Venetia: Georgette Heyer Book Club 25

(55 Posts)
HowGoodIsThat Fri 27-Sep-13 20:20:56

Venetia is possibly one of my favourite Heyer novels. Her light comedic touch combines with an acerbic yet sympathetic view of human foibles and is displayed through sharp dialogue, acidic pen-portraits and two of the most humorous-yet-human protagonists since Beatrice and Benedict.

Venetia is surrounded by friends who cling rigidly to social dictates while her family, sublime egotists to a man (and mum), flout them entirely. From a cloistered and confined childhood, she has somehow emerged with a clear-sightedness and a sense of humour that has preserved her from both the narrow-mindedness of her neighbours and the eccentricities of her family. Small wonder then that she should be so seduced by a “a friend to laugh with”.

Damerel is the first person in her to see her clearly as an individual, esteem her for who she truly is and offer her real companionship. She is also the first to view him in such a way. It is a meeting of like-minds and intellectual sparks fly from their first encounter, deepening into affection and then love.

Society stands in their way. It is Venetia’s challenge to side-step the protocols that have always governed her life just as Damerel’s chosen challenge is to return to them. “Will they, won’t they” plays out against a grand supporting cast of finely-drawn, well-rounded comic characters from Aubrey to the appalling Mrs Scorrier to Venetia’s portly newly-found step-father Sir Lambert.

So – what’s not to like? Two mature, funny, clever, likeable people find each other against all odds. A fine supporting cast, lots of lovely literary references and a skilfully rendered Regency world. Georgette Heyer at her finest .

Cheeky placemarker. Good start though HowGood wine

I completely disagree with you, btw. grin

HowGoodIsThat Fri 27-Sep-13 20:46:38

<cracks knuckles>

Bring it on, Horry.

edam Fri 27-Sep-13 20:49:43

I love this novel so much I occasionally dream about it... What happens next seems to occupy a space in my sleeping mind.

joanofarchitrave Fri 27-Sep-13 20:57:14

I adore Venetia the novel. I like the opening (gh gives great opening) and it's satisfyingly long. Aubrey is unusual as a GH character, I can't think of any equivalents in any of the other novels though she usually deals in types. Damerel comes across as more lively than Venetia, again very unusual in a GH novel. She doesn't enjoy her time in London due to her emotional life. It has some queasy aspects like all gh novels but it's certainly in my top 3 of hers.

TheYamiOfYawn Fri 27-Sep-13 21:09:46

This is my favourite of her novels.

Gigondas Fri 27-Sep-13 21:13:19

I like this one too as it is a change-offers a flawed hero and a heroine with a mire intelligent and different view of life.

LeonieDeSainteVire Fri 27-Sep-13 23:16:09

This has been my favourite GH novel ever since I first read it. I just love it and have reread it so many times I find I am quoting it in my head as I read smile

Venetia herself is not my favourite character, the combination of her naïveté and frustrated desire for something more out of life, whilst understandable, make her a little too simplistic for my liking. She trusts it will all work out because she knows she and Damerel love each other but refuses to recognise the difficulties that really will exist in their future.

However, the rest of the characters are superb, GH could surely have titled this one 'Self and Selfishness', Conway and Aubrey, the late Sir Francis, Edward, Mrs Scorrier, Aunt Hendred, Sir Lambert and Lady Steeple, all monstrously (and very funnily) self centred and selfish. And so well drawn, probably her finest cast of supplementary characters. There is, however, an edge of real nastiness here. Their selfishness leads some of them into unpleasant behaviour which can really hurt or damage others, in this case generally Venetia. There are also the standard wet, irritating girls in Clara and Charlotte and the wiser older woman in Lady Denny and the besotted schoolboy in Oswald.

Damerel is a very sympathetically drawn figure, far more so than most of GH's heroes, particularly her type two models. He's a rake and has run through most of his money but we see it is done through his hurt pride and feelings after the rejection by his first love and his parents. His worthlessness leads him into his self destructive behaviour until his love for Venetia leads him to pull himself out of it.

I also love the fact that he is quite clear that whilst she was falling for him early on he still harboured no more thoughts than a dalliance and possible seduction, he doesn't pretend more than he felt. But above all, despite him forcing a separation on them, I like that there is none of the bickering and faux hatred for each other such as Serena and Rotherham or Judith and Worth display, which always irritates me.

