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Past Imperfect

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  4,908 ratings  ·  644 reviews
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 pounds, and who should inherit it on his death. Past Imperfect is the story of a quest. Damian Baxter wishes to know if he has a living heir. By the time he married ...more
410 pages
Published October 30th 2008 by Weidenfeld & Nicholson
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Average rating 3.56  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,908 ratings  ·  644 reviews

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Sep 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: family, fiction, funny, british
Fellowes is amusing because he is keenly observant, advantageously placed, literate, and loquacious. He puts words together in a way that makes us smirk and smile and acknowledge to be largely truthful, if not entirely. He writes of a class of society most of us will never know personally: the rich, the famous, the titled. While we may not aspire to the life these people endure, there is something intrinsically interesting about a life without the more usual set of boring constraints most of us ...more
Jan 22, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who wish they were posh
Past Imperfect is set in 1968, where everybody in the upper classes is trying to pretend its the 20s, but thanks to the sepia-coloured narration we can tell that their days are numbered, and what a surprise, you can tell that they kind of know it too. The narrator, now a writer, was a peripheral part of the debutante set who introduced a charming, handsome, distinctly middle-class interloper Damien Baxter into their set. A natural social climber, Damien seems intent on penetrating the upper-clas ...more
Wish Goodreads had a 'an a half' star system... I actually felt 'pain' when giving this novel 2 stars instead of, at least, 3!! Just finished reading it last night and still cant shake off the sense that i ought to have enjoyed it more, that within this long, deeply textured novel should have been better epiphanies and richer discoveries, none which I experienced. I really liked Gosford Park and I absolutely loved 'Snobs', so I was totally ready to enjoy this second novel, too, and yet, for me, ...more
Jun 11, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
Fellowes is undoubtedly good at what he does. The book is very readable and I didn't even notice until almost the end of the book that I didn't know the narrator's name, which means that the not naming of the narrator was not a pretentious literary move, but the best way to tell the story. So good job with that, Fellowes. He also had a lot of interesting cultural observations many of which I agree with.

However there are two things which made it so I couldn't give this book a better rating, one i
May 22, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an extraordinarily evocative book and I truly relished reading it. It's so descriptive that you almost feel as if you're part of the events taking place, and the many switches between the narrator's youth in the late 1960s and the present day are deftly handled. The characters are frequently somewhat grotesque, but this serves to make them both intriguing and eay to distinguish from each other - useful since there are a lot of people in this story. The narrator also provides a commentary ...more
Dec 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2009
I expected this book to be a fun, insubstantial bit of fluff. Boy, was I surprised.

Mr. Fellowes wrote the screenplay for Gosford Park and is the author of another novel that I haven't read, but now will. He's working in P.G. Wodehouse/Evelyn Waugh territory - an English novel of manners - a mix of novel and ethnography of the upper crust with plenty of humor thrown in.

The premise is a lovely one. The narrator's decidedly former friend, Damien, is dying. The quest: to find Damien's hitherto unkno
Faith Mortimer
Sep 22, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A big book of 500 pages. This makes it a bumper book af about 170,000 words. Now, some agents/publishers say that a book shouldn't exceed 80-100,000 words even if it is historical. Well perhaps they don't have quite the attention span of most enthusiasteic readers of today. For myself, I was totally absorbed throughout the span of the book.

The book is set in the present and periodically takes the main part of the story back to the London Season of 1968. This, for the narrator is a glittering tim
Kasa Cotugno
May 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: loc-europe-uk
This novel by the Academy Award winning scriptor of Godsford Park is one of my favorite types of books -- an English novel of manners, a little suspense, this is a portrait of Britain at the end of one era and the start of the next. As in the Jim Jarmish film Broken Flowers, a man's search for a child he fathered 40 years ago by revisiting the possible mothers sets the plot in motion. The purported parentage is only the device however, and each maternal possibility represents another aspect of B ...more
Carole Dent
Jan 16, 2016 rated it liked it
A real page turner which could, perhaps, have been a little more vigorously edited. I only say that because the theme of the lost world of the English upper class, post-war, is driven home. There are some interesting comparisons made between generations as a result but the most satisfying aspect is the the opportunity taken to return to the previous social group members for in-depth discussions on their lives and loves over the intervening 40 year period. Narrator is self-deprecating and charmin ...more
Sep 14, 2019 added it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
DNF at page 75.

I really wanted to like this. I am a rabid fan of Downtown Abbey, and this book came highly recommended from a friend, but viewing a period piece about English high society on TV and reading one are two completely different things. I found this dreadfully slow and written in painful detail. I found the core of the story interesting, but it was embedded much too deeply within endless exposition that I just wasn't interested enough to slog through.
Aug 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Kristen Wilson
Shelves: 2012, fiction, ebooks
As a fan of "Downton Abbey" I pounced on Julian Fellowes novel Past Imperfect and a swell story it is. It is, first and foremost, not a novel of Edwardian manners and mores but, on the other hand, a modern novel which is set in 2008 and looks back to events in 1968. The story is narrated by a nameless narrator (unless I missed it, he is never named) who is a moderately successul London-based novelist. Out of the blue he receives a request from Damien Baxter, a person he knew from the London seas ...more
May 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
I'd like to give 3.5 stars, but can't figure that out. Sigh.

Anyway, this was MUCH better than Snobs, Fellowes' book I read before this one. The plot is nicely strategized around a simple dilemma of DNA of whose child is whose, and comically and melancholically moved through by a middle-aged man revisiting friends whom he hasn't seen or spoken to in 20-odd years, due to a Great-Event in Portugal that broke an old group of friends apart. This incident is referred to throughout the book, a bit too
Suzanne Perkins
Mar 03, 2014 rated it it was ok
Very long winded and repetitive. We aristocrats of the late 1960 saw things were changing but we didn't really appreciate it. We now know that things changed so much from that period to now but at the time we held on to our traditions. Not sure how many different ways he can say the same thing. The story of an author looking back on his past making annoying comments throughout. At one point someone's dad has since become gay and he says that in his day they would have just spent more time at the ...more
Aug 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
No matter his astute criticism of the aristocracy and its snobbery, Julian Fellowes is himself also a colossal snob. That's the one downside to what is otherwise a really fun pseudo-mystery about the paternity of a child sired during the coming out season of 1968. I enjoyed pretty much every page, even though the writing is just a wee bit overwrought when it came to the protagonist and Serena. Great fun!
Mar 19, 2014 rated it it was ok
A well written novel set in the late 1960's aristocratic society. I found it hard to get into and although written well, it was hard to digest and felt very long winded. It's one of the first books I wanted to just give on. I feel this would translate well being made into a one off tv drama.
Gemma (Non Fic Books)
Jan 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
I've enjoyed much of Fellowes' scriptwriting so I'm not surprised that I liked Past Imperfect. The book explores the various paths life may take us when once our futures seemed so bright. By no means a perfect book I enjoyed his writing, would happily read it again and will definitely get hold of other books by Fellowes.
Hope Garfield
Jul 17, 2019 rated it liked it
2.5/5: Finally finished this one. It would be much better as a film than a book.
Jul 29, 2015 rated it liked it
"Past Imperfect," by "Downton Abbey" writer Julian Fellowes, plays out an interesting premise -- rich old bastard Damian Baxter hires his estranged friend to track down five women from their past before he dies (and his death is imminent), for the purpose of discerning whether he is the father of any of their children.

You see, before Damian was a rich old bastard, he was a penniless young bastard who horned in on the aristocratic social season (with the help of his now-estranged friend) in the
Laurie Berry
Mar 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
I have been so smitten with Julian Fellows' Downton Abbey that I had to follow up with some of his other works while waiting out Season 3. Well done, again! While Past Imperfect reads as a personal journal as well as a personal journey and can be slow at times, Fellows worked in a rather clever twist at the end. Past Imperfect pulls at the heartstrings while chronicling the decline of the British aristocracy within Fellows lifetime. I found myself constantly comparing what I know of my parents' ...more
Cindy Rollins
Aug 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017, 2017-audio
A modern novel of manners by Downton Abbey/Gosford Park creator Julian Fellowes. I first fell in love with Fellowes when he played Killwillie on Monarch of the Glen. Plotwise this novel is just so-so, but as a vehicle for social commentary, it is excellent. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing the narrator's (Fellowes?) opinions on social change from the late 1960s to the present day.

