Putting a Period to it

                 Georgette Heyer’s magic is starting to dwindle away, but I am determined to get the last drops from her. I’m trying to deide which shall be the fourth, and probably last, novel of hers to be read. Her books are light and airy, with a tone of not taking themselves too seriously which instantly puts readers at ease and lets them simply enjoy the lark to follow rather than analyze it half to death. Her characters are capricious, come in various outside wrappings, but in the end all look rather them same. The Brother, the Sly Hero, the Outspoken Heroine . . .  they are starting to pop up in at an alarming frequency. So far my favorite is still Cotillion, the first one I read. I love the male lead in this book because he is so different from so many other male leads, but also because he has that breed of sensibility that is often overlooked: address. Plus, his dialogue is great fun to read. All those short sentences! The Convenient Marriage I didn’t like at all. Oh, I enjoyed it of course, no one can deny that it wasn’t prettily written, but I felt distant from the characters. They weren’t people I could really care about, and nothing can spoil a book faster than that. Oh, and why, if you had an awful name like Horatia, would you shorten it to the equally tragic handle “Horry”? It makes no sense, rather like the girl it belongs to. I don’t think seventeen year-olds of that period would have been that unaware of how their own world worked one moment, and so  fast the next. The third one I read, Arabella, was decidedly funny,  because how could that man have done such a horrible thing? But – I hate to say it  because it sounds so trite – but really it was fantastical.    
               All of the books put me in mind of amateurish fantasies, since Heyer spends so much time reminding us we are in Regency England. I understand why she felt she had to, but entertainment should not require an encyclopedia of historical fashion, or an exstensiv knowledge of Dandy slang to be completely understood. I like slang, I would love to own an enclyopedia of fashion, but I can’t be bothered to look up words when ten to one the are not in my dictionary. A glossary in the back of the book would have transported me beyond the realm of description, but I didn’t see one. Perhaps that’s just the kindle version? And how come none of the female characters remembered the need for a special license? In Heyer’s world, where marriage is The Goal of every girl, you would think they’d know that if there is no time to issue banns before a wedding then a special license must be procured. It is interesting to note that Jane Austen, who actually lived at that time, managed to write books that didn’t drown in period references. Then again, none of her rakes ever get the girl.
              Now that I have brought up Jane Austen, I might as well roll up my sleeves and make a job of it. I don’t want it to seem like I am tearing these books apart, but really, some of the reviews have said they were The Thing after Austin, and I find this to be a little inaccurate. And somewhat insulting, though I’m not sure why. Jane Austen’s romances, besides being delightful reads that have stayed accessible for two hundred years, have deep three dimensional characters who make tough decisions, undergo the blows of fate, and mature beautifully  by the end of the book. They are, some may argue, beneficial to the reader’s character. Georgette Heyer’s . . . well, they are’t. In Cotillion the heroine may at least be said to realize her wrong and grow up, but the other two novels I have had the pleasure to read are thoroughly shallow. The girls  know better but – we may as well not wrap it in clean linen and call it a mistake – by a complete lack of self-control, principles, and foresight they do it anyway. The book is then a record of the other mistakes they make trying to get themselves out of their first one, until the catastrophe reaches a climax. The climax, of course, takes places between the hero and his heroine and results in all the joy of a happy marriage. I say “his heroine” because the hero in these novels has no problem finding out exactly what the heroine’s first mistake was and why it was made and is, though it’s never so bluntly put, the one who finally ends the whole messy cycle.
              What I dislike about this whole plot structure is that it leaves no room for the characters to either grow or feel sorry for their actions. After all, that lie caught them a guy who wouldn’t have paid any attention to them otherwise. To resolve to not be so impetuous in the future is nothing at all like being actually repentant. To feel sorry for what you have done means little if your sorrow is only for how it has affected you. These heroines will probably make another mistake of a similar sort in the near future, and it’s doubtful their husbands will do anything but laugh and watch them flounder until they grow bored and come to their rescue. The end result is that these “strong willed” females end up being ten times more dependent on their male counterparts than a more docille lady would be, which is kind of funny when you think about it. Especially when you admit that very few of the male leads are actually nice people. In contrast, Jane Austen’s  female characters (well, most of them) develop a undeniable strength as the novel progress. I’m thinking of Elinor mainly, from Sense and Sensibility. She is the ideal image of a strong willed woman in the regency era, even more so than Elizabeth. And yes, she falls in love and eventually gets married. It’s how these things work. Austen’s characters in general are three dimensional and her plots contain themes. Georgette Heyer’s heroes and heroines have only obtained to the second dimension, and there’s not much to discuss aside from the clothes (lots and lots of cravats and boots). But, as I’ve already said, this does not stop them from being a delightful romp.
            If you are still not sure whether you want to read Heyer let me describe her in the best way I know how: by comparing her to other books. If you have already read Heyer and enjoyed her I hope you will try some of these next. Off the top of my head I’d say Sorcery and Cecile, or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot, an epistolary romance set in a regency England which, as one would expect from it’s co-author, Patricia Wrede, contains magic. Sadly I would not recommend the sequel to this book for the world, but Patricia Wrede’s Enchanted Forest series (while having nothing at all to do with Heyer’s romances) has to be one of my all time favorites. The first two book are the best – and the second one has the decided advantage of being also a romance –  while the third one is just weird. My sister and I still fight over whether the fourth one is the worst of the lot or “okay in it’s own right.”  Anyway, returning to the light hearted romances, I would have you read Daddy Long-legs,  which I must admit a particular fondness for, along with Lady Jane by Mrs C. Jamison. These are both older novels set in America, in the early 20th century I believe, but they could be about ancient Rome for all they reflect modern life. Daddy Long-legs is the lighter of the two, though neither of them are as wonderfully edifying as Louisa Alcott’s Rose in Bloom or Old Fashioned Girl (which, if you are looking for something just like a Heyer you should not read. They do, however, have some interesting descriptions of clothing, and even speak of how to use old dresses to make new ones, as Arabella’s mother does).      
            Somewhere between the moralistic Alcott and the jolly-good-time Heyer is Martel’s The King’s Daughter, which has nothing at all to do with turning dress, or finding an eligible match. I think this was actually a school book once, since it’s set in the Canadian wilds, but it’s so completely a romance that anything educational in it can easily be overlooked. The same goes for Mara, Daughter of the Nile, which insists on appearing in home-schooling catalogs as if it were a treatise on Egyptian culture and society, but is nothing more than the most dramatic of romances. All one has to do is say slave-girl and spies and you know that no one is reading it because  they like history. None of these, except of course the first one, is a regency, but they are all helpless romance novels which I’ve managed to read (*cough* more than once *cough*) despite my prejudice against that genre. If you’re looking for something to fill that Austen-ian void try Jane Eyre or Alcott’s works, which aren’t as subtle as Austen’s but are perfectly fine specimens all the same. And don’t forget Elizabet Gaskall, her North and South not only deals with the themes of pride and prejudice, but also with capitalism and charity. I listened to it via Librivox and found it particularly interesting since social welfare is hip nowadays. I mean, you can even benefit the world by buying a doll. If, however, all you really want is a cute love story minus the drama, do what I do when I really want to smile and read a copy of Montgomery’s Further Chronicles of Avonlea or Kate Wiggin’s Ladies in Waiting. They’re both collections of short stories and may be likened, with only the slightest bit of artistic license, to a sampler of Godiva chocolate in a world of king sized candy bars.

