With the ten weekly installments delivered, Belgravia is complete and destined for the bookshelves as a hardback very shortly. So what can new readers of Julian Fellowes' serialised Victorian drama of etiquette and love expect?
Well for one thing they won't have to deal with the lousy technology experienced by those of us who bought the electronic version, delivered weekly online or through a dedicated app. Conditioned by our responsive and user friendly Kindles, the Belgravia experience was dire. For starters, who needs an app that you have to sign into every time you visit? Or to have to attempt multiple downloads because the software freezes? The page turning mechanism was inconsistent and slow. On the plus side, the app looked nice and the extra features were mildly interesting. But overall, 2/10 for the brave new world.
The story itself started well with a brilliant set up at the famous pre-Waterloo ball in Brussels. And as Fellowes lined up his players and their intrigue for the first three or four installments, I genuinely enjoyed the weekly anticipation of the new episode. (Unfortunately this was when the technology was at its most temperamental and therefore it was not without its frustrations.)
In addition, Fellowes delivered the period insights that his devotees have come to expect from Downton, Gosford Park and others. Visually, if you know what I mean, Belgravia was stunning. It also had two genuinely interesting characters - Anne Trenchard, wife of a wealthy and successful London tradesman, and the aristocratic Countess of Brockenhurst. These two, whose children sparked the story with a cross-class love affair, sustained much of the narrative with their strength of character and singularity of purpose. Too many other characters - and in particular the villains - were too one-dimensional to be of real interest.
And unfortunately the story itself ran out of steam and had signalled its ending long in advance, and not even a late flurry of drama could save it from an overwhelming sense of anti-climax.
So, while Fellowes and publisher Orion get full marks for experimenting with the serialisation format, overall the experience left a lot to be desired.