And then there's this. And I feel like a swoony 17 year old every time I read it and I expect I will do still when I'm eighty.

"When you smile at me like that, it's all holiday with me! O God, I love you to the edge of madness,"

That is really why I love it I think blush

penguinpaperback Fri 27-Sep-13 23:36:35

I'm only on page 71, I had some books I had to finish today but I have a lovely GH Sunday lined up. This is my first Heyer book and I'm really enjoying it and I'm only a quarter way in. I wondered if I was going to 'get it' the humour especially, but I have. Edward is Julian Fellowes, he just pops up in my head everytime Edward speaks or enters a room. So Aubrey has only just fallen off his horse and Venetia has just woken up and realised she has a friend. So touching.
Georgette is very good at hooking you in isn't she? Is this one of her best?
I'm so glad I found your threads, your enthusiasm.thanks The last time I went 'whoop' was when I discovered Dorothy Whipple through Persephone. All those GH books waiting for me.

penguinpaperback Fri 27-Sep-13 23:46:20

Oh BTW I'm finding the Kloester book useful, blush to a newbie it's quite handy. I've already looked up a couple of things and (v. childish) I'm throwing some words in conversations with my OH.
No faradiddles. smile

My favourite ever GH novel which I fell in love with (and Damerel!) 40 years ago! I still find myself fantasising about what happens to all the characters after the end of the book. Perhaps I should start writing fanfic? blush

And the scene where she where she comes back from London and finds him drunk! <swoon>

HowGoodIsThat Sat 28-Sep-13 07:50:42

To a certain extent, now that I am of advanced years, I find it less credible that Venetia should have emerged as level-headed as she is from that household. I like to attribute her pragmatism to the influence of the team of loyal Yorkshire retainers. I am not convinced that she is naive or unrealistic about the future with Damerel (interesting pre-cursor to A Lady of Quality and the future relationship between Annis & Oliver Carleton). I think it a sign of maturity that there is some reference now given to the life beyond the romance that doesn't exist in books like The Convenient Marriage at all.

THere are just so many gems in this book - Mrs Hendred being convinced that by having a plate of hard biscuits placed at her elbow during meals equates to a strict reducing diet, Oswald's dark and dangerous thoughts, Nurse's conviction that Dameral's increase shall be given to the caterpillars, Bess being in an "interesting condition" - I laugh and laugh.

The romance bits are swoonsome - Leonie's quote is a fave and the end scene where she finds him nine sheets to the wind at the dinner table and is seized is so touching - mainly for the deft touch that there has been, even up to that point, a faint doubt in Venetia's mind as to whether this has been the right course of action.

I totally agree, Leonie, that the absence of histrionics is a huge plus point - I think that, as a couple, they have roots in Tristram and Sarah Thane. Its a friendly romance. Damerel in particular is a welcome change from the aloof, all-knowing, ever-so-slightly supercilious heros like Worth or Avon. I think he was a Vidal in his youth.

joanofarchitrave Sat 28-Sep-13 08:30:02

Oh yes HowGood, I love the line about Oswald's mother being inclined 'to press a Blue Pill on anyone suffering torments of the soul'. GH is so good on male adolescence, though very harsh on the female version.

LeonieDeSainteVire Sat 28-Sep-13 09:22:11

I am sorry Penguin as I think there are undoubtedly spoilers on this thread!

Yy to Oswald's dark thoughts - his portrayal is very funny and touching, from his extravagant 'I've been where they hold life cheap' at the start to his clumsy attempts to kiss Venetia to his sudden enthusiasm for something completely different when his father sends him away. Such a recognisable teenager.

And yes the drunk scene - more swooning, reminds me of Rhett in GWTW, all floppy forelock and passion. (I'm glad it's not just me getting all schoolgirlish over this book)

But I don't think Damerel was a Vidal in his youth, not initially anyway. Vidal was always a 'wild' one, dissipated, passionate, directionless, until Mary comes along. Damerel says himself he was romantic, intellectual and did it all for love, I think he had more in common with the school boy characters like Oswald back then. He may have turned wild later but that was a way of hiding his hurt.

