Book: A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller, Listening Library, January 2014
Book Info: Borrowed audio via Overdrive Library, Running time: 11 hrs. Read by: Katharine McEwan. Also available in hardcover or e-book, 431 pages from Viking Children’s / Penguin
A Mad, Wicked Folly has a lot going for it: a vivid London setting, art, feminist and class themes, eye-catching fashion, and swoon-worthy romance. I’ve had my eye on this book for months and it was even better than I hoped it would be.
This YA historical fiction book is about a girl who wants to be a serious artist but society wants her to cast her ambitions aside and marry well instead. Meanwhile, she gets involved with the suffragette movement and falls for a guy outside her social circle. Gasp! A Mad, Wicked Folly is charming from start to finish and I was sad to see it end.
A Mad, Wicked Folly is set in Edwardian England and is about Victoria Darling (Vicky), a determined girl whose biggest dream is to attend Art College, to her parents’ dismay. You see, Vicky gained some notoriety for posing nude for her Art class, and her parents are at their wits end trying to tame her artistic ambition. Keeping art as a hobby just won’t due for Vicky but she has an uphill battle to fight including actually gaining entrance to art school (rare for females in 1909), raising the money to attend, and gaining the support of her parents and/or future husband.
Vicky is resourceful and rebellious in pursuing her art. You can really feel her passion for art and how she’ll do anything to make her dreams come true. Sometimes, that’s breaking the rules and stepping out of her comfort zone. It is great to see the light bulbs go off for her about feminism and the Suffragettes and to see her confidence increase as she sees what she can accomplish.
The side characters are just as interesting as Vicky, and help shed insight into her restrictive upbringing, and possibilities of the future. Vicky’s parents are very concerned with appearances and Vicky is bringing them unwanted attention. I think anyone today would be able relate to Vicky’s push and pull with her parents about not seeing eye to eye about the future. The suffragettes help show Vicky her value and that the fight is much bigger than just her own struggle to attend art school.
The romance in A Mad, Wicked Folly is very sweet and enhances the story. William Fletcher is a working class police constable and part time art model for Vicky. He dreams of being a writer, and he is one male that champions and values Vicky’s artistic ability. I loved that Vicky had this guy in her corner.
Though this book is a healthy 400+ pages, the time flies by when you read it. Waller’s writing reads effortlessly and kept me constantly entertained. Sometimes historical reads don’t keep my attention, but I found this read fascinating. The author Leila Sales edited this book, and it seems she makes a great team with Waller. This book was a joy to read.
I listened to A Mad, Wicked Folly, and Katharine McEwan (she also narrates The Beautiful and the Cursed) performs the 11-hour audiobook. Her voice takes you to Edwardian England and brings the time period and setting to life. McEwan uses different accents and voices for the male and female characters of varying age and social class. I think she really “got” the character of Vicky and that helped me get lost in the story. In this case, the narration enhances the story and this is an audiobook I didn’t want to stop listening to.
Listen to an audiobook excerpt of A Mad, Wicked Folly, performed by Katharine McEwan: