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Arabella: Georgette Heyer Book Club no. 16

(106 Posts)
HoratiaWinwood Wed 16-Jan-13 14:44:51

What a glorious romp this is.

From the beginning we are told again and again how deliriously beautiful Arabella is, although in the end of course it is her character and vivacity Beaumaris falls for. We get the classic "oh I thought you'd be bored" when she's forgotten to pretend to be jaded (do any of GH's heroines remember?!) but Arabella's USP is her Heythrom heritage and good deeds - which remind me of Patience in the Nonesuch, FWIW.

I love the descriptions of family life - Heyer really throws herself into this. 11yo Harry "who had abandoned knot making in favour of trying to stand on his head, overbalanced at this moment, and fell into a heap on the floor, together with a chair, Sophia's workbox, and a handscreen, which Margaret had been painting. Beyond begging him not to be such an ape, none of his sisters censured his conduct." - and when Bertram decides to fight Harry: " 'Not in here!' shrieked his sisters with one accustomed voice."

It's just so true to life!

I have trouble reading the last quarter or so of Arabella because I find Bertram's predicament and extrication very uncomfortable. I know it's realistic, and the real-life stories of men's bankrupting their families at the gaming tables are many and horrific, so I can't bear to read it. He's eighteen and so cocksure and it's just excruciating.

Mrs Tallant is fabulous too. Although she is in the same position as eg Mrs Bennet in P&P, she is sharp and tactful and worldly. She taps up her rich brother-in-law shamelessly but sneakily, and carefully hides from the Vicar anything that would make her life complicated or which would upset or discompose him. I love the descriptions of how they are going to deceive him because his good nature and forgiveness depresses them so much ::takes notes for future reference::.

I wonder how realistic Beaumaris' descriptions are of how he is beset by fortune hunters. Of course there were more hopeful mamas and daughters than rich men (and more hopeful "financially embarrassed" men than rich women) but did GH make up the twisted ankles etc or did she find them described somewhere and shoehorn them in?

I learned about tight yellow breeches recently, which became very telling in this book. Bertram is very careful of his at the beginning; Beaumaris is far more careless of his later on and casually remarks that they are knitted. Tight yellow breeches were absolutely de rigueur but notoriously difficult or even impossible to wash. Knitwear was a brand new innovation. Once your yellow pants were grubby, or baggy, you had to throw them out, so they were a definite show of wealth.

Beaumaris shows well in the book but we see glimpses that he can be an utter arsehole. The champagne/lemonade trick is shown by Miss Blackburn and Lord Fleetwood's responses to be underhand and unkind, and when Bertram comes to play too deep Beaumaris considers utterly destroying Bertram's reputation and standing by refusing to play with him. And he could have insisted on the redemption of the vowels (assuming the other player had been over 21) which would have utterly ruined that other player but just paid for a few more pairs of yellow buckskins.

The amounts of money are quite interesting. A hundred pounds is so much to Bertram that he expects a couple of weeks in London on it, even with a few new items of clothing; fifty pounds is Arabella's entire spending money for the season, and she still has ten guineas to give to Bertram; but Bertram loses six hundred guineas in a few hours' play... Insanity.

DuchessOfAvon Tue 22-Jan-13 17:18:22

The Little White Horse is one of my all time favourite books - I can't wait to read it with the DDs. I have to restrain myself as I don't want to go at it too early! I haven't read The CHild from the Sea so I shall add that to the list.

DuchessOfAvon Tue 22-Jan-13 17:18:43

Which GH is up next by the way?

CaseyShraeger Tue 22-Jan-13 17:19:40

I think it's The Grand Sophy

HoratiaWinwood Tue 22-Jan-13 18:05:18

My Child From The Sea is in ragged shreds now, I've read it so much since my adolescence.

I didn't understand for years the significance of Mary's hair. <sheltered>

LeonieDeSainteVire Tue 22-Jan-13 18:26:47

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

HoratiaWinwood Tue 22-Jan-13 19:26:36

Will pm you, Leonie, so as not to spoiler it for others.

thewhistler Tue 22-Jan-13 22:36:52

I'd forgotten The Child from the Sea.

Leonie, was she nice? Has anyone written a biog of her? Have wanted to read one for ages. I'm not a great fun if the Damerosehay series, prefer the cathedral ones and LWH. Also of Rosemary Sutcliff, whose Eagle of the 9 th I reread again and again.

MooncupGoddess Tue 22-Jan-13 22:44:49

There is a great book called Singled Out by Virginia Nicholson about women of the post-WW1 generation who didn't marry and what they did with their lives. Elizabeth Goudge features in it - as far as I remember she lived a nice uneventful life with lots of books and dogs.

As an adult I find many of her novels a little on the cloying side but I still love Linnets and Valerians, and have a weakness for A City of Bells.

LeonieDeSainteVire Tue 22-Jan-13 23:10:09

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

thewhistler Wed 23-Jan-13 14:55:32

I think I read the Singled Out book. I think she had a really difficult childhood, with an ill mother. She does write a bit about herself in one of the anthologies. But thanks for the online recommendation.

I agree about the cloying, but likewise love Linnets and Valarians. I'm v fond of The Dean's watch, in part because I think it is s brilliant portrait of an unsuccessful marriage. I enjoy City of Bells, esp the scenes with Ferranti, and persuading the Dean and Bishop to give money. It Is probably the funniest. And the one set in the chilterns, the something of water, gives a good description of a breakdown, which I go back to.