I've thought about this a lot smile

JeanBodel Sat 28-Sep-13 09:39:54

The only thing missing from the book is the scene where Conway comes home and throws his mother-in-law out. I wish she had put that in somehow.

ancientbuchanan Sun 29-Sep-13 13:08:34

I love this one.

The feel and tone are autumnal, but the season is less of a plot device than it is, say, in Sylvester. There is warmth in the description, the wonderful scene if Audrey on the sofa in Damerel's library, with Nurse looking on as they discuss the essence of being or horses with a white spot ( iiryc). Venetia waking up to hear a pheasant.

I love the outstanding portrait if the Asoergers Audrey, different in his selfishness from Conroy who is just stupid. I love Venetia's statements eg about the Bacchae, just the sort of companions one would not wish a boy to have.

Damerel too is an interesting study. From seduction he moves to accepting that Venetia is too good for him and sacrificing himself.

I enjoy the portrait of his valet, one of the best drawn servants we come across. Mason explaining why he stays with Damerel is touching and human and not a caricature, for once.

The only sentence I dislike is alas in the final scene when Venetia herself offers to retract and his response is weak, imv.

The portraits of all those mentioned above are masterly, although put like that, there are few truly admirable characters.

I don't find Venetia unrealistic, given her circumstances. She has had to run a household from.an early age, she has the combination of Audrey's intelligence and Conway's practicality. She has had excellent advice from her experienced servants and above all from Lady Denny.

I find it a surprising book, a gentle one despite the very unpleasant wrangling in the middle, and a more adult tone. It is less immediately sparkling than eh TOS or TCM but one has confidence that the pair is well matched. They will laugh together as friends. Venetia has, as she shows her uncle, considerable self reflection and emotional intelligence.

She is also up to Damerel's intellectual wright, even if het education has not been so good.

As you can see, I love it. Next to TOS it's probably the one I read most.

MooncupGoddess Mon 30-Sep-13 13:37:42

I think A Civil Contract and An Infamous Army are GH's masterpieces... but of the straight romances Venetia wins hands down. The plot is textbook (beautiful but lonely woman + man with a dark past but looking to settle down; all goes wrong two-thirds of the way through the book but is redeemed by an act of courage on the part of the heroine) but the treatment is fresh and delightful.

It's much franker about the relationship between sex and marriage than most of the others; lots of chat about dodgy classical myths, Venetia and Aubrey speculate on whether Conway 'had to' marry Clara and we hear about Damerel's loose past (closely based on Mr Rochester's... just as the battered manor house in a lovely part of Yorkshire is clearly based on Thornfield Hall). Similarly, Venetia's mother and the dem

i-monde she is part of are only seen in passing in the other novels. I think there's something about the setting in the middle of nowhere that allows GH and her characters to be much freer than would be possible in London. (What was it about GH and Yorkshire? I don't think she ever lived there but she clearly loved the area to bits, and to a lesser extent Lincolnshire too.)

The minor characters are the best of any of the books, I think, though like Jean I've always wanted to read a resolution of the Charlotte/Mrs Scorrier situation. It just gets forgotten about, which is sad.

penguinpaperback Mon 30-Sep-13 14:13:49

My first Heyer, all done and dusted. And I really enjoyed it. I'm glad this was my first book and not The Black Moth, I was going to read them in order. I knew I was reaching the end of the book but it felt, to me, a bit of a hurried ending. And I was quite surprised by Venetia's acceptance of Dameral's past but I liked Venetia. For a young woman who had never travelled and knew just a handful of people she was very clued up.

HowGoodIsThat Thu 03-Oct-13 07:59:50

SO - we all love it and Horry is too scared to come back and disagree! grin

Mooncup Your theory about it being set away from London is interesting - being located on the fringes or beyond the Pale is a fairly common literary device to allow freedoms not otherwise accepted. THe UnKNown Ajax is similarly in the sticks and I would say it it much more convention-bound than this one - although Anthea has much in common with Venetia. When I think about the other heroines who I credit with similar clear-sightedness and humour - Sophie, Frederica, Abigail Wendover and Annis - they are all firmly in the bosom of the Ton.

MooncupGoddess Thu 03-Oct-13 13:21:49

That is very true, HowGood. And certainly there are a lot of similarities between Venetia/Damerel and Abigail/Miles Calverleigh.

