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?
(Summary from Goodreads.)
I loved this book. The fact that it was about the women’s suffrage movement caught my attention since I don’t see much of that in YA, but then there was so much more to it – all of the art history (which was also fascinating, especially as a person who doesn’t know much about 19th and 20th century art), the social aspect, and the fact that Vicky’s story of pursuing her dream and trying to find her place in the world transcends time periods.
The Edwardian Era is one that fascinates me because the dynamic of old meets new really jumps out at you – there were all of these social movements going on – women’s suffrage being an especially major one – but then we seen a lot of classism still as the rich try to maintain the old world order. That was one of the primary conflicts in this book, and I think Waller did a great job portraying that. Vicky really just wants to be an artist, and she has to decide how far she’s willing to go to pursue her dream. As a woman with a painfully old-fashioned father, her choices are limited: she has to marry a man she doesn’t love just so she can escape her father’s control, or she has to completely cut herself off from her family.
I loved watching Vicky’s confidence grow throughout the course of the book. The suffragettes played a crucial role in this – showing Vicky what the world can be, and also helping her stand up for what she believes in. They also helped show her just how important her voice is, and I was definitely Team Vicky by the end.
The only thing that really bothered me was how Vicky was so sure she’d talk her father around, all evidence to the contrary. I appreciated how brave she was in taking a stand, but she also never really contemplated the possibility that he would say no. There’s a line between demanding to be taken seriously and being unrealistic, and I just wasn’t entirely convinced that Vicky was on the former side.
A Mad, Wicked Folly is one of my favorite books of 2014. It’s rich with historical details and has a heroine whose journey will make you feel empowered at the end. Also, it has an adorable and sweet writer-boy, and what more can you want?
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars