By Julian Fellowes
St. Martin’s Griffin, $15.99, 412 pages

Hindsight is 20/20. Or is it? The narrator of Past Imperfect is led down memory lane when he receives a letter from Damian Baxter. They spent their youth together during the last of the London Season: debutantes, dinner jackets and house parties. But they haven’t spoken since one disastrous evening in Portugal forty years ago. Damian needs help. He’s dying, and he wants to find the woman claiming he’s the father of her child. In fulfilling this request, the narrator finds that the past wasn’t necessarily how we remember it—not for him, Damian, or the women they knew.

Julian Fellowes is a tremendous talent. As the creator of Downton Abbey and screenwriter of Gosford Park, he captures the nuances of the British class system with ease. The narrator is of the English upper class; Damian his opposite. Watching their lives intersect and break apart is fascinating. The shadow of the dinner party in Portugal is unexplained until the end, and the consequences left a profound mark that shapes both their lives. A saga of British tradition and change, Fellowes’s book captures the essence of a generation and shows just how much power people have to affect one another.

Reviewed by Leah Sims