Sunday, September 13, 2009
Past Imperfect by Julian Fellowes
Fellowes is amusing because he is keenly observant and advantageously placed. His tales have the flavor of truth. He writes of a class of society most of us will never know personally: the rich, the famous, the titled. While we may not aspire to the life these people endure, there is something intrinsically interesting about a life without the more usual set of boring constraints.
The narrator, very like our author as described above, says plainly at the beginning of Chapter Two; "I've never been a good judge of character. My impressions at first meeting are almost invariably wrong." Why we then place ourselves in this unreliable narrator's hands has everything to do with the ultimate success of the book. We are always a little off-balance and unsure whether we should trust the narrator's observations. We must put our own considerable experience to work deciding the ultimate value of a piece of information. We discover the rich, the famous, and the titled have similar motivations to our own, and constraints almost entirely of their own construction.