Bookmarks

I haven’t accomplished much today, but I have that very satisfying, full-up feeling that seems to wrap itself around my spine whenever I have enjoyed a book, and I have definitely been enjoying a book. I obviously need to extend my circles, for I had not heard of Georgette Heyer until a week ago, even though anyone who knows me must realize that anything taking place in the Regency period is sure to elicit, if not absolute delight, at least a little polite amusement. Even in the realm of science fiction, some of my favorite works have been described as “space regency.” Oh, just the idea of dinners, and etiquette, and giving someone the cut all while piloting spaceships and discovering plots of intergalactic espionage . . . well, whose heart wouldn’t give a little leap?
       Just because I haven’t been productive today (or the day before that) doesn’t mean I never get anything done, and it is to prove this that I present to you The Kindle Case:

Design: my own.
Execution: my own.
Awesomeness: the fault of the orange and blue, plastic coated fabric which takes the place of honor on the outside of the case.
          Inside is providence, in the form of some blue fabric scavaged from wht I’m am informed was once a curtain, though surely I can’t remember my family ever having curtains of either this style or shade. I still need to affix the closure, in the form of a hook and eye, to the tab and front flap. Also, having used it to read Cotillion this morning, I find that it might be sensible to add a small strap for my glasses to hang off of, and perhaps a small pocket for that most necessary of companions, the tissue. I can’t seem to go anywhere without wanting one eventually, and as of yet, my wardrobe is singularly lacking in pockets. Yes, I often feel like Corduroy.
          I’m loving my kindle, despite my passion for the feel and smell of it’s ink and paper counter parts. I love that when it turns off it shows me pictures of Agatha Christie, Jane Austin, or Charlotte Bronte, as if it knows that these ladies are particular favorites of mine. The knowledge that I can lay it aside to transfer a load of laundry, or nuke a plate of pancakes, without having to worry about finding my place is quite comforting. I slide the switch to the right and the green light flickers on as the screen hesitates. I catch my breath, will my page be lost? I know that if my kindle’s recall fails the chances of me finding my page will be wholly dependent on my patchy memory and dexterity in querying. I can only feel apprehension as the page loads. Slowly the ink dissolves away and then reforms itself. Letters, words, in truth the exact page I was perusing not a moment before, restores itself to my sight. It makes the necessity of bookmarks quite unnecessary, which is good. I am out of the habit of using them, even for really long, ink and paper books, and it has been many years indeed since I dared crease a corner for the purpose. I might stow a tissue in between the pages when interrupted suddenly from time to time, but I can usually navigate the pages of a book without any such aid.
         In fact, the only bookmarks I use with any kind of regularity are those found on the internet. These I find quite useful, and employ them to the point where they are almost a collection. I have some that are older than my current computer, and some that were added just yesterday, and the task of keeping them properly organized is my constant delight. Some of them deserve more than to be stored in my dusty files (though, I suppose there is no dust in an electric folder). With this in mind, I propose to introduce them to you in hopes that, even if they don’t end up on your own list of bookmarks, they will at least be a little aired out.

                             (Emily Dickinson, another favorite, as I too have “never seen a moor.”)