Friday, May 23, 2014
Friday's Forgotten Books: The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer
I'd read several of Georgette Heyer's mysteries and liked some of them, but thought I had no interest in her Regency books. Then last year I started seeing mentions of The Grand Sophy on nearly every one of my favorite blogs. It seemed nearly everybody I knew was reading it and raving about it, and from their descriptions, I knew I was going to have to read it too. My library didn't have it, but I finally nabbed a Kindle copy during a post-Christmas sale, and settled in to enjoy it.
As it turns out, I owe a debt of gratitude to everyone of my acquaintance who read this book and raved about it. The Grand Sophy is pure delight.
As the plot opens, Sir Horace Stanton-Lacy, off to South America on business, informs his married sister Lady Ombersley that he intends to leave his daughter Sophy with her family in the meantime. Far from being the meek, neglected motherless child that Lady Ombersley expects, "little Sophy" turns out to be a spirited, self-possessed and utterly unpredictable young lady who shakes up the Ombersley household considerably. She sets about managing her cousins' love-affairs, straightening out their financial difficulties and generally delivering them shock after shock with her exploits, and drives her cousin Charles, the acting head of a rather exasperating family, nearly out of his wits while doing so.
In short, Sophy, with a plan for every problem and a witty answer for every situation, turns her cousins' lives upside-down for the better and is infinitely entertaining every moment of doing it. She enters upon the wildest schemes and somehow makes it entirely believable that a well-bred young lady could do such things and, what's more, get away with them. And Charles, even though he spends most of his time in the position of antagonist—well, I couldn't help liking him all along. I liked how Heyer used little touches like his affection for his younger siblings to give glimpses at the other side of his character. Not to mention the large cast of supporting characters, each of them charming or funny in their own way, who all play a part in the involved romp of a plot. Honestly, I never thought anyone but Jane Austen could hold my interest in a Regency setting, but I was quite delighted with Heyer's grasp of the dialogue and the historical period (though there is certainly quite a bit more description, action and outright humor here than Austen ever dreamed of). It's almost like a blend of Austen and Wodehouse, if you can picture that. The madcap plot builds up to an utterly hilarious screwball-comedy finale—ducklings, poet, mustard-bath and all. In short, I loved it.
The Grand Sophy, first published in 1950, is available in print...and it was available for Kindle when I bought it, but oddly, now the only one there is a Russian edition. Friday's Forgotten Books is a weekly blog event hosted by Patti Abbott.