Book Review: The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer

29 October 2013

There's something elusively charming about the Regency period that makes it hard to properly portray on paper. Jane Austen made it a diverting entity, but in many regards, its fame starts and ends with her. The Regency novels I've encountered of late, particularly those released by large Christian publishing houses, leave me disinterested only a few pages in. They lack the sparkling vivacity, biting wit, and attractive decorum of the period; the feel for the era escapes their grasp. Georgette Heyer, however, is quite the opposite. Jenny and Abigail first introduced her to me back in August, and as the premise of The Grand Sophy sounded promising, I did my best to obtain a copy posthaste.

After all, "a little Regency romance would set me up forever!"

The Grand Sophy
By Georgette Heyer
*Summary taken from Goodreads.com

When Lady Ombersley agrees to take in her young niece, no one expects Sophy, who sweeps in and immediately takes the ton by storm. Beautiful, gay, impulsive, shockingly direct, Sophy scatters conventions and traditions before her like wisps in a windstorm. But she soon discovers that her aunt's family is in desperate need of her talent for setting everything right: her uncle is of no use at all, the ruthlessly handsome cousin Charles has tyrannical tendencies that are being aggravated by his grim fiancee; lovely cousin Cecelia is smitten with an utterly unsuitable suitor, a poet; cousin Hubert is in dire financial straits; and the younger children are in desperate need of some fun and freedom.

She beccomes the mainstay of her hilariously bedeviled family, as a horsewoman, social leader and above all, an ingenious match-maker. Using her signature unorthodox methods, Sophy set out to solve all of their problems. By the time she's done, she has commandeered Charles's horses, his household, and finally, his heart. Could it be that the Grand Sophy has met her match...?

My Thoughts: This book is just pure fun. It proved the perfect fit for the last few weeks of summer: light, engaging, and vastly entertaining. Sophy and her hilarious antics (which always seem to turn out right in the end) keep the plot in a constant state of anticipation. I was familiar with the setting already, having grown up on Jane Austen, but it was nice to have some fresh material for my brain to enjoy. True, the two authors have very different styles (they're divided by a century and a half, after all), but their characters and their humor make them both worth the reading.

More than anything, my appreciation for Georgette Heyer as a historical writer grew by leaps and bounds with this book. She captures the Regency period with a fluid accuracy that feels neither rushed nor forced. There were no awkward instances where a character would say something glaringly modern, and no general sense of being jarred abruptly back into the twentieth century (Ms. Heyer lived and wrote in the mid-1900s). Rather than making apologies by adapting the eighteenth century language for a more recent tongue, the book opens on the assumption that you are no stranger, but a longtime friend, and forces you into a familiarity with even the most obscure colloquiallisms the age had to offer. For this and many other reasons, The Grand Sophy stands as an excellent example of historical writing done right.

But the best part about this book is truly Sophy herself, who is every bit as grand as the title indicates. Her wit and matchmaking skills are unrivaled, and the way she wrangles each character to suit her various purposes is both diverting and astonishing. Sophy captures the reader's heart from the minute she steps over the Ombersley doorstep, and she doesn't release it until the final page. She's unlike every heroine there ever was or is ever likely to be, and if you want to understand why, you'll simply have to read the book.

(And don't step on the ducklings!)

Pros: A hilariously rip-roaring plot filled with verbal sparring, matchmaking, and several amusing tangles which Sophy takes upon herself to smooth out. The story sweeps along quite briskly, catching you up in the wind and refusing to release you until the end. While Cecelia's relationship with Fawnhope displays that relationships built on outward appearances have no permanent foundation, Charles' engagement to Eugenia Wraxton argues that a man and woman must share more than a common mind if they are to be suitably wedded. Heyer's unique romantic pairings by the novel's end reveal that marriage must be based on both intellect and affection, rather than an excess of one over the other, if it is to stand time's test.

Cons: Sophy and Certain Other Characters are known to exclaim "Good God!" in moments of great stress or strain. "Damn" also shows up several times. I didn't find the latter as offensive, as it was true to the period, but it's worth noting for the sake of younger readers. Some of the more minor characters also tend towards flat personalities at times, but it does serve to highlight Sophy and Charles' dynamic natures.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
I recommend this book for ages 14+

A Bit o' Reading For the Day:
“I promise you, Charlbury, you shall come out of it with a whole skin—well, no, perhaps not quite that, but very nearly!” — The Grand Sophy

1 epistles:

  1. I love this book! It is definitely one my favorite Heyers so far! And I am currently making my way through all of her Georgian/Regency novels in written order. I am currently on The Toll Gate. ;-)

    ReplyDelete

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