Rummanah Aasi
 Like many readers, I've been duped before by books that feature a pretty dress on the cover. I was thrilled to read A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Walker because I was really curious about the time period and the connection some reviewers have made to one of my favorite tv shows Downtown Abbey. While it doesn't feature a lot of the drama in Downton Abbey, A Mad Wicked Folly is a solid read about the women's rights movement in Britain and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Description: 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?

Review: A Mad, Wicked Folly is a well written historical fiction novel that explores the women's right movement in Edwardian Britain and one girl's struggle to pursue her dream of being an artist. The title is derived from a statement ironically made by Queen Victoria in 1870 when she declared that women's rights were a "mad, wicked folly." This statement sets the stage for Victoria Darling's plight to moving beyond the set societal boundaries of her sex.
  Victoria Darling is not an ordinary girl. She is affluent, pampered, beautiful, talented, passionate, and wealthy.  Despite these advantages, however, Victoria still struggles with the harsh limitations imposed upon women prior to and during the Edwardian era of 1901-1910, which curtail her attempts to attend art school. While Victoria does not initially support the Suffragette Movement and thinks these women are radicals, she ultimately discovers that her fate is intertwined with the cause.
 The book is written in Victoria's point of view and her earnest voice helps readers to more intimately understand the growing frustration felt by thousands of women during that time. Waller vividly describes the unbearable restrictions placed upon the women from the fashion of tight corsets to the force-feeding implemented to undermine protesters during hunger strikes, and the swift arrests of notable individuals who helped in the movement. I learned quite a lot from this book as I wasn't previously informed by the British Suffragette Movement and I found this part really interesting. Walker clearly did a lot of research about this time period and it shows.
 I think teens will relate to Victoria's story of rebellion as her eyes open to the injustices around her. I admired the brave sacrifices she makes to pursue her dreams. I was worried initially that everything would tie up in a bow at the end, but thankfully, this doesn't happen as Walker stays true to the time period. There is enough detailed information throughout to make this a useful and fascinating book to pair with nonfiction resources about women's history.I would definitely recommend picking this book up if you are in the mood for a good historical fiction novel.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is nudity since the artist is drawing a nude model, some minor language, and underage drinking. Recommended for Grades 8 and up.

If you like this book try: A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly, Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Lawson
3 Responses
  1. Oh yes you totally sold me. This sounds like something right up my alley. I also love the way she changes her mind about the suffrage movement. I'm actually surprised there aren't more books out there like this. Brilly review!

  2. Sounds great Rummanah! I already have this one sitting on my shelf. I am glad to know how accurate it is. Sometimes when you're reading a fiction book, an author is so convincing , I find myself quoting things as fact when in all likelihood it was embellished at the very least. So good to know if I'm quoting this one, I'm safe!

  3. I haven't read too many reviews for this one, Rummanah, but the ones I've read have been largely positive so I'm glad you liked this one too. I don't think I've read too many historical fiction novels this year and since I don't know much about the Suffragette Movement, it would be nice to learn a bit more about it. I'll keep this one in mind for when I'm in the mood for a historical fiction novel.

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