Friday, May 14, 2010

A review in which I become opinionated

The Grand Sophy The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is generally listed as one of the best Georgette Heyer books and it is fantastic, if you love regency romance. I gave it four stars because of a couple of specific issues which I will mention below beneath the SPOILER stars.

Her stories and language bring an era to life which, according to my history books, existed very briefly before The War. The Grand Manor period, which seems to be nostalgically longed for by everyone but me.

I mean, ick. Snobbery and too much obsession with gossip and parties. The overwhelming infantilization of women. puke.

Once I had suspended my distaste for the reality, though, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. She is called the Queen of Regency Romance for good reason. Her characters are clever, sweet and destined for each other. The most sex you will find is a fierce kiss at the end, and I was surprised to discover that that was all I wanted. It is a good escape book and I flew through it in one afternoon when I was sick. Except for a couple of issues, I'd heartily recommend it. Those issues are spoilers, though, so beware and don't read below the stars...








1.) Terrifyingly anti-Semitic! I mean, horrible! Dear God, is it even legal to publish this stuff in the United States?

There are several occasions when an underage man who has been running about gambling (which was apparently OKAY back then) admits having touched bottom to the point of 'going to the Jews'. When we finally meet one of these, he is described as follows:

"...the door was slowly opened to reveal thin, swarthy individual, with long greasy curls, a semitic nose, and an ingratiating leer. He was dressed in a suit of rusty black, and nothing about him suggested sufficient affluence to lend as much as five hundred pence to anyone."

Revolting. You may say that this reflects the opinions of an era. Maybe you are right, in which case THANK GOD that era is dead.

2.) FIRST COUSINS MARRYING????? Huge gigantic squick. If I'd had any idea I would have never read the book. Blech blech, I'm still rinsing my brain out. Was this common back then? It was probably the obvious romantic connection, but I didn't see it because it is, to me, completely unacceptable. NO WONDER the era is over with. Inbreeding and prejudice and making women weak to the point that they can't care for their own sick children?

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  1. I could safely read the spoilers, since I have no interest in reading m/f historicals... and I especially have no interest in reading this one. The first of your two points would piss me off and the second would squick me out, too.

  2. I almost didn't finish the book when the first 'the Jews' comment flew by. And when I got to the end and the first cousin thing was revealed I was shocked.

    AS romance goes, she's a very good writer. I'd say, much more shallow than the Brontes or Jane Austin, of course, but a nice light version of that gothic romance tradition.

    But this book was written and published in the fifties? I think. AFTER the second world war. You'd think the reading public would have some sensitivity to anti-Semitic language, even in fantasy, wouldn't you?

  3. I think it took a LONG time for that sensitivity to develop. Looks like antisemitism was even a political movement in the 1950s - there were still quotas limiting Jewish immigration.

  4. God, I had no idea. ::is depressed:: Sometimes I despair of the human race.

    I need to read something that makes me feel like there is hope.

  5. Um. *mind goes blank*

    How about a cheery song? (He sings "poop" instead of the "shit" that one would expect in lyrics as an homage to his grandmother, for whom "poop!" was an extreme curse word.)

  6. hee hee. Thank you. That did help quite a bit.