DuchessOfAvon Wed 23-Jan-13 21:11:20

The Scent of Water?

I have never read Linnets and Valerians <adds to list>

Her adult work is dated but so beautifully evocative of their time, I think. Cloying but touchingly so - she so fiercely wanted to believe in the best of humanity and she longs for some purer age that never actually existed. It has a naivety that is quite seductive at times, at others it just makes me want to spit. But she does have a lot of compassion for humankind's foibles - the awful marriage and the wastrel son in The Scent of Water are very sad.

LeonieDeSainteVire Thu 24-Jan-13 07:58:08

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

thewhistler Thu 24-Jan-13 08:05:40

Good idea.

Abe books has lots second hand.

LeonieDeSainteVire Thu 24-Jan-13 08:13:53

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

DuchessOfAvon Thu 24-Jan-13 08:18:26

I loved The Growing Summer - the kids and I always tell barking dogs where we are going, based on that book. I have all my old Noel Streatfields - DD1 and I tried Ballet Shoes but she was a bit young for it. We'll come back to it later this year, I think.

The Family From One End Street is up next - DD1 shares my fondness for old-fashioned books except for her evil Rainbow Fairy fetish.

I wonder if she will inherit my love of GH?

thewhistler Thu 24-Jan-13 09:35:58

I love Streatfeild too, and yes, I tell barking dogs where I am going to.

She is brilliant at squabbling children.

IShallWearMidnight Thu 24-Jan-13 09:42:41

Leonie - visit the modistes in Milsom Street, and the Jane Austen museum is worth a visit (you have to sit through a talk about JA first, but then you get into the museum). There's also a museum in the Royal Crescent which is OK, but nothing special.

DD1 is at uni in Bath, and I'm trying to convince her than next year she wants to rent a flat on Great Pultney Street or Laura Place grin.

LeonieDeSainteVire Thu 24-Jan-13 10:10:24

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

IShallWearMidnight Thu 24-Jan-13 10:31:17

oh, and the Assembly Rooms - DD and I took a nuncheon there wink - but do check there's not a function which has happened all bar two times I've been in Bath. Last time we were there they had the chandeliers lowered for cleaning, they were fabulous!

mackerella Thu 24-Jan-13 12:08:28

Oh, I'd forgotten about The Growing Summer - is that the one in Ireland with Great Aunt Dymphna? I loved that as a child but can't remember much about it now apart from something to do with lobsters confused

I also read some Elizabeth Goudge as a child (inherited from my mum, along with Children of the New Forest, What Katy Did, Selma at the Abbey et al.) but can't recall much about them. I know I read Henrietta's House and Gentian Hill, so will dig those out of the attic, but it sounds as if I should also try to track down Linnets and Valerians. Thanks for the reminders/recommendations - I'd be very much up for a continued book club once we've done all the Heyers!

I know it's rather later than the books that have been suggested so far, but have any of you read Antonia Fraser (apart from MooncupGoddess wink)?

LadyDamerel Thu 24-Jan-13 20:47:39

Has anyone here read any Eva Ibbotson? She wrote mostly for children but she also wrote half a dozen romance novels, which have a very GH feel to them.

So much so that I found myself wondering if she'd been a fan of GH herself. There's similar literary references, her heroes are unconventionally handsome older men compared to the younger, innocent but independent heroines.

It would be interesting to know if anyone else had read them and picked up on the similarities?

DuchessOfAvon Thu 24-Jan-13 21:43:48

Just checking Amazon for Eva Ibbotson and seen that Daddy Long Legs has been reprinted with a foreword by Ibbotson. I am SO excited - my copy of DLL is almost unreadable, it is so fragile and the pages are falling out. It was ancient when I inherited it from my mother.

thewhistler Thu 24-Jan-13 23:09:54

You can get DL AND its sequel Dear enemy which is wonderful and about sally mcbride!!

I've read the Streatfeild quasi autobiography about the vicarage children in Eastbourne or wherever, hut did she write a proper one?

Sorry, Ballet Shoes is best. Painted Garden pretty good, apple bough ditto, also the one where he inherits a big house and his father is having a nervous breakdown with PTSD, and of course the growing summer.

Yes, up for a book club.

I used to read Anne of Green Gables and the Emilies, Katy and you can get the sequels to Katy. Lots more of them. In a high valley etc.

And the books about the Marlowes. Not e books, alas.

CaseyShraeger Wed 30-Jan-13 01:27:59

It's The Quiet Gentleman after The Grand Sophy , isn't it?

Can anyone enthuse me with a passion for parting with ready cash for it -- I've only read it once, over twenty years ago, and my recollection is that it's another book where she gets carried away with the mystery element and we lose a lot of the interest of character interaction as a result. But maybe it has hidden depths.

(But then we're onto Cotillion which is another return to form IMO, so overall I'm happy)

MooncupGoddess Wed 30-Jan-13 01:40:05

Yes, that's right. The Quiet Gentleman has its moments, but mostly I agree it is a bit disappointing with too much mystery and not enough character development.

Coming very late to this, but absolutely agree re excellence of Noel Streatfeild, particularly The Painted Garden and The Growing Summer. Curtain's Up has always been a favourite of mine, too. Her autobiographical The Vicarage Family is very good, and shows that she bases many of her novels on her own experiences (Jane in The Painted Garden is very much the young Noel) but with some sugarcoating... her childhood was really painful and difficult at times.

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