Georgette Heyer

JOdel at aol.com JOdel at aol.com
Sat Dec 18 13:21:32 EST 1999


Heyer was a very profific writer (Within reason. I doubt she was in Enid 
Blyton's league), and, moreover, she started very young (17). So her work is 
fairly uneven. What one can say without hesitation is that even in her 
weakest books one can usually find something, a character, conversation or 
scene which will win you over to her side, even if the book itself doesent 
make it to the keeper shelf. She also produced fools which are second to 
none, and that includes Jane Austin's.

I personally find her Georgian (well, pre-Napoleonic) stories to be excellent 
puppet theater with a fine deployment of stock stereotypical characters and 
situations and much sparkling dialogue. I admire, but only Devil's Cub really 
lingers as a favorite from this era. (I inaccurately classify Talisman Ring 
as a Regency, due to its general atmosphere although this is a quibble. It 
takes place during the Terror.) I am frankly bored by most of her historicals 
and I dislike gothic enough that it doesn't much matter who writes it. 
(Fortunately Penhallow and Cousin Kate were Heyer's only novel-length 
expeditions into the gothic). Her mysteries are fairly mixed. I found Envious 
Casca the most entertaining of them although, a couple of the others were 
"good enough". 

Her chief fame is justly based on her Regencies. And even here there is a lot 
of unevenness. Which is hardly surprising in a body of work which spanned 40 
years. Most of my favorites among these are so for different reasons. Venitia 
is the book in which her finest examples of some of her favorite stock 
character types are collected. Toll Gate is the one of the best adventure 
stories. Frederica is the book with the best balance between the hero and 
heroine's viewpoints. Also the best "family" ensemble. You would have to 
search a long time to find better conversations between fools than are to be 
found in Friday's Child (The fools hijacked this one altogether. Cotillion is 
a spin-off where she could make one of them--renamed and a little more 
common-sensible--the hero) Sprig Muslin and Foundling are the best hero-based 
stories, Black Sheep, Arabella and Nonesuch some of the best heroine-based 
ones. Talisman Ring is the best farce. Civil Contract the deepest. Sylvester 
has some great situations and dialogue.

Sophy (and Faro's Daughter) are fun of their type. But I think that the 
heroine of the second is a bit of a twit and I can't really approve of Sophy. 
(Too much of a manipulator.) Neither is particularly "polically correct" by 
today's standards, but if we can't accept that people had different standards 
at different periods we've already lost the battle.
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