Release Date: January 23, 2014
Publisher: Penguin | Viking Juvenile
Pages: 448 pages
Source & Format: Gifted; Hardcover
Amazon | Goodreads
Summary (from Goodreads)
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?
Thoughts on A Mad, Wicked Folly
I love historical fiction, but I don't feel like I've read much of it in the young adult genre. So, I was really excited when A Mad, Wicked Folly got on my radar. It sounded exactly like the kind of book I would love! From art history to the suffragette movement, I had a good feeling about this book.
Victoria Darling is seventeen years old, and she wants nothing more than to be an artist. Unfortunately, it's an impossible dream for a girl - especially one from a wealthy family like hers. She's told to aspire to be nothing more than a wife and mother. Then, Vicky poses nude for an illicit art class. The daring act sends shock waves through her family and their friends when they find out what she's done. Her parents decide it's time for her to get married, but Vicky has other things in mind. Secretly, she applies to the Royal College of Art, starts participating in the suffragette movement... and finds that a working-class boy just might be her muse.
First of all, Vicky is my favorite kind of heroine. She's strong, sassy independent and so unconventional for the time period. Seeing the world through her eyes was such a delight! I love that she wanted to forge her own path but was also held back a little by her desire to remain in her parents' good graces. I thought her complicated relationship with her family was so realistic, and I really enjoyed that part of the book. It was interesting to compare her place in the family with that of her brother, and I thought Waller did a great job with that aspect.
I've never really been interested in art history personally, but I have read a number of books that involve the topic. When it's done right, it can be so fascinating! Thankfully, I felt like the role of art in A Mad, Wicked Folly was just perfect. I could feel Vicky's passion for it, and I was rooting for her to be able to follow her dreams. And her artistic muse? Helloooooooo, Will. I was a huge fan of him! He's adorable and charming - the perfect counterpoint to Vicky's brand-new fiancé, Edmund.
The romance really isn't the focus in this book, which I appreciated. I'm glad there was one, especially with a boy as wonderful as Will, but I liked that Vicky's story was about a lot more than just falling in love. Selfishly, I did want just a little more of the love story angle, but that's only because Waller made me fall so in love with these two characters. Y'all, it's a slow-burn romance, and we all know those are pretty much my favorite kind ever. It also helped that Will exemplified my favorite "type" of book boy, but I'll make you read it to find out out for yourself which one (or more) he was!
Aside from the art and romance, the suffragette movement was the other big aspect in this book. I could tell throughout the story just how much research went into A Mad, Wicked Folly, but I think this part is where I saw it most. My knowledge of the suffragette movement in London is basically limited to the "Sister Suffragette" song in the Mary Poppins movie, which my siblings and I love to belt at the top of our lungs. But seriously, can we take a moment to appreciate this line: "Though we adore men individually, we agree that as a group they're rather stupid." Ha!
Anyway, I loved learning more about the suffragette movement! It made me want to read even more about it, and I always consider it a success when historical fiction sends me scurrying off to learn more about something discussed in its pages. There is a section at the end that includes additional background and highlights some of the research Waller did, and I loved that it was in there! It was so fascinating to read about these brave and courageous women and what they went through in their fight for their voice to be heard.
Basically, I loved this book! It made my list of favorite books so far in 2014, and I suspect it will still be on there at the end of the year. A Mad, Wicked Folly had everything I love in a book: fabulous characters, an intriguing story and great writing. Honestly, I cannot wait for more from Waller. I did some snooping online and found that she's got an as-yet untitled book slated for publication in Winter 2016. AHHHH! HOW WILL I WAIT THAT LONG? Guess I'll just have to re-read this one to hold me over until then.
"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."