I saw A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller making the YA book blogger rounds back when it was released in January and I was intrigued. I asked my blogger and library friend, Natalie, to put in a request for me at the library and they ordered it! Yay! I'm really glad I got to read this book. I found it to be so different than any YA book I had read before. That might not be true for everyone but, as a fairly newbie YA reader, I hadn't read a historical YA book with this much depth and with such a gripping story before.
Here's the synopsis:
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.I didn't realize how much of the story would follow the suffragette movement. That was more than fine by me (I really don't know enough of that history) but I wish the synopsis had mentioned it just a little more. For the most part, the book was about Victoria trying to escape the golden cage that is her life. Eventually that leads her into the suffragette world and she learns how important the movement is.
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?
There is a romance in this book, which isn't surprising, and I loved it. Vicky is the daughter of a wealthy family and there are certain expectations that comes with that life. One of those expectations is marrying well. Her family sets her up with a boy who doesn't seem to be horrible so she thinks the whole arranged marriage thing might be ok. Enter PC Will Fletcher. He's the copper she meets while unintentionally getting involved in a rally. He's also a gorgeous boy that she can't wait to draw. I couldn't see how things would work out for the two of them so I was on the edge of my seat until the end!
While I loved reading this book, I feel like it paints a bit of a rosier picture of what things would have been like during the Edwardian time for women like Victoria and the suffragettes. I know novels tend to do that a lot so perhaps I'm being too critical.
One of the great things about this novel was that Vicky was an art lover and an artist. There aren't many YA characters, especially historical characters, who are artists and it was really interesting to read about what it could have been like for a young woman who wanted to be an artist. Basically, it's a battle. Women weren't meant to be educated and I couldn't imagine not being able to go to school to do what I love (not that that's painting but you know what I mean!). I was intrigued by the paintings that were mentioned and I liked that the book made me look up and learn about the art and artists that showed up in the book.
A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller was a really enjoyable read and I think those who read it (and I think many should) will need to be aware that, while this novel is rooted in fact, it's just a novel. Do more reading on the suffragette movement to get the real story. Basically, if the synopsis grabs you in any way, read it. I think you'll like it!