One of the interesting things about GH novels is looking at the ways in which GH manoeuvres for the hero and heroine to spend time together alone - which was not always easy given the constraints of the period. Quite often they are related (Grand Sophy, Unknown Ajax), pseudo-relations (Frederica) or the heroine is the hero's ward (Regency Buck, Bath Tangle - I always find this rather unsatisfactory because of the power inbalance involved). When this isn't the case GH has to engineer situations, sometimes v. implausible (as in Sylvester and The Corinthian).

Where are you, Horry? <experiments with darkling look>

It's boring. I am going away for the weekend so have been packing like a byotch. I will elaborate anon.

ancientbuchanan Thu 03-Oct-13 18:54:30

Horry!

You have the effrontery, the forwardness....( rest of quote doesn't work.). Just because Venetia has conventional eyebrows and no stammer....

But perhaps it is because you are 17. When you are Rule's age...

Have a great weekend.

wink

A few thoughts/justifications:

Nothing much happens for the vast majority of the book. Other "rural idyll" books have humorous episodes, but here it's just page after page of nothing in particular. I feel GH is trying a more grownup style - after the romps with teenage girls and older heroes, she's moving to twenty-something acerbic heroines and jaded men, with knowing looks and no "front". She's trying a new style and it doesn't quite work for me.

The characters are two-dimensional, almost painfully so. The awkward selfish bookish teenager, the pompous suitor, the lovelorn lad, the proud provincial lady, the awful MIL, yawn. No development in any of them despite pages and pages of opportunity. I don't know who any of them is by the end of the book. None of them is remotely memorable so the book slides into oblivion. The best Heyers are supported by a strong "cast" of extras whom we like or loathe but recognise and understand and invest in.

That said, I agree there are some interesting themes to look at. London as a modern Babylon by contrast with idyllic Yorkshire is new: refusing to hold up the Season as the pinnacle of existence is sort of middle-aged and faintly subversive. Venetia's mother (how I hate her, again a roughly drawn caricature I'm not interested in) is the archetype of the Society Figure, disdained but admired, superficial and fantastic and insubstantial.

And who is Venetia? I feel I know her as little as we know (The Grand) Sophy - the action, such as there is, generally revolves around her but doesn't necessarily include her. Things happen to her and she is just too bloody passive...

... until, gloriously, she digs out Damerel's hidden decency to save her from her threatened immorality and permanent expulsion from society. I love that he's drunk: it's glorious. But it's out of character for her and I don't believe it.

Bah humbug.

MooncupGoddess Fri 04-Oct-13 13:50:28

Hmm. I agree that Edward and Oswald are utterly two-dimensional (but then they both exist purely for narrative purposes), but don't think Aubrey is at all. He is quite unlike anyone else in GH's novels and immediately believable and distinctive.

For me and I suspect other posters on this thread much of the pleasure of the book lies in simply hanging out with Venetia and Damerel, seeing their relationship develop and enjoying/identifying the literary banter. It is more subtle than many of GH's other plots, certainly. Venetia is a little bland, perhaps, but I think deliberately so in order that readers can project themselves all over her.

HowGoodIsThat Fri 04-Oct-13 19:26:11

Aurelia is who Fanny Marling would have been if Edward hadn't been so grounded and sensible!

I disagree that Venetia is bland - CHarlotte is bland AND insipid. Venetia is too clever to be bland and has too much humour. I think there are lots of subtle clues about her - but without going back and hunting for minute references, I'll not convince Horry! I am thinking about the scene where she is troubling over the Scorrier v AUbrey situation and Damerel finds her or where she asks Marston about Damerel's drinking or this:

"In her aunt's company, too, she found endless amusement, for, having lived with selfish persons all her life, she was not in the least alienated by Mrs Hendred's determination to let nothing interfere with her own comfort, but continued to think her comical, and to like her very well. But under her enjoyment there was a dull ache of unhappiness, never forgotten, and sometimes turning to acute anguish."

minipie Mon 07-Oct-13 14:29:32

Ok, I'm late to the party but here are my thoughts. I really like Venetia - unlike Horry I prefer an older more sensible and independent heroine, I always find the teenagers a bit, well, young and the ward/guardian thing a bit creepy. And I love the humour - this is one of the few GHs where the heroine seems able to have a slightly risqué sense of humour, even if perhaps she doesn't always realise that what she's saying is a bit beyond the pale.

