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The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer

fridayschild.jpgI didn't like this one quite as much as Friday's Child, largely because there's what I can only describe as a lazy thread of anti-Spanish racims/exoticism that runs through it and also a much, much nastier outcropping of anti-Semitism, involving a money lender afflicting one of the members of the aristocratic family that Sophy comes to stay with and transform in the course of the story. It's still an enormously entertaining book, but the racism left a bad taste in my mouth. If I run into much more of it in Heyer (I didn't notice any in Friday's Child) I'm going to lose enthusiasm for her work real quickly.

The Grand Sophy is about Sophy, whose ambassador father leaves her with his sister's family in England while he goes off to an assignment in Brazil. His sister's husband has been financially disgraced, forcing the eldest son, Charles, to take over the family finances enabled by a surprise inheritance from an uncle (father's brother, in fact). Charles is engaged to the snobbish, disdainful Miss Wraxton, and he's a bit of a control freak with an anger problem. His oldest sister, Cecelia, is engaged to a wealthy and worthy gent somewhat her elder, but her heart belongs to the dippy, romantic, poorly (or really un)-employed poet, Augustus Fawnshope (love Heyer's names!) Sophy's father tasks his sister with finding Sophy a suitable husband, since she's now of the age, but of course Sophy has ideas of her own about whom she and her cousins should marry.

Sophy, like Hero in Friday's Child, is a winning character, but she's rather more pugnacious than the selfless Hero. Sophy is worldly, competent, knowledgeable, manipulative, and intentionally disruptive. She abhors snobs such as Miss Wraxton, but while she sympathizes with Cecelia's romanticism, Sophy is entirely practical when it comes to the subject of marriage. However, it's not totally about marrying a man of means; the man must be emotionally mature and honest and worthy of your alliance with him. One of the things that The Grand Sophy pulls off very successfully is eventually pairing Sophy with somebody who completely surprised me. I can imagine that I could have seen it coming if I were more familiar with the conventions of these kinds of romances and if I had simply done the character math better, but I didn't at all expect the actual resolution, which was delightful. I felt Heyer had done a little judo on me, by allowing me to see some developments coming ahead of time and then effectively disguising this one. Once again Heyer is particular strong at characterization, and everybody comes across as a distinct personality, for better and worse. I still love the assurance of her prose, but some of the more exotic slang and terminology of the early nineteenth century seemed too similar to that in Friday's Child. I still really enjoyed this novel, however, and I'll read more Heyer, probably Cotillion next.

Comments

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
smofbabe
Jan. 13th, 2016 06:54 am (UTC)
The "exotic slang and terminology of the early eighteenth century" features in all of Heyer's works - most later writers writing in the period basically just use her terminology, expressions, and conventions (although I think you meant "nineteenth" there).

Despite the anti-Semitism, I've always thought this was the most filmable of Heyer's works: the scene near the end with the ducklings and the shot being fired, etc. would be eminently filmable.

I recommend Venetia and The Nonesuch and, ultimately, what I think is her most mature and thoughtful Regency, A Civil Contract. If you do read them, will be interested in your reviews.
gerisullivan
Jan. 13th, 2016 08:15 am (UTC)
Can I jump straight to A Civil Contract (from Friday's Child), or is it important to grow more familiar with Heyer's work through the other books first?
smofbabe
Jan. 13th, 2016 09:06 am (UTC)
Only a few of her books are connected so there's no problem in that sense. Whether you want to do these one after another depends on what you're looking for: some of her work is light and frivolous and some a bit deeper and Friday's Child is in the former category and A Civil Contract is in the latter.
randy_byers
Jan. 13th, 2016 03:16 pm (UTC)
Thanks, I've corrected the century reference. I've also added these titles to the recommended list, which already feels as though it includes everything of hers except for the murder mysteries, which in turn actually makes me curious about the murder mysteries. But Civil Contract jumps to the top of the list. I've heard of it before, because of the Bujold hommage discussed in an earlier thread, and I'm curious to see her in a more thoughtful mode. Are the other two titles also not frivolous?

Edited at 2016-01-13 03:18 pm (UTC)
smofbabe
Jan. 13th, 2016 07:05 pm (UTC)
Both of the other two titles are less frivolous than Friday's Child but not quite as thoughtful as A Civil Contract on the scale. If you want to avoid the frivolous, lighter romances (although her writing is good throughout and there are some nice character development and scenes), I'd skip Bath Tangle, Frederica, The Convenient Marriage, Charity Girl, and Regency Buck, and, if you don't like plots where if everyone sat in a room and explained who they are/what they've been doing the book would be over, Sylvester.

Edited at 2016-01-13 07:06 pm (UTC)
randy_byers
Jan. 13th, 2016 07:27 pm (UTC)
I'm quite okay with frivolous. I loved Friday's Child. But I'm curious to see her in a more thoughtful mode too.
kalimac
Jan. 13th, 2016 09:42 am (UTC)
Uncertain exactly when British diplomats started going to Brazil (it surely wouldn't have been before 1807), I looked this novel up in Wikipedia, and got the date of its setting (1816, in the middle of the actual Regency but late for a "Regency novel") at the cost of having the surprise matching spoiled for me.
randy_byers
Jan. 13th, 2016 03:17 pm (UTC)
As I said, if I were a more perceptive reader I probably would have seen it coming from a mile away, and part of what was so delightful for me was the way that Heyer somehow sneaked it past me. It's pretty obvious once the reveal comes, however.

I should also mention that somewhere in the margins of my copy of Friday's Child a previous reader had written 1816. I was guessing that there was a clue on that page as to the exact year, but if so, I couldn't spot it. But my historical knowledge isn't that detailed.

Edited at 2016-01-13 03:44 pm (UTC)
kalimac
Jan. 13th, 2016 03:50 pm (UTC)
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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