Monday, July 20, 2015

The Grand Sophy

The Grand Sophy
by Georgette Heyer

When the redoubtable Sir Horace Stanton-Lacy is ordered to South America on Diplomatic Business he parks his only daughter Sophy with his sister's family, the Ombersleys, in Berkeley Square.

Upon her arrival, Sophy is bemused to see to see her cousins are in a sad tangle. The heartless and tyrannical Charles is betrothed to a pedantic bluestocking almost as tiresome as himself; Cecilia is besotted with a beautiful but quite feather-brained poet; and Hubert has fallen foul of a money-lender.

It looks like the Grand Sophy has arrived just in time to sort them out, but she hasn't reckoned with Charles, the Ombersleys' heir, who has only one thought - to marry her off and rid the family of her meddlesome ways.

My Reaction:
This is an enjoyable Regency read.  If read chiefly as a love story, it will most likely disappoint, for it's very light on the romance.  Think of this more as an amusing Regency romp and you'll be better prepared.  Humorous, joyful, and entertaining.

Specifics (with SPOILERS):
-- "...What misery for my dear aunt and those poor children to have that Friday-faced creature setting them all to rights!"  Evidently, to be "Friday-faced" is to have a sad, solemn, or mournful expression.  It's in reference to Good Friday.

--  "magniloquently"-- pompously or boastfully.

--  One element of Regency life that has come up in at least two of the few Heyer's Regency novels I've read so far-- and which I find utterly uninteresting-- is boxing.  What a bore!  It certainly doesn't make me think more highly of the hero to learn that he's a boxer.  It's just... essentially unappealing.  In fact, I have to sympathize with Eugenia's opinion that boxing is "a peculiarly low form of [sport]." 

--  When Sophy pulls out a pistol... Ha!  As if it wasn't bad enough, her bringing a monkey as a gift for the children!  She's also a gunslinger!  This book doesn't have the  most realistic tone, is what I'm saying.  ;o)

--  Sophy must cast some sort of spell over Charles, to induce him to fire the pistol inside his home (just to prove his markmanship).  Of course, Sophy fires the pistol inside, too, later in the book... I guess it's less of a worry to do so if you are fabulously wealthy and have servants to take care of whatever mess you might make.  (As long as you aren't worried about ricocheting or the bullet going through a wall and hitting some innocent person.)

--  I find it interesting that some of the characters judge others so harshly for not wanting to risk catching whatever illness it is that afflicts Amabel.  I mean, yes, someone needs to care for her-- but why should strangers/acquaintances feel obliged to come into a known sickhouse, when they can't do any real good?  And why is it automatically a sign of cowardice for Eugenia's mother to not want Charles to potentially bring the germs into her own home, on a visit?  Seems like common sense to limit exposure.  No offense, Charles, but no, I don't want to catch your sister's terrible fever, if I can help it.

--  It seems that some people don't like it when-- or at least don't understand why-- some readers compare Heyer's Regency novels to the works of Jane Austen.  I'm of the group that feels it is impossible not to think of Austen when reading a Heyer Regency novel.  This work in particular feels like a riff on Pride and Prejudice.  There were so many times when something in The Grand Sophy recalled a character, conversation, or event in P and P.  Obviously it's a very different book-- and the two authors wrote in very different ways and for different purposes-- but that doesn't mean it's unreasonable to compare the two or find one reminiscent of the other.

-- "divagation" = a departure from the subject under consideration.

--  I was surprised to learn that Mathilda had not "the least notion of cookery", considering that she's the only female at Sophy's family home and must be responsible for feeding not only herself, but also her husband (the caretaker) and probably the man who keeps the stables.  How could she not know how to cook?!  However, later on it seems that she does indeed cook, but just not up to the standards expected by Sophy and the rest of her class.  How wonderfully snobbish!  They can't settle for just one simple meal fit for mere country-folk?  And yet we're expected to believe that the indolent, wealthy Sancia is familiar with cooking chicken and eggs?  I'm skeptical. (Or did I forget something that would explain this?  Maybe Sancia was not always well-to-do...)

--  The romantic conclusion felt more comedic than steamy, dreamy, sweet or any other word more typically descriptive of romance.  It was inevitable that those two should wind up together-- and I was cheering it along all the way through-- yet somehow, the actual coming together was merely so-so.

--  It seems that one mustn't read Heyer for romance, because it's generally spread so thin as to be a mere condiment instead of a real dish.  Her novels make for a tasty meal, but (based on what I've read so far) the principal flavor is humor-- not romance.