I read this as an audio book and the narration felt natural.

Warning: Increasing gratuitous sex and profanity towards the
Victoria Klein
Nov 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is just a delicious book! Julian Fellowes has all the equipment of my favorite British writers: the eliptical sentences, perfect pitch irony, seeming restraint against the forces of hilarity, and the wonderful wacky set pieces that seem to beset the English in particular. His subject is a knowing look at the British Upper Classes and he writes about his subjects with a twinkling but candid eye.
The story, about a dying gazillionaire searching for his love child at the eleventh hour out of a
Rachel Piper
I can usually enjoy an unlikeable protagonist, but in this case I felt I was *supposed* to like him and I very much did not.

At every possible moment, the character/author stops to bemoan some societal change — people are drunk more often now! people are too open about being gay! plastic surgery is gross! He also spends an inordinate time describing how the years have changed his *female* acquaintances. Men get a brief description usually involving hair and weight; for a woman, every wrinkle and
Feb 27, 2013 rated it it was ok
unfortunately self-indulgent and way more pretentious than necessary. at times it kind of moved along, but there was a ton of repetition. most of the characters were fairly unlikable with motivations for their actions oftentimes indiscernible. Definitely not what I expected from "Mr. Downton Abbey!"
Jun 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book stands out for its reflective, sometimes witty, sometimes sardonic, sometimes wistful insights into human nature and the British class system.

There are views from inside, outside, and the fringes of the British upper class, and an interesting picture of the significant changes the 60s and 70s brought to that class, known for being nearly impervious to change over the centuries.

The story itself, a vehicle, really, for the above, is engaging enough. It is constructed in that see-saw pr
Magdalena Wajda
Feb 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
I loved it. It is a bit old-fashioned, deliciously sentimental novel. The plot is rather simple - a dying millionaire asks his once-friend, now almost-enemy to research a list of women from their shared past, to find out which one has a child by him, as he suspects on the basis of a letter.
The narrator accepts and sets out on a task which takes him back years in time, to the happy summer of 1968 when they all made their "debut" during the London season.
It is a trip down memory lane, in very sp
Ava Butzu
Jul 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If you just couldn't get enough of Downton Abbey and wonder what would have happened to the English aristocracy if the show had covered the 1960's - present day, "Past Imperfect" could be just the thing for you. After all, Julian Fellowes wrote the screenplay for "Gosford Park," and then wrote and produced Downton Abbey. But be forewarned - it's not quite so glamorous in the second half of the 20th century as it was in the first half. And that was, for me, all the more reason to love this book. ...more
Jun 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I found it started a bit slowly but once I got half way through I hated to put it down. It is witty, well written, poignant and sad. It is long, and Fellowes tends to meander a bit, but I was moved by these passages as he muses about aging, class, love and friendship.

It loses half a star for what I think was a squirm inducing love scene near the end of the book. However, if I could I would give it 4.5 stars!

Lastly, if you aren't interested in the unique culture of
Honestly, I just finished this because I wanted to know the answer to if there was a child. I feel like there's a kernel of an interesting story here, but this isn't it. All the people are pretty insufferable too...
Kimberly mountz
Jun 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed the character development and the "narrator." I didn't love the last few chapters but it was more my disappointment in choices made/how it ended.
Evelyn Brewer
Aug 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Past Imperfect had an interesting rhythm, once it got going, flipping between the introduction of characters during their youth and the same characters in present day. There was a mystery, of sorts, but the real tease was an apparently terrible night, which was referenced by nearly every character in the book. Julian Fellowes brought everything together in his usual brilliant way. Loved it all, 5 stars.
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Julian Alexander Kitchener-Fellowes (Baron Fellowes of West Stafford), DL. English actor, novelist, screenwriter, and director.

Fellowes is the youngest son of Peregrine Fellowes (a diplomat and Arabist who campaigned to have Haile Selassie restored to his throne during World War II). Julian inherited the title of Lord of the Manor of Tattershall from his father, making him the fourth Fellowes to h

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