Damian Baxter is hugely wealthy and dying. He lives alone in a big house in Surrey, England, looked after by a chauffeur, butler, cook and housemaid. He has but one concern his fortune in excess of 500 million and who should inherit it on his death.
A middle-aged Londoner is forced to revisit his past in Fellowes's slick and dexterous second novel (after the bestselling Snobs). Former friend Damian Baxter, after 40 years of estrangement, convinces the unnamed narrator to locate the woman Damian believes to have borne his child in 1968. As the narrator looks back on the events of that fateful summer, Fellowes exercises his considerable talent for observing the nuances of custom and class distinction. Especially interesting are the frequent digressions to consider the peculiar juncture of their "safe little, nearly-pre-1939 world" with the Swinging Sixties. In the narrator's circle of friends-who would fit comfortably into a Trollope novel-the ossified conventions of the upper class still hold sway, yet the '60s make an appearance as well, enlivening a debutante party with surprise hash brownies. We quickly discover that middle-class Damian (a "social mountaineer") managed to insinuate himself into this smart set until a terrible scene tears apart the group of friends. Deservedly compared to Tom Wolfe, Fellowes, with his ability to document the aristocracy with a sociologist's eye, fashions intriguing narratives.
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