Downsides - yes, not a lot happens. Also, I think there is a missed opportunity to see more of Venetia attending ton parties and being bored by the polite small talk/shocking people with her more frank way of saying things. There's a fair amount of that with Yardley but it would have been nice to see Venetia meeting more other people if only so that we the reader can be sure Damerel is the only chap for her.

I am not sure about the mother sub plot. It feels a bit shoehorned in. A mother who turns out to be disgraced rather than dead is a great plot idea, but it's wasted here where it could have formed almost a whole book elsewhere. And it's not really necessary - why does Venetia have to have a tainted reputation in order to get Damerel? Or if she does, I'd rather she did something outrageous in order to taint herself - that would be much more fun to read about grin

But, overall, I really enjoyed it.

DoBatsEatCats Mon 07-Oct-13 21:16:55

I'm deeply fond of this one (though it's not my favourite: that's A Civil Contract). I love Aubrey, as a fellow-classicist in my intellectually respectable younger days. Oswald Denny is good too - she's so good at very young men and boys.

I think it's her best straight romance, as someone says upthread: the sense of two minds meeting is so strong, and you really believe Venetia and Damerel might be happy together. They remind me slightly of Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane - it's the perpetual trading quotations, and I wonder if Heyer had read Busman's Honeymoon and Gaudy Night. Someone mentioned An Infamous Army upthread, and I do admire that one enormously, but it's spoilt for me because I can't believe Charles and Barbara will be happy together.

sarahtigh Tue 08-Oct-13 17:32:20

I really like this one I think Venetia and jasper well suited and will probably be happy, their conversation is interesting and intellectual and amusing reporting nurses comments about "increase given to the caterpillars" though I guess the biblical references are maybe lost on a more modern audience who do not recognise them or their context.

I suspect money may cause some problems as Venetia seems to be more on the ball regarding estate management and I do not believe her comment about "preferring to live in debt" the cattle on newmarket road have a short lifespan!

Venetia has plenty of commonsense; is smart and well educated possibly a little green but not completely naive in fact understands far too much for Edward's liking I suspect his disapproval is more about his jealousy of her intellect than morals though he uses that as his excuse hence comment to Clara "the wisest of the sex(female) do not aspire to be clever"

I think Aubrey is a well painted character though not really that lovable but he does understand that Venetia is attracted to Damarel hence his annoyance when she tries to convince him it is a flirtation so I think he is self centred intellectual rather than Aspergers as he seems to understand people and their emotions/thoughts

Charlotte is bland and is meant to be

the MIL does not get quite finished but I like the line about aubrey's dog also being in "an interesting condition" and the temptation to let dog lose on her best bonnet.

Downsides the Dead /divorced mother thing a bit far fetched, Mrs scorrier needs her comeuppance

Takver Thu 10-Oct-13 08:47:10

This is interesting - I used to have a full set of the GH regency novels, but just kept my favourites when we moved abroad. I really couldn't remember Venetia, and wondered if I had actually read it. Got it from the library, and remembered it as soon as I started it. So I guess from my point of view it is one of her more forgettable novels grin

I think the main problem for me is that she has done the same plot, effectively, much better in Black Sheep. I find Abby more credible as a 'I'm on the shelf and going to make the best of it' heroine, and Miles Calverleigh more plausible as an 'unsuitable' groom (and no sexual harassment - Miles would never force himself on anyone, even if he does sort of abduct Abby at the end).

Yes, the recycled plots generally are better second time round. We haven't reached Black Sheep yet.

I agree that Venetia isn't memorable except as an audiobook for swooning reasons but I know lots of people love it. I don't think it's as much of a rollercoaster as some of the others (Devil's Cub or Sylvester with lots of changes of location, jeopardy, etc) which makes it more of a cosy Sunday read.

Takver Thu 10-Oct-13 10:17:49

Its true, I was looking at the list of novels with publication date, and realised that a lot of my favourites are later works (and still to come here) - so Frederica / Civil Contract / False Colours / Black Sheep which I think have some of her best characters. Very much the opposite to a lot of genre writers where the early books are great and then they fall off in quality.

HowGoodIsThat Thu 10-Oct-13 15:09:44

I completely agree - I think we have the best to come although I do rank Venetia as top tier. I like Abigail more than Venetia but prefer Damerel o Miles.

