Bath Tangle: Georgette Heyer Book Club 21

(32 Posts)
mackerella Sat 20-Apr-13 15:25:32

This is really not one of my favourite Heyers - in fact, until I re-read it, I had confused it from memory with Black Sheep - and I'm afraid that this recent re-reading hasn't done much to change my mind!

There are some good bits: I love the duo of Mrs Floore and Ned Goring (the latter very similar to all those quiet-but-competent secretaries who appear in other novels). There is some real insight into characters and motivation in places, perhaps an indication of the more mature novels (Venetia, A Civil Contract) that are to come. And I actually (to my surprise) found the relationship between Fanny and Hector quite charming.

But... I just find all the sparring and ranting and flashing eyes and heaving bosoms a bit tiresome. It's like a cross between Much Ado and Mills & Boon, and (for me) lapses into romantic novel cliche too easily despite GH's often-excellent writing. It ended up feeling very claustrophobic, perhaps because it's one of the most domestic of Heyer's novels: there is a very restricted cast of characters, little variety in settings, and no portrayal at all of wider society. (I realise that this is partly because Serena and Fanny are in mourning and wouldn't be jauntering off to balls and rout parties all the time, but I do think the novel suffers from this close domestic focus.)

I have problems with some of the characters, too. As I started reading, Serena reminded me strongly of Emma Woodhouse in her smugness, overt snobbery and unshakeable conviction that she was always right. Heyer does put in a few references to how well she gets on with the lower orders on the estate (always an attempt to show that someone is a good egg really grin) but they don't feel very convincing this time. When Rotherham's engagement is first announced, Serena's reaction reminded me of Emma's jealousy of Harriet Smith and how it "darted through her with the speed of an arrow that Mr Knightley must marry noone but herself!" What Serena wants, she generally gets. She then sort-of redeems herself by being all noble and self-sacrificing and agreeing to marry Hector just so Rotherham can marry Emily, but even here she comes across as quite selfish in her total disregard for what Emily really wants. I find the emphasis on Serena's bodily strength and vitality a bit wearing, too: for me, she combines the worst bits of Judith (contrary behaviour to spite her guardian) and Sophy (bumptiousness and masterful behaviour) without their redeeming charms.

If you can't already tell, I don't find her one of the more sympathetic heroines, but I'd be really interested to hear another point of view here!

Rotherham doesn't really do it for me, I'm afraid but I'm more of a Hugo Darracott or Alverstoke girl myself. His masterfulness made me bridle (although he does seem to suggest that he and Serena would enjoy a sort of companionship of equals at the end) and I got very cross at his proposing to Emily simply to spite Serena (he says something to Fanny about how at least she and Hector would never make mistakes from pique, I think). Throughout, he and Serena behave as if they are the only real people and everyone else doesn't quite exist fully or have feelings, and I found that infuriating.

And Emily is just feeble and I ended up feeling very sorry for how she is manipulated by all of the other characters without having any say of her own: her mother and Serena (and even Mrs Floore) try to manipulate her into marrying Rotherham, Rotherham tries (successfully) to manipulate her into jilting him, and even Gerard manipulates her into eloping with him against her will. Yes, she's a bit of a wet-goose, but I think she deserves better.

So... anyone actually like this novel, and can show me why I should reconsider my negative opinion? grin

poorchurchmouse Fri 03-May-13 15:53:23

Of course now Serena would be a CEO and there would be endless profiles in the press drooling over her beauty and her amazing energy - getting up at 5 am to deal with her email and then going riding for two hours before going into the office and stomping all over everyone for their own good.

MrsFrederickWentworth Fri 03-May-13 19:37:30

She would have a nanny and a plethora of retainers but would make the point that she is always at home for bath time. For the tough children she would be wonderful, for the Gerards and Fannys she would be awful.

Hector and Fanny will have beautiful and boring children.

The dreadful sister will be pensioned off somewhere, or will end up in a menage a trois with Selina and Miss Butterbank who were presumably round at the same time.

poorchurchmouse Mon 06-May-13 18:09:24

Have I managed to kill the whole book club by joining in, or just this thread? What's next?

Sprig Muslin is next. I'm hoping that as we get into the better ones we will have more to say grin

MrsFrederickWentworth Tue 07-May-13 23:57:08

We are usually more lively if it is a question of sex or feminism.

MooncupGoddess Wed 08-May-13 11:36:17

I have a soft spot for Sprig Muslin - happy to write an opening post this evening if no other takers.

MooncupGoddess Wed 08-May-13 22:35:22

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