Wednesday, February 02, 2011

January reading report: just one book, and endings

The only book I'm reporting on that I read in January is The Grand Sophy, by Georgette Heyer.  (Not because it's the only one I read, but because I haven't finished any of the other ones yet.)  Georgette Heyer is the grande-dame of romantic fiction.  Her books were published in the 40s and 50s, and I've heard about her for years, but I'd never read one.  She's old school-- no explicit sex here.  But she has a reputation for writing funny dialogue and engaging characters.

So I picked this one up somewhere, and loved it.  Slight qualification:  I ended up loving it.  About halfway through, I was ready to throw it out the window, because the heroine grated on me.  There is a type of heroine who is utterly determined to do what she wants no matter what impact it has one anyone around her.  "Headstrong," they used to call it.  Opinionated, bossy, self-confident, even narcissistic at times.  But also interesting, intelligent, and large-hearted.  I thought it was a recent development, because there are a number of examples from books that have been published in the last five years, and I chalked it up to all those young women who were raised in the 70s and 80s in the height of the second wave of feminism and who are now adults.  But Sophy is exactly that kind of heroine, and this novel was published in 1950.  So I was wrong.  But it just seems so silly to me, and selfish, to think that you should be able to do whatever you want without considering the people around you.

Granted, I was raised the other way, by a sweet mom who was well coached in the art of effacing herself and who was only too happy to pass her knowledge on to me.  It's something I'm working on, and I'm getting pretty damn good at figuring out what I want to do and making sure my needs get met.  But it's silly and selfish to think that has no impact on the people around me.  It's a balancing act-- my needs and my loved ones' needs, and sometimes it's difficult to figure out.  And sometimes it's easy.

Am I rambling? So.  When Sophy insists on her right to do whatever the heck she wants to do regardless of the effect on the people around her, it just seems immature and pig-headed to me.  Not to mention historically inaccurate, because at that time (I have no idea what the actual time period of the novel is, but it seems to be a Regency romance, so let's say early nineteenth century) some of the things that Sophy does would have had profound social repercussions for herself and her family.  She was really irritating that way.  But there are two things that redeem The Grand Sophy:  one is that Sophy is often right, and the one time that she is egregiously not right, she does apologize.  And two: this book has a nearly perfect ending.  And that is so rare. For that alone I would give it both thumbs and all my fingers and toes way up.  I can't tell you how many books I've read that fascinated me, only to be spoiled by a rotten ending.  (Smilla's Sense of Snow, anyone?)  It must be enormously difficult to write a really satisfying ending.

but this one has it.  Sophy sets up the most ridiculous and meddlesome of all her schemes (fittingly enough, since it's the climax), and Charles, the hero, completely gets it.  He understands exactly what she's doing and why.  The way it's set up is pretty subtle, but enormously satisfying.  Highly recommended.


  1. Oooh, crappy endings can ruin an entire book! Good review, and again, I love how insightful you are with things like this.

  2. I need to go back and read *all* of you. You have such lovely ideas - and it almost scares me a little bit that I think I might see some of myself in your musings. Hope you don't mind a new "stalker" :)

  3. Hi, stormy-- of course I don't mind a new stalker at all. welcome to beanland.