Sylvester: Georgette Heyer Book Club no. 24

(37 Posts)
LadyIsabellaWrotham Tue 09-Jul-13 22:08:39

"A VERY nice book this time, with a New Plot!" (Georgette Heyer on Sylvester)

The thing that I like most about Sylvester is indeed the fact that it has a fresh plot. Lovely though it is to see Heyer shuffling the deck of her existing cards, and seeing all our favourite characters, tropes and motifs played with in subtly different combinations, it's great to see new characters and situations (mixed in with some old favourites like the scandalous old ladies, and the immature but adorable teenaged boy who keeps getting into scrapes).

Specifically, the novelist heroine and the fatal roman-a-clef is unique to Sylvester, and gives it a special and very Regency quality, and I don't think we've been overseas since Devil's Cub and Infamous Army, have we?

I found this from the Journal of Romance Studies, about an experiment using Sylvester to embed Georgette Heyer in a standard undergraduate Eng Lit degree as part of a module on historical fiction. The particularly interesting section comes in Fletcher's lecture at the end of part 3. I would recommend you reading it yourself, but, briefly, she discusses the way in which Sylvester is portrayed metafictionally as the victim of the "plotting" of Phoebe, Ianthe, the Duchess, and Lady Ingham, who between them enravel him in a Romance despite himself, and hence of course act as proxies for Heyer herself.

Because Phoebe is (I think) Heyer's only writer character, it's tempting to try to spot her own character and views reflected. Until reading Sylvester I think I'd have seen the more grotesque Heyer characters as pure fiction, but after it, I do wonder how many of her acquaintances ended up recognising themselves on the page - or failing to do so.

Questions for the Club:

Am I wrong in seeing a hint of inner vulnerability in Heyer revealed in the characterisation of Phoebe (and hence some of her other "shrinking" heroines as well)? Could she write an inner portrayal of those feelings if she didn't know them herself? She's always portrayed as such a strong person that it seems strange to think of her as socially vulnerable, but she was notoriously private.

Am I alone in seeing Sylvester as Heyer's only real Darcy-ripoff hero, both in his Fatal Flaw, and the way his true loveability is revealed through his relationships with his close family?

According to the Jane Aiken Hodge biography:

"Sylvester was running long, and she could not decide whether to cut it or let it rip. In the end she cut it and was sorry afterwards. 'It could and should have been better.And it was better until I got cold feet and cut out what wouldn't please the Fans."

Neither JAH or Jennifer Kloester give any detail as to what she cut. I would happily read a version of Sylvester that was 25% longer, but I'm not sure what is missing. What, or who, would you like to see more of? Which sections coul be expanded?

And lastly, has anyone actually read Glenarvon? Plot summary in attached link shows that it's totally the model for The Lost Heir. I'm a big Byron fan, and have read around the period a fair amount but I've never been able to face it. Apparently Lady Jersey cancelled Caroline's Almack's vouchers in retribution for the way she was portrayed in the book, and that alone almost tempts me to give it a try, but it is notoriously rubbish.

EJbooklover Sun 18-Aug-13 18:57:01

What's the next book?

sarahtigh Mon 19-Aug-13 21:25:53

I think they are waiting until after summer holidays they are in publication date order so a think the next is "a civil contract" but could be wrong

ShootMeNowPlease Mon 26-Aug-13 19:36:43

What perfect timing: I've just found this thread and I love 'A Civil Contract' - it's my favourite of all her books so will come and join in on the next thread!

LadyIsabellaWrotham Mon 23-Sep-13 20:09:26

Right, we need to get a grip.

My Big Book of Georgette Heyer says the list goes
Sylvester
Venetia
Unknown Ajax (personal fave)
Civil Contract
These are all absolute crackers so we can't give up now.

I've read Venetia (but it was so many weeks ago I've almost forgotten it) but am not a V-obsessive, so not the best person to start off.

Have people read it? Does anyone fancy kicking off? I'm going to bump and PM people until I get a volunteer - I have a vision of a perfectly indexed complete set of threads, which I will then lobby MNHQ to put in their own little section, possibly with the titles re-edited so they're all in exactly the same format. Why yes, I did work as a librarian, however did you guess?

