Friday, April 3, 2015

LIZ SMITH: "The Fortune Hunter"

Queen Victoria on "Fyvie" with John Brown at Balmoral, by George Washington Wilson, 1863.
Friday, April 3, 2015
by Liz Smith

Celebrating Daisy Goodwin's Delicious Novel, "The Fortune Hunter" ... More Rave Reviews for Jojo Moyes' "Me Before You"; Is Monica Lewinsky Joining the Club?

“AS a little girl I had a keen interest in royalty. I had every intention of being a princess when I grew up, even though, unlike my near contemporary Diana Spencer, I had already rejected Prince Charles as being too old,” writes Daisy Goodwin to her devoted fans.

You’ve no doubt seen the advertisements for Miss Goodwin’s celebrated novel, “The Fortune Hunter,” freshly out in trade paperback. All I can ask is where was I, under a rock, when St. Martin’s brought out the hardcover back in July 2014?

I had been depriving myself of the pleasure of reading this fiction for months. But after I also find Daisy’s first work, “The American Heiress,” I’ll be up to date.

Anyway, I want to highly recommend that you at least settle in for a whopping good time and get the new soft cover of “The Fortune Hunter.” Especially if you are one of the thousands of English-speaking fanatics and fans of “Downton Abbey,” those who love reading about the royals, who were once the be-all and end-all of British “civilization.”

We American colonists have been crazy about them ever since we broke away! And I have to emphasize my own devotion when it comes to the Victorian-Edwardian era, which includes all of the drama of the Austro-Hungarian lead-up to a European world that disappeared after World War I.

I should add that Goodwin can really write and write about that subject most others fail – romantic love, betrayal, jealousy and manners under the reign of Queen Victoria. This author has been compared by experts to Edith Wharton, Daphne du Maurier, Jane Austen – with a dash of People magazine. So you won’t be bored. The emphasis on the Victorian rules for female behavior have seldom been delineated better.

This is a triangle story of the woman who at 16 became the Empress of Austria, Sisi, termed the most beautiful person in Europe – and of an all-too-dashing cavalry captain who is poor but appealing. And, a unique British heiress bent on bending the rules.
Sisi was a slave to her own beauty and image.
They are set in what seems to me to be a defining moment when Queen Victoria condescends to appear publicly with John Brown (her substitute for her dead German prince) ... and we get all the artifice of uniforms, fine horses, fox hunts, ladies maids, butlers, etc. and ambitious souls who are waiting for the elevation of the somewhat rotund Prince of Wales to the throne.
King Edward VII.
I just loved it. The backdrop of true history is there, certifying all the enlightened romance, confusion and drama of an English period of “manners” and change into a modern world.

P.S. Janet Maslin of the New York Times has said, “Ms. Goodwin writes deliciously.” I’ll say!
Click to order “The Fortune Hunter."
WE, who follow such things, saw the handsome British actor Eddie Redmayne win the Oscar for his portrayal of the real-life scientific genius and thinker Stephen Hawking. And as most people know, Hawking is still alive but can no longer walk, speak, use his hands as he is suffering from an extreme case of Lou Gehrig’s disease.

But his true story is ever more amazing in that two very attractive young women have chosen to spend their lives with him as he slowly disintegrates before the eyes of the world.
Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking.
So, what a coincidence that the nominated film on Hawking, “The Theory of Everything,” came out soon after author Jojo Moyes’ novel, “Me Before You,” on a somewhat similar theme.

A young atypical English woman goes to care for a fabulous rich man of the world who, through an unfortunate accident, has become a virtual helpless paraplegic. She is hired by his wealthy family and, desperate for a job, goes to work without a clue. I am not going to tell you anything more about the details of this story, not the plot certainly — I say only — don’t miss it.

This story is one you just can’t put down. The author has a detailed and true picture of what paralyzed tortured lives paraplegics live.

This is clearly one of those heartbreaking stories that is redemptive and seems to be unique. The Times’ Liesl Schillinger says, “When I finished this novel, I didn’t want to review it: I wanted to reread it ... with Lou and Will she has created an affair to remember.”

This book got rave reviews all around. And I’m sorry I’m a little late finding it from Penguin softcover. But I seem to be a little late with everything these days.
GREATEST idea for ABC TV’s “The View” yet! Barbara Walters’ thought of asking Monica Lewinsky to join the club.

Contact Liz Smith here.