Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Guide Along an Already Well Marked Path

Wow, it's been a while! But I think with good reason :) What with getting married, sheva brachos, moving... on the other hand, I did rather lengthen my commute, which is how I actually finished my latest - Georgette Heyer's Regency World.  This was a book  I decided against buying at the Border's sale, but one which Gital (my new cousin :) who has as high an opinion of GH as I could wish for :)) recommended, and one which I felt ready for after reading Mag's Jane Austen Handbook.  The latter, if you recall, I found slightly juvenile and not at all in depth enough for one of my vast historical knowledge :) This one was longer, came recommended (probably by Austenprose as well, though I can't remember at this moment) and is GH Regency focused rather than early 1800's upper middle/lower upper class.   So there was definitely hope for improvement.

(Parenthetical note before I continue, I started this in September, before Rosh Hashana so I did not go a whole month without reading a book - just got a little hurried what with Yom Tov at home and whatnot :) and did not finish this review)

The book is definitely composed of more interesting subject matter than the Handbook - not suprisingly, as GH's world is considerably more upper class than JA's.  And there is a lot more detail, both in breadth (chapters about pretty much every interesting aspect of Regency life I can think of) and in minutiae.  But overall, I found myself feeling underwhelmed - there just wasn't anything new there.  While the Handbook was aimed at a rather less knowledgable reader than myself, Regency World is meant for the ardent Heyer fan.  This being the case, one may well question why almost every detail in the book seems to be lifted from Heyer's pages.  Yes, it's mildly amusing when she cites examples from the Heyer canon - reminds me of old friends - but I, too, am intimately familiar with many, if not all, of the works she cites.  So if it's Heyer, it's not new.  And not only that, but there were times when I felt she was *using* Heyer as her source - like saying it was not uncommon for young men to pick fights with the Champion (Tom Cribb I think) - I mean, really, how not uncommon was it? And how exactly do you know this? Because I know this from (I'm pretty sure) Regency Buck.  And even if she did go back to Heyer's sources (and we know she had them :)), if she didn't do anything more, what's the point?

Besides the lack of new and interesting information, the book also lacked a compelling narrative.  Okay, not exactly surprising - it's basically an encyclopedia, or at least a guidebook.  Maybe I'm not supposed to read it cover to cover :) Well sorry then - but it definitely took me longer to get through than a book of this length normally would.  On the other hand, I did go through the end chapters a little faster.  Why? maybe they had more new information, or were better organized - this could be, as those were the chapters on clothing, carriages, and all that good stuff :) But I think it really came more down to time/mood.  Before the wedding, I was reading a few pages at a time, mostly unimpressed by the few facts and tidbits that were new to me.  Then I put the book down for a little over a week, and picked it back up on my new commute.  And, literally immediately, I found the book easier reading.  More new facts? definitely some, but I'd say more ability to concentrate was the deciding factor there :)  In any case, I got through it.  Do I know more about Regency England than I did a month ago? I know that a curricle has two wheels (for some reason, always thought it had four) and that kerseymore is an unusually textured wool.  I'm sure there are lots of other tidbits that have made their way from the pages to my head, but I guess what I got more than anything else out of this book is the Georgette Heyer is the MAN.  If after all her research (let's give her the benefit of the doubt :)), this is all Jennifer Kloester could find out about Regency life, our GH *knew her stuff*.

Verdict: 2.5/5


  1. sorry but that book deserved like a 1/5. it was completely boring and the only info contained in it was right from GH.

  2. I didn't give it so high, you know what kind of stuff gets a 1/5 on this blog? We're talking about books that have me tearing my hair out :) This one was just a little hard to get through, and yes, pretty pointless.

  3. rochel! can't believe ur back! so much fun to have another way to waste time again ;-)