LeonieDeSainteVire Mon 23-Sep-13 23:02:25

Sorry I missed Sylvester (summer holidays, that sort of thing, got in the way) however I don't think I have anything to add except the bit where S goes to see the dowager and comes clean to her about his feelings has one of my alltime favourite GH lines "O God, Mama, I've made such a mull of it". All arrogance gone, he's come home to ask his Mum's advice smile

Venetia next, good, my absolute favourite GH. I will start the thread if you want but I am not very objective as I just love it so much. I must have read it 20+ times but just to be sure, for the purposes of the next thread, I'm going to read it again.

I love the idea of a special section for our threads, I also think we could do with a thread for recommendations of other books related to the era or somehow connected - I know I've read a lot from recommendations from these threads and really enjoyed them.

I have just read 'Mistress of Charlecote' the memoirs of Mary Elizabeth Lucy, and would recommend it (it may have already been mentioned). It's not great literature by any means but it is fascinating for some of the light it sheds on personal lives of people living only a little later than GH's characters. MEL was born in 1803 so her early descriptions of childhood, family, parties, coming out, choice of marriage partners etc are relevant to a lot of the discussions we've had on these threads. She isn't as aristocratic as many of GH's characters but the overlap is there, her social scene is perhaps closer to that of Austen's novels. And on that note I have also read/reread all of Austen's novels over the summer to go with the GH reading and it is really interesting reading the two together to see how much GH borrowed from or was influenced by JA. Every now and then I would read a scene and think 'oh yes, GH used that' (stupidly I didn't make notes so can't quote). So I wondered who else might have read the two authors together and what they thought.

Phew, bit long, sorry!

LadyIsabellaWrotham Mon 23-Sep-13 23:30:17

Great idea Leonie, we could do a final "Further Reading" thread with all the other books that people have been recommending along the way - Jane Aiken Hodge of course, and the Beau Brummell biog, and Strange & Norell etc etc etc
There's been so many great suggestions for background reading but they're all buried away.

And who knows, maybe someone will even be desperate enough to read Glenarvon.

penguinpaperback Tue 24-Sep-13 15:15:34

Hello, I have just started Venetia and I also have Unknown Ajax ready to read next. This is my first GH so I would love to hear what those who really know GH and her books think of this book and others. So I will be very interested in reading any new thread. I'm strictly A level English Lit level so very nervous to comment much beyond 'a good read'.blush
Reading the Heyer threads and everyone's love of Heyer's books made me feel I was really missing out on some cracking books.
I have Jennifer Kloester's Georgette Heyer's Regency World, I thought it may be a useful companion as a first time reader?
Making note to look for Mistress of Charlecote. smile

LeonieDeSainteVire Wed 25-Sep-13 14:28:04

Hello Penguin, good to have you join us. They are indeed cracking reads and I think Venetia is as good a place as any to start. Please contribute as you wish, I haven't discussed literature either since A level but I attempt to keep up with everyone.

I didn't enjoy Jennifer Kloester's Regency World much, I felt she was just paraphrasing GH's novels rather than adding her own research. I much preferred Venetia Murray's High Society for background information. I don't know what others thought. I have that 'Behind closed doors' book on my wish list too for more info on the period. Roll on Christmas!

HowGoodIsThat Wed 25-Sep-13 20:15:02

<lifts cycling disguise>

TIs I - Duchess as was. I had to do a n/c so am not in Heyer garb for a while. I will twirl at some point.

Venetia is my All Time Fave so I am also happy to try a starter if Leonie doesn't want it....

LadyIsabellaWrotham Wed 25-Sep-13 20:37:28

I quite enjoy "Georgette Heyer's Regency World" but it's more of a fangirly "ooh look, that's where Hero marries Sherry!" book than a beginner's primer. I agree that the Venetia Murray book is a much more informative (but easy) read, although I find it frustrating that so many things mentioned in it are so redolent of iconic Heyer scenes and I feel like a lunatic pointing them out to the empty air.

LeonieDeSainteVire Fri 27-Sep-13 08:35:32

Please do start it HowGood.

Perhaps we shoud have a thread just for the Venetia Murray book too Isabella!

HowGoodIsThat Fri 27-Sep-13 20:22:23

Voila

I have had wine and it is decades since my degree so there is neither searing insight nor critical finesse. I just love the book. grin

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