Hello readers! Today I’m going to tell you about a cool new publishing project going on right here on the grand ‘ole internet: Julian Fellowes’s Belgravia. If you did not already recognize the name, Julian Fellowes is the guy who wrote/created Downton Abbey. If you are like me and cried at the series finale because the Crawleys were like an alternate family to you, then have no fear, because Belgravia may fill the void in your heart. If you are not a Downton Abbey person, but generally like the idea of interactive reading experiences or serialized fiction or historical dramas, then listen up, yo.
Belgravia is a serialized novel about society in nineteenth century London. Serialized, you ask? Yes! In the spirit of the greatest Victorian writer ever, Charles Dickens, Fellowes is releasing the novel chapter by chapter, each week in installments. (Yes, I said greatest Victorian writer ever. Disagreements may be sent to my PO box on You’reWrongI’mRight Ave.).
Super cool, right? The first chapter is available for free and you can read it right now. One of the other super cool things about Belgravia is that because it’s being published digitally, there are interactive bonus features! There’s an interactive family tree and map of Belgravia, along with click-able text that reveals pop-up historical facts about the time period of the events surrounding the story.
Chapter 1 begins not in London, but in Brussels, on the night of June 15, 1815, when one of the most famous social events in history occurred. The Duchess of Richmond threw a ball that night, attended by Prince William II of the Netherlands and other such important peeps. The ball was crashed by a messenger who announced that Napoleon had arrived and was ready to duke it out (pun intended). The ball then dissolved into tear-filled goodbyes as the soldiers went off to fight in the battle of Waterloo, the battle which famously decided that the fate of Europe was not to be a French takeover in which everyone would have twirly mustaches and be forced to eat baguettes forever (which actually doesn’t sound so bad…)*. Many of the allies’ soldiers killed in the battle were wearing the same uniform they wore to the ball that night. If that doesn’t sound like Julian Fellowes’ fodder, I don’t know what does.
I read the first chapter, and I have to say that Julian Fellowes is a better screenwriter than novelist. His prose actually kindof reads like a script, and you can tell his strong suit is writing for the screen: lots of plot and dialogue, not lot of subtlety or description (unlike Dickens, Fellowes is not being paid by the word). However, the positive side of that is when you download each chapter, you get the text as well as the audiobook, which is very good. I listened to some of it, and I very much enjoyed it.
Like I said, you can read (or listen to) the first chapter fo’ free right now. The 2nd chapter was released today, and then the rest (11 chapters in total) will come out once a week. The text is compatible with all e-reader devices, but I highly recommend using it on a tablet-like device so you can click on all the interactive things. (Pro-tip: subscribing to everything is cheaper than buying each episode separately). The book will eventually be published as a hard copy when it’s over. I love the idea of reading along with a serialized novel, so I’m really looking forward to this experience. If anyone else out there is reading along, too, let me know! I’d love to hear what you think as the story unfolds! I’ll probably do a half-way point blog post with thoughts on it before it’s totally done. If I didn’t convince you to read it, allow Julian (he has a sophisticated British accent, and is therefore more convincing):
*Pardon my gross oversimplification of history. I’m going for the lols here, people.