Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Georgette Heyer

Once again I have Jo Walton to blame for introducing me to Georgette Heyer. Heyer has written an awful lot of books, so Jo saying that "A Civil Contract" was her favorite gave me a starting point.

So far I have read Civil Contract and Cotillion. Both of them are absolutely "comfort reading". I love them in exactly the same way that I love Jane Austen and Maeve Binchy. They are stories about normal people, living normal (for the times) lives, and generally doing their best to be happy (this mostly involves falling in love, but I'm ok with that). I'm coming to realize that I like stories about happy people...they make me happy, and I think that's a good thing. Maybe not as deep and enlightening as it could be, but when it comes to comfort reading, I will go with happy.

The thing I've enjoyed most about both of these books is that they aren't the traditional 'Harlequin' romance. You know the one where the main characters fall in love at first sight on page 1, have a whirlwind romance, and then something truly stupid happens (usually just a misunderstanding) which splits them apart, and then they finally get back together in the last few pages? I get irritated by those. The people in those stories spend all their time being overwrought and despairing. The sort of romance that Robert Jordan writes, where you just want to put everyone in a room together and force them to explain exactly what is going on and then they can all be happy instead of miserable.

Heyer is doing something completely different here. Both of these stories involve two people, forced together by circumstance, developing their personalities and figuring out who they are and what they like to do, and at the same time falling in love (rather than lust) with one another as they come to recognize the real worth of the other person and realizing that being married to this person is going to make them really happy. (Again with the happy...I really do like happy and so often stories are written about unhappy people because stories must be interesting, and it is easier to write an interesting story about unhappy people).

The difficulty with these stories is that they are set in the 1800s in London. The dialogue is filled with anachronistic slang which takes a bit of work to decipher. I still haven't worked out exactly what she means by "Greeks" and "Corinthians"...and what precisely does it mean to describe a gentleman as a "leg". Also there are a huge number of characters, and their precise social positions and relationships to one another are very important to the story. Then you throw in the fact that they can be referred to by first name, last name, or title depending on who is talking to (or about) them...and you wind up with the same problem I have when reading Chekov (first name, last name, patronymic - all used interchangeably - and requiring a slightly better understanding of Russian than I possess). Ok, at least here I don't have quite the same language gap as with Chekov - but it is still almost to the point that I'd like some translation. Or maybe just an introduction with a bit of explanation for some of the terms.

But problems of slang aside, I devoured both these books and plan to find more of them.

No comments:

Post a Comment