Monday, December 16, 2013

Rusticating in Georgette Heyer's world

The Nonesuch Georgette Heyer
The Nonesuch holds a special place in my heart because it was the first Georgette Heyer novel I ever read and it really got me so excited about the author and kicked off my obsession with Regency England.

At this time of year, I often turn to Georgette Heyer, though I usually go to one of her mystery novels as I have not finished all of those.  (Though I have not finished all her historical novels, either.)  This time, though, I wanted light and frothy fun so I returned to The Nonesuch.

After having read this book again, I can see that it takes some inspiration from Pride & Prejudice.  A very wealthy and attractive man inherits property in a small town and comes to see what can be done with it.  The town obviously goes crazy.  Sir Waldo Hawkridge, other than having one of the most memorable names ever, is extremely eligible but has never been interested in marriage before.  Miss Ancilla Trent is a governess-companion to a beautiful, spoiled brat of a 17-year-old, and while she is very attracted to Sir Waldo, she hates the sporting set that he leads and represents.  But, of course, the two meet and hit it off and chaos ensues, as it so often does in books like this.

The main reason that The Nonesuch appealed to me as a teenager was Sir Waldo.  He was not only tall, dark, handsome and confident, but he also was just a really nice person.  He was exactly the sort of person you could trust in a crisis, and I loved that.  I think I also LOVED all the slang that Heyer used in this novel (though this time, I was a bit overwhelmed by it).

The main reason The Nonesuch was quickly replaced by other Heyer novels on my favorites list is Ancilla Trent.  The whole conceit of the "misunderstanding" between her and Sir Waldo is completely ridiculous, in my opinion, and really lowered the quality of the book for me.  Also, Ancilla must tell Sir Waldo, a gazillionaire, how very well-paid she is at least four times over the course of the novel.  That is like me telling Bill Gates that I have tons more money than is conscionable.  It got so annoying!

But in my reading this time, I had some sympathy for Ancilla.  She is a governess in a small town that is rife with gossip.  She has no woman around her that she can really trust or go to for advice.  And her experience of the world is far more limited than that of her suitor, so she has a lot of angst trying to understand if Waldo is serious about her or just using her for a light flirtation to pass the time while he rusticates.  It was easy to see how she could get overwhelmed and frightened, and I couldn't help but pity her.  It really hit home how isolated she was, and how vulnerable she would be if Sir Waldo was just playing with her.  That is something that I think I must have missed on prior readings of this novel, and it really does have a very important effect on the characters and their interactions.

And of course, a Heyer novel would not be complete without a full cast of side characters!  With the exception of one horribly spoiled and selfish person, these were a delight and so much fun.  I really enjoyed this reread!  I wish the library had more Heyer titles on audiobook because I think that would be a new, fun way to experience the books.  Perhaps that is what will finally motivate me to get an audible account :)


  1. The Big Misunderstanding in this book is the main reason it isn't one of my favorites - I can't believe that Ancilla could believe that about Sir Waldo (oh that name!) If you haven't read Envious Casca yet, that's a mystery with a Christmas setting.

  2. When I read this Heyer I immediately wrote down 'Waldo' as the name of a potential next pet. It's such a magnificent name.

  3. Just might have to put Ms Heyer on my must-get-to list for 2014.


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