22/10/2006

Belgravia (by Charlotte Bingham)

'Belgravia' is one of the earlier novels by Charlotte Bingham, one which I first read about seven or eight years ago and re-read recently. It primarily features two girls: Georgiana and Jenny. Georgiana is slim, attractive, and belongs to the upper class, although her parents are very poor and her ancestral home crumbling. Jennifer is plain, overweight and middle class, and has a pushy mother who wants her daughter to marry into the upper classes. Georgiana is rather manipulative, Jenny is delightfully shy and a little naive. Much of the novel pokes satirical fun at their friends and acquaintances, particularly Jenny's appalling mother.

But there's a more serious side too. Georgiana's childhood was spartan and unloving, with parents who ignored her and a nanny who kept telling her how privileged she was. Privilege appeared to mean that she ate one piece of dry toast for tea while the 'unfortunate' children on the estate had thick buttered toast and home-baked cakes. They played games outside, she stayed indoors on her own.

Jennifer is welcomed into debutante circles, since her unattractiveness makes the other girls stand out more. Georgiana is less popular. Yet they form a surprising friendship as their lives overlap.

There are rather too many characters for my tastes, but then I'm easily confused. Some of them were very caricatured, but I suppose that made them easier to remember. Nevertheless it was a very readable and mostly enjoyable light novel with considerably more depth than chick-lit.

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