Julian Fellowes, British screenwriter and creator/executive producer of the runaway hit snobfest Downton Abbey, is headlining with a new story serial app, Belgravia, “where up-to-the-minute technology meets with the age-old art of storytelling.” Published by Orion/Weidenfeld & Nicolson, and offering a combined ereading and audiobook experience, Belgravia will be launched on its dedicated website “in April 2016, with the first episode free to download. You’ll be able to subscribe to the full 11-episode weekly serial for £9.99/US$13.99 (both text and audio) or you can buy individual weekly episodes for £1.49/US$1.99.”
Belgravia, you’ll surely be aching to hear, “is the story of a secret. A secret that unravels behind the porticoed doors of London’s grandest postcode … Set in the 1840s when the upper echelons of society began to rub shoulders with the emerging industrial nouveau riche.” (Never mind that London didn’t have postcodes until 1858.) The story “will be revealed in weekly bite-sized instalments complete with twists and turns and cliff-hanger endings that will be delivered directly to your mobile, tablet or desktop via a brand new app. You can read it, or listen to it, or jump between the two.”
The publisher is pushing out the app experience well ahead of the printed version: “If you would prefer to wait for the printed book, the £18.99/US$26.00 hardback will be published in June.” Coverage of Belgravia makes much of the use of modern technology to update the Victorian tradition of serial literature. And yes, it does appear to show Big Publishing moving to embrace more modern book launch approaches – albeit for very conservative subject matter.
That said, the launch of Belgravia appears to be wrong in at least one respect. It may claim to be “in the tradition of Charles Dickens,” but in fact, Dickens, as George Orwell remarked, “loathes the aristocrat,” and wrote “practically no friendly pictures of the landowning class.” Snob value is just far too saleable a commodity to split hairs over, though.