Friday’s Child by Georgette Heyer

 Friday’s Child is the first book I’ve read by Georgette Heyer. It is completely different from the type of  books I normally read and at first I thought I wouldn’t like it but I soon changed my mind. It’s a light-hearted novel that’s easy to read, although full of Heyer’s Regency slang.

In 1943 when she was working on Friday’s Child Georgette Heyer wrote  to her publisher describing it as

a Regency society-comedy quite in my lightest vein. … Nothing mysterious or very exciting happens, but I think it is pretty lively.

Twenty years later she described it as ‘my own favourite’.  I found it entertaining and amusing. Lord Sheringham (Sherry) is rejected by the Incomparable and outstandingly beautiful Miss Milborne and vows to marry the first woman he meets. Fortunately this happens to be Hero Wantage (Kitty), a young and naive girl who has loved him since childhood. Although he is not in the least in love with her they elope.

The story is quite predictable, but none the less enjoyable, as Kitty and Sherry embark on a series of mishaps, mayhem and scrapes. The  trouble is that he doesn’t realise she loves him and carries on as though he were still single and she takes what he says as the gospel truth, resulting in chaos and disaster. Eventually she takes the drastic step of running away from him aided and abetted by his friends, George, Lord Wrotham, Mr Ringwood and the Hon. Ferdy Fakenham. The end result as Sherry desperately tries to find her is very much in the vein of a Whitehall farce, with disguises and mistaken identities.

Georgette Heyer’s portrayal of Regency England is superb in detail and atmosphere.  The beauty and skill of this elegant, romantic novel is that it transported me back in time to Regency England, a time of dashing heros and enterprising heroines. I’m now looking forward to reading more.

My first book for The Georgette Heyer Reading Challenge.

The Sunday Salon

This week I’ve been travelling in time and place in my reading.

I’ve been in Pennsylvania and Connecticut with Gladys Taber and Barbara Webster reading their letters to each other from Stillmeadow and Sugarbridge over one year in the 1950s (the book was published in 1953; there’s been no mention of the Second World War so I’m guessing the letters were written in the late 1940s or early 1950s). Stillmead and Sugarbridge is a book to savour and read slowly. I’m limiting my reading to a few letters each time I pick up the book. Stillmeadow is the house in Southbury, Connecticut where Gladys Taber lived and Sugarbridge is the house where Barbara and her husband Edward Shenton lived in Pennsylvania. Edward’s drawings illustrate the letters. Between the letters and the illustrations I’m getting a good picture of their lives. Their letters are full of the love of the countryside and their families. When I’ve finished it I’ll write more fully about it. For now here is a quote from Barbara’s first letter in the book, writing in January about what she likes about living at Sugarbridge:

A broken-up day is to me a lost day, and social and business dates, no matter how delightful or important, hang over me with a sense of doom. So I am particularly grateful for those long intervals of country peace when we see no one, nor stir from our studio except for an afternoon ramble over the hills. We no longer live by the clock, slaves to time; we make our own.

She thought that this would not be everyone’s ideal. It sounds good to me.

I first read about Gladys Taber on Nan’s blog and was really pleased when she sent me this book. I would like to know more about Gladys and Barbara and so far I’ve found these websites –  Stillmeadow Friends and also Stillmeadow, where I read that the farm was in danger from development. This was in 2002 and I can’t find out what happened – does anyone know? There is also a website for Edward Shenton, but I can’t find out how Gladys and Barbara met.

Then I’ve jumped back in time to France in the 1820s with Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. I am only too glad that I don’t live in post revolutionary France. The Battle of Waterloo is now over and Jean Valjean has at last escaped from prison and rescued Cosette from her pitiful life with the cruel Thenardiers. Poor Cosette:

Fear emanated from her so that she might be said to be enveloped in it. Fear caused her to draw her elbows in at her sides and her feet underneath her skirt, to take up as little room as possible and to draw no unnecessary breath; it had become so to speak, the habit of her body, impossible of alteration except that it must grow worse, In the depths of her eyes there was the haggard gleam of terror.

Jean and Cosette are currently on their way to Paris and a better life I hope, but I don’t expect it will be as I still have about 800 pages left to read.

Over next to Regency England in the early19th century with Georgette Heyer’s Friday’s Child. Dialogue makes up a large part of the book, full of 19th century slang. I mentioned this in my last post and in the comments Geranium Cat explained what a “Tiger” is and pointed me to this site – http://www.heyerlist.org/slang.html for more explanations. This book is a mixture of romance, a whirl of social events – balls, masquerades, theatre-going, duels and farce. I’m about halfway in the book and this morning read about the duel between George, Lord Wrotham and Sherry, Anthony Verelst, Viscount Sheringham after Sherry saw George kissing his wife, Hero.

Last and my no means least I’ve popped over to America again. This time to New York with Dodie Smith in 1939 just before the start of World War Two as described in Dear Dodie by Valerie Grove. Dodie and Alec (who she marries) arrive with Pongo, the dalmatian who inspired her to write 101 Dalmatians after leaving England because Alec was a pacifist and a conscientious objector. Dodie was soon cast into gloom, unable to like America and forecasting

years of exile, a world war in progress, losing her audience-sense by being away from England, and possibly also losing all her capital. On three out of four counts her forecast was absolutely correct.

I knew very little about Dodie before and am learning a lot about England at the beginning of the 20th century and theatrical history as well as about Dodie herself – an unsuccessful actress, then a shop assistant at Heals furniture store and then a playwright. It’s fascinating reading about her relationship with people such as Noel Coward, John Gielgud, Gladys Coper, Jack Hawkins and Jessica Tandy, to name but a few.

Georgette Heyer Reading Challenge

I don’t know whether it’s the time of year, summer drawing to a close and the promise of autumn in the air, but I feel in need of a change. Autumn always makes me think of doing new things anyway so when I read about the Georgette Heyer Reading Challenge it seemed just the time to read a new (to me) author.

The challenge is a perpetual challenge, hosted by Becky of Becky’s Book Reviews. There is no time limit to this challenge. The aim is simply to read as many of Georgette Heyer’s books as you would like – all or just a few.

Heyer wrote historical fiction, Regency romances most set before 1800 and also mystery thrillers.  I first came across Georgette Heyer’s books years ago when I started working in a library. Her books were amongst the most frequently borrowed books and maybe that’s why I never read any of them – they were always out on loan. Other popular books were the Jalna series of books by Mazo de la Roche. I have been meaning to read some of these books for years and it seems that now is as good a time as any to begin. I haven’t got any of Heyer’s or De la Roche’s books so I’ll borrow them from the library to see if I like them.

On Geranium Cat’s recommendation I’m starting with Friday’s Child, in which the wild Lord Sheringham who, having been rejected by Miss Milborne, vows to marry the first woman he meets. I haven’t read anything like this for years. I’ve also borrowed The Private World of Georgette Heyer by Jane Aiken Hodge, to get an idea of what Heyer’s life was like. She was born in August 1902 in Wimbledon, into a very different world. I’m tempted to start with the biography, although it may be better to some of Heyer’s books first. What do you think?