Cotillion: Georgette Heyer book club no. 19

(33 Posts)
LeonieDeSainteVire Wed 06-Mar-13 23:15:32

I had no recollection of this book at all which means I can't have rated it highly reading it in my younger years. So I reread it and was amazed to find it quite brilliant. If you prefer the more adventure/sleuth style novels it's not going to be for you but if you prefer the comedy of manners where nothing much happens but it happens with style then this is one of the best IMO.

Like The Foundling this is a bit of a departure from GH's usual romances. Jack, who is handsome, stylish, excellent sportsman, has all the ladies at his feet and therefore should be the hero, isn't. In fact he's a bit of a shit. Freddy, kind, foppish, diffident, in the style of many of GH's best friends or younger brothers actually turns out to be the hero and get the girl - mainly I think because he's nice but above all he's competent - definitely the kind who can find a hack when it's raining!

Most of the book is really about Freddy's transformation from slow witted, nice-but-dim character into, well, husband material and about Kitty's recognising his good qualities as she falls out of love with Jack. But I don't think Freddy was ever that dim. We know he's not 'bookish' (although he went to Cambridge - I guess the entry requirements were different then!) but he's kind, well mannered and well liked, I just think he's been living a very easy and idle life and never had any chance or need to show what he can do. Once he has Kitty in his life he has to step up to the mark and does so - to the surprise of his father which leads to one of my favourite lines:
...I ain't such a sapskull as you think!'
'I have always known you could not be, my dear boy.'

This is one of the really comic books and the supporting cast all play their part but Freddy is inherently a comic character, his bewilderment at The Fish's poetry quotations and his horror at being dragged around the tourist sights of London are particularly good. It is significant I think that Kitty mostly agrees with him in the end about the sights and doesn't mind that he doesn't understand the poetic references - I think it indicates that really she is as frivolous as he is at heart, just bought up differently. The Fish, what little we see of her, is horrific and funny at the same time, Uncle Matthew is just horrific! Lord Legerwood is excellent, clearly a Heyer hero from an earlier setting - reminds me of Justin in some ways.

The Dolph and Hannah romance is rather sad in every way and I am not sure it adds to the book much other than as a plot device. Camille and Olivia are irritating and entertaining equally but I feel as relieved as Freddy when he finally packs them off.

One bit of plot which I think gets lost is the suggestion that Jack and Meg's relationship is closer than is suitable, but after the masquerade that just kind of fizzles out with no indication of what was really going on.

Finally, the ending, which is perfect I think! Freddy's words at the end are just so lovely and sum up what a nice chap he is and how they are going to be happy together because he will always work to make her happy.
'What I mean is, like you to have everything you want. Wished it was me, and not Jack, that's all.'

I'll stop now because I could go on forever. Sorry! What do you think?

mackerella Thu 21-Mar-13 23:43:35

Chicken Hazard??? I am so pleased that she rethought that one. I don't even know what it means - maybe a game of hazard played for chicken stakes? Not sure how that's relevant, though...?

mackerella Thu 21-Mar-13 23:46:42

Just tried googling and got page after page of results about meat safety and environmental health inspections confused

LeonieDeSainteVire Fri 22-Mar-13 08:09:56

I assume the same meaning as you Mackerella unless it's a play on the game of 'chicken' which would work as its a reference to who can maintain the bluff the longest, but I doubt the phrase was common currency then and think the gambling ref more likely.

LadyIsabellaWrotham Fri 22-Mar-13 08:17:36

A more focussed Google tells me that it's a dice game, rather than a card game, which I previously thought. The significance being that Kitty is making a huge gamble I guess, but I like Cotillion as a name even though it would perhaps suit Bath Tangle better.

mackerella Fri 22-Mar-13 09:01:06

How interesting, I'd also assumed that hazard was a card game. I'm not sure that the game in Cotillion is really bring played for chicken (i.e. paltry - or, ahem, poultry) stakes - as you say, Isabella, it's a huge gamble for Kitty, but also for the others, whether they are weighing Mr Penicuik's fortune or their own future happiness in the balance. In fact, Leonie's interpretation of "chicken" would work better here, as it has the connotations of "he who dares wins": the person who holds their nerve the best will prevail.

mackerella Fri 22-Mar-13 09:04:20

Actually, I've just thought about it again, and my last sentence is clearly rubbish: Kitty and Freddy fall into the right relationship (with each other) by accident rather than design, and Jack (who is the one holding his nerve while Kitty pretends not to care for him) actually loses his gamble. So I have no idea why GH thought that Chicken Hazard would be a good title for this book confused. I think it's definitely for the best that she didn't use it!

mackerella Fri 22-Mar-13 09:12:19

Oh, I see (have also just had a more focused Google): chicken hazard is just another name for English hazard, which is played against an opponent rather than against the house (which is French hazard). I guess the opponents here are Kitty and Jack, then.

Right, I really will stop picking over the (chicken) carcase of this one and try to think of something profound to dart about The Toll-Gate (am on train journey, hence all of this idle speculation) grin.

Final thoughts on Cotillion before I think of something insightful to say about the Toll Gate. Perhaps the four figures in this dance are the four cousins (Dolphin, Jack, Feddy, Hugh) who are supposed to be jockeying for Kitty's hand (and fortune)?

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