<makes note to develop that into a more compelling and erudite analysis for when we get to Black Sheep>

Takver Thu 10-Oct-13 15:26:36

Now I think that Miles is much nicer - he's funnier, I love the way he sets up his nasty cousin, and I just think he would be more likely to do the Regency equivalent of his share of the housework once they are married.

Takver Thu 10-Oct-13 15:27:12

Not that I have a soft spot for Miles, you understand blush

"Recency equivalent of his share of the housework" grin The mind boggles. Speaking to the DC before their sixth birthdays?

HowGoodIsThat Thu 10-Oct-13 17:06:34

I agree that he is NICER. Hugo Darracott is also NICER. Damerel just makes my heart beat a bit faster.

Takver Thu 10-Oct-13 20:04:52

Hmm, quite like Hugo Darracott too, but agree that he isn't dashing.

LeonieDeSainteVire Thu 10-Oct-13 22:17:46

OK I am actually quite struggling with the fact that this book isn't everyone's favourite! I am channelling my inner Dr Seuss and want to shout 'It is so good, so good, you see'. I'm particularly taken aback by Horry's response, are we reading the same book? Nothing much happens/no humour/ two dimensional characters/nothing memorable/Venetia - bland shock I think I disagree with all of that.

I think the supporting cast are brilliant, some are caricatures but not worse for that. Aubrey is definitely one of a kind and I feel I really do know him. Alright Edward is only a plot device but still he's good enough! I noticed this last night, when he goes to London after Venetia and she tries to tell him she won't marry him "I have rather more sense than you give me credit for, and . . . I know you a trifle better than you know yourself". Didn't we all complain in the earlier books that too often the hero comes out with this line and it is grating to the modern woman. Here it is being deliberately used to show Edward's self centered arrogance and total non-understanding of Venetia. I think it's part of how far GH has come in how she presents her heroine and how much control she has over her destiny.

I also like the way that although Conway never appears in the book we get such a description of him I feel I know him well, I think we don't need to see Mrs Scorrier getting her comeuppance as its quite clear what will happen when Conway returns.

Maybe nothing much happens but it does happen so beautifully it doesn't matter. The meeting of two minds comment above captures it exactly.

But I agree maybe the mother plot line is unnessecary, actually I think if Venetia just went back to Yorkshire and told Damerel they were getting married he would have given in anyway, she only needed to convince him she really understood what she was getting into and I think the stay in London did that anyway.

So, it is the best GH book! And in a Miles/Damerel competition Damerel wins every time for me wink

<<lowers tone - sorry>>

LeonieDeSainteVire Thu 10-Oct-13 22:20:03

Possibly too many 'thinks', 'feels' and 'anyways' in the above post blush

LadyIsabellaWrotham Thu 10-Oct-13 22:30:15

Having harassed you all into doing this I then realised I'd forgotten it since I read it in August, so I reread it very rapidly only to find that you'd already said everything there is to say.

I did enjoy it - both times. I like all the supporting characters, and like the fact that she gives them all happy endings apart from Mrs Scorrier. Conway will get rid of Mrs S and live happily with his bride (if she can get over the dogs). Edward will marry Clara. Oswald will grow up, and Aubrey will spend vacations with the Damerels. I love Uncle and Aunt Hendred as well - Uncle Philip in particular is not recognisable from any of the other books. And the way the plot is driven by the characters of Conway and Sir Francis, who are never seen, is particularly clever.

Less clever is the fact that I didn't see the reappearance of Mama coming - I think it's the only one of Heyer's plot twists that actually fooled me first time around. What about the rest of you?

And I enjoy the awful Steeples, although I shudder, as intended, at the horrible moment where Aurelia talks about Aubrey, and the uncomfortable moments where Sir Lambert switches from fatherly to lecherous. They seem quite out of place in such a light hearted book. Heyer obviously took to the Steeples, as they crop up again in more likeable form as Mama and Sir Bonamy in False Colours, with sons who she doesn't have to be jealous of, and a rather more sexless stepfather.

Takver Fri 11-Oct-13 08:18:34

Not being picky (honest), but I'm sure I recognise Philip from somewhere. Isn't there a Philip type (suffers on travelling, turns up grumpily to try to sort out impossible young woman) in Abigail's older brother in Black Sheep. The more I think about it the more Black Sheep feels like Venetia re-written with more grown up characters.

