Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Review: THE PRIVATE WORLD OF GEORGETTE HEYER by Jane Aiken Hodge
Everyone who knows Regency romance knows Georgette Heyer. The bare bones of her life are there for all to see, but not much more. She disliked the cult of author as celebrity and rarely gave interviews. Jane Aiken Hodge's biography, The Private World of Georgette Heyer, sheds light about the life of someone so well known and at the same time so well hidden.
A compulsive writer, Ms. Heyer (pronounced "hare") published her first novel in 1921 when she was nineteen. Then, for the rest of her life, with a few exceptions, she wrote one and sometimes two novels a year. She wrote mainly historical romances, but also historical fiction, thrillers, contemporary novels and one collection of short stories, fifty-seven works in all. A monumental output for any author.
She was born on August 16, 1902. Her father encouraged his children to read, and she was a voracious reader as she grew up. She was tall, good looking, intelligent, and never hid her light under a bushel. And on top of it, she was a successful novelist, which scared away many men. But not Ronald Rougier, whom she married in 1925, and they remained married for almost fifty years, until her death in 1974. They had one child, Richard, who became a barrister like his father.
Ms. Hodge uses common knowledge, as well as Ms. Heyer's letters and interviews with people who knew her, to paint a picture of a woman of contradictions. She loved to write, but in her early career, she had to write. She was the main breadwinner for her mother and brothers after her father's death, and also in the first years of her marriage. Later, as her success increased, she raged on and on about how she paid too much in income taxes, but she couldn't be bothered to track deductible expenses that would have reduced her burden. She wrote stories read mainly by women, yet she was not domestic. She spent most of her life around men and preferred their company. She lived in the public eye, but since her novels sold so well, she deemed interviews unnecessary and actively discouraged them.
As rabid as she was about maintaining her privacy, she was also rabid about historical accuracy. Her books are treasure troves of historical detail, both the thrillers, which were contemporary in the 1930's when she wrote them, as well as the novels set in the Regency, Georgian and earlier eras. Ms. Hodge gives a fascinating view of the context in which Ms. Heyer's novels were written, and a chronological list of all her books.
Love Georgette Heyer's novels or hate them, she, along with Jane Austen, remains one of the icons of regency romance. If you want to know more about this fascinating woman, The Private World of Georgette Heyer is the book for you.
Thank you all,
ARC supplied by Sourcebooks