperfect by Julian Fellowes
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Past Imperfect (2009)

by Julian Fellowes

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Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
Jullian Fellowes offers a more modern insight into the British class snobbery. His works are fun if you're into that sort of thing. This one was sort of a fun mystery, to boot. ( )
  karrinina | Nov 13, 2013 |
Julian Fellowes, Oscar winning screenwriter of "Gosford Park" and the creator of the hit TV show "Downton Abbey" turns his gimlet eye on modern British society in this novel. The story isn't much: a man is contacted by his old nemesis who is now dying and asked to track down his long-lost illegitimate child so he can leave his fortune to him or her. This sets the narrator on a quest and also back into reminiscing about his days of hobnobbing in high society during the London season of 1968.

However, apart from a somewhat lame plot, there are Fellowes' thoughts and criticisms of the old class-bound British society and what it has devolved into today. And his observations are both fascinating and pretty much spot-on. For readers who like novels of manners as well as students of social history, this book is a treat. ( )
  etxgardener | Apr 2, 2012 |
Absolutely loved this. Fellowes knows his territory and is a gifted observer of people and relationships. Amusing and arresting descriptions - a small princess is described as looking more like a boy-scout during bob-a-job week. And the structure was compelling, jumping from the narrator's youth during 'the season' in the 60's, and revisiting those acquaintances over 30 years later. It gave a chance for Fellowes to ruminate about how society and our lives have changed in that time, for both good and bad. Although a social satire, focusing on the upper-middles and aristocracy, his observations transcend that elite. ( )
  LARA335 | Jul 27, 2011 |
This book reminded me a bit of Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, but that of course is science fiction, while this is just set among the Upper Classes. I enjoyed it, but I have no idea whether the slightly Pooterish tone was deliberate:
"I looked into [the butler's] face and his eyes were full of tears, and it struck me that when a man is dying, if his butler cries then some at least of his life must have been well done."
The story is scattered with reminiscences like this one at Royal Ascot:
"We drifted up the steps into that long, faintly lavatorial tunnel at the base of the grandstand, built at such an unfortunate part of the Sixties and yet much missed now that it has been swept away despite its replacement being infinitely superior, and we set off on our way through to the back of the building and the Enclosure lawns."
I think it's a persona rather than the author himself being unable to control his sentences -- it's a sort of male Mitford voice. Anyway, I enjoyed the story, and I will probably read his other one too one day. For some reason when I bought it I had him confused with Giles Waterfield. ( )
1 vote annesadleir | Jun 28, 2011 |
Damian Baxter is ridiculously, stupendously rich. He's also dying and has nobody to leave his vast fortune to. However, an anonymous letter received years earlier suggests that he may have father a child many years ago, and now he wants to find that child in order to include him or her in his will. However, there are a few contenders for the mother of the child, and to track her down he needs the assistance of a former friend from the late 60s when Damian spent time amongst the upper classes and the aristocracy. The former friend is the narrator of the book, but he now harbours a strong grudge against Damian...

When I started this book I was not sure I would enjoy it. It seemed to be populated by snobbish shallow characters who I did not think I would be able to warm to. However, by about halfway through it had quite won me over and I simply did not want to put it down by the time I got to the ending.

As stated, the unnamed narrator is the former friend of Damian, who undertakes to find his child. As he does so and meets up with several people who he was friends with at the time in which most of the book was set, he not only discovers secrets about Damian's past, but also comes to terms with events in his own.

We learn early on that the narrator is upset with Damian over an incident that occurred in Portugal years before, although the details of the incident are not revealed until nearly the end of the story. There is also some tension over a girl with whom the narrator was clearly in love - Serena Gresham.

The book describes the search for Damian's possible offspring, and also explains the differing fates of several of the characters. It also gives plenty of description of upper class society in the late 1960s. The narrator notes that the 60s for many people were not all free love and flower power, and describes debutantes' balls and posh parties galore. The era was explained in great detail, which I found very interesting to read about.

I ended up really liking the narrator and finding him to be a believeable character. It was clear to see how he had mellowed and matured in the intervening years between the two periods of time which the book covers. Damian himself was not a particularly sympathetic character, but I did feel that the reader could understand him much better by the end of the book.

Some parts of the book were very moving, and some were very funny. The whole description of Terry Vitkov's ball had me in fits of laughter.

I would highly recommend this book. I now want to seek out 'Snobs' by the same author. ( )
  Ruth72 | Feb 28, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
Embedded in the detailed descriptions of how the upper classes lived 40 years ago is a slimline plot. Damian Baxter, old, rich and lonely, is dying. Summoning an old enemy (once his closest friend) he concocts a Recherche du Temps Perdu mission among the debs he once slept with to find a child he may have fathered. His final act will be a coup de foudre for the family of this child, but Baxter plans to cushion the blow by leaving his fortune to his only offspring.

There are five ex-debs with children of the right age and the hapless narrator finds them one by one. What he discovers is that their lives now highlight the ways the world has changed, and they all seem to have a soft spot for Baxter. This is gruelling as he nurses a resentment against the man himself, the cause of which is revealed only at the end.

This is a book for a hot winter beach, an escape from life as we know it. Fellowes does us a huge favour in chronicling the world of class-bound aristocrats and their arcane snobbery. But in revealing their priorities, he gives us much to be grateful for in our own society now.
added by VivienneR | editThe Independent, Raffaella Barker (Nov 16, 2008)
 
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To Emma and Peregrine without whom nothing at all would ever get written
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London is a haunted city for me now and I am the ghost that haunts it.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Damian Baxter is very, very rich - and he's dying. He lives alone in a big house in Surrey, looked after by a chauffeur, butler, cook and housemaid. He has but one concern: who should inherit his fortune...PAST IMPERFECT is the story of a quest. Damian Barker wishes to know if he has a living heir. By the time he married in his late thirties he was sterile (the result of adult mumps), but what about before that unfortunate illness? He was not a virgin. Had he sired a child? A letter from a girlfriend from these times suggests he did. But the letter is anonymous. Damian contacts someone he knew from their days at university. He gives him a list of girls he slept with and sets him a task: find his heir...
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0753825414, Paperback)

Damian Baxter is very, very rich - and he's dying. He lives alone in a big house in Surrey, looked after by a chauffeur, butler, cook and housemaid. He has but one concern: who should inherit his fortune...PAST IMPERFECT is the story of a quest. Damian Barker wishes to know if he has a living heir. By the time he married in his late thirties he was sterile (the result of adult mumps), but what about before that unfortunate illness? He was not a virgin. Had he sired a child? A letter from a girlfriend from these times suggests he did. But the letter is anonymous. Damian contacts someone he knew from their days at university. He gives him a list of girls he slept with and sets him a task: find his heir...

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:49 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Damian Baxter is very, very rich. He has but one concern, which is becoming more urgent as the weeks go by: who should inherit his fortune. A letter from an ex-girlfriend suggests, that as a young man, he may have fathered a child, but the letter is anonymous. Finding the truth will not be easy.… (more)

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