I like the Mama sub-plot, its the one bit that feels like she hasn't done it better elsewhere, and would have happily seen more of it.

One thing I do think is interesting, though. Almost 100% of the plot of Venetia, as with all GH's regency romances, would be irrelevant today (no-one cares about divorce, V would just get a job, etc).

But, a woman who leaves her husband abandoning her children is still condemned by society, even if she is suffering borderline or actual abuse (which I think we can infer was the case with Mama), and if she is failing to cope as a parent and genuinely believes that her children will be better off with their father. Basically, saying 'I am not willing or able to be a good parent' and leaving your children is still totally unacceptable in a woman, even though men can and do get away with it all the time.

I take your point about "abandoning" children being taboo for women now but at the time it was the default that the father kept the children, not the mother, in cases of separation or (very rare) divorce. That's what kept women with abusive husbands for so very long - because if your choice is getting beaten up or never seeing your children again... well pass the ice pack sad

I don't think Venetia's mother is scandalous for leaving her children - it's really only Venetia and possibly Damerel, vicariously, that even considers that angle - but for leaving her husband and still having a life.

When we discussed Sylvester this came up wrt Ianthe giving Edmund up to Sylvester and Phoebe, and we noted then that the characters were very forgiving and matter of fact about it in general.

Takver Fri 11-Oct-13 16:12:13

Very true - though it does feel as though Venetia's mother is being criticised for not being suitably 'motherly', IYSWIM - maybe not by the characters, but by GH?

MooncupGoddess Fri 11-Oct-13 16:22:09

Yes, she is presented as being very self-absorbed and indeed unmotherly, with the Aubrey comment. If she was that bothered about her children she could presumably have got in touch after Sir Francis' death.

I'm almost afraid to admit that I agre with Horry- I don't find this one funny enough, or the characters as engaging as say Leonie or Kit. But it is probably 20 years since I read it, so I'm going to give it a go with more adult eyes!

LeonieDeSainteVire Fri 11-Oct-13 17:31:49

I think that Venetia's mother is just displaying yet another facet of the selfishness theme that runs through this novel. She is so self absorbed and vain she simply has no room left for her children and, indeed, only really values them in adulthood for their beauty. Yes GH is criticising her but whether it's is for her lack of motherliness or just her selfishness I'm not sure. But in terms of the time Aurelia's scandalous behaviour is running off with another man (and her previous affairs) rather than abandoning her children.

Interestingly I think it is worth noting the different responses to the unfaithful wife theme in the book, Lady Sophia's husband won't divorce her when she runs off with Damerel, she has to wait for him to die and by then she's found another 'protector' anyway. Sir Francis, whom we might have supposed would have avoided divorce and the expense and scandal surrounding it, does divorce Aurelia and fairly quickly too so she can remarry Steeple. Obviously these are just to support the plot but had it gone the other way Damerel would presumably have married Lady Sophia and Aurelia, as a long term mistress, would have been even further beyond the pale and therefore more damaging to Venetia. Good job it's only fiction!

VikingLady Tue 22-Oct-13 22:30:49

Has the next thread started yet? Am a long time lurker!

LadyIsabellaWrotham Thu 24-Oct-13 08:41:20

It's Ajax next isn't it? One of my personal favourites - I feel about Romney Marsh the way some of the Tollgate-fanciers do about Derbyshire.

HowGoodIsThat Thu 24-Oct-13 19:01:59

<claps excitedly>

I lurve Ajax. And I am doing Frederica for Book Group so that means two corkers on the go at once.

I love Ajax too!

LeonieDeSainteVire Fri 25-Oct-13 22:27:21

Ajax does nothing for me, I read it again for these threads but I wouldn't bother otherwise.

Why would you when you can read Venetia!

Because it's much funnier and much cleverer than Venetia, obviously... grin wink

LeonieDeSainteVire Sat 26-Oct-13 09:39:53

<<strongly considers giving Horry the cut direct>>

grin

Pachacuti Mon 04-Nov-13 20:40:47

How did I not notice that these were still going? I've been mourning their emise for months .

And I'm with Horry on Ajax vs. Venetia ... grin

I have written a rather gigantic essay on Ajax here.

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