Arabella: Georgette Heyer Book Club no. 16

(106 Posts)

What a glorious romp this is.

From the beginning we are told again and again how deliriously beautiful Arabella is, although in the end of course it is her character and vivacity Beaumaris falls for. We get the classic "oh I thought you'd be bored" when she's forgotten to pretend to be jaded (do any of GH's heroines remember?!) but Arabella's USP is her Heythrom heritage and good deeds - which remind me of Patience in the Nonesuch, FWIW.

I love the descriptions of family life - Heyer really throws herself into this. 11yo Harry "who had abandoned knot making in favour of trying to stand on his head, overbalanced at this moment, and fell into a heap on the floor, together with a chair, Sophia's workbox, and a handscreen, which Margaret had been painting. Beyond begging him not to be such an ape, none of his sisters censured his conduct." - and when Bertram decides to fight Harry: " 'Not in here!' shrieked his sisters with one accustomed voice."

It's just so true to life!

I have trouble reading the last quarter or so of Arabella because I find Bertram's predicament and extrication very uncomfortable. I know it's realistic, and the real-life stories of men's bankrupting their families at the gaming tables are many and horrific, so I can't bear to read it. He's eighteen and so cocksure and it's just excruciating.

Mrs Tallant is fabulous too. Although she is in the same position as eg Mrs Bennet in P&P, she is sharp and tactful and worldly. She taps up her rich brother-in-law shamelessly but sneakily, and carefully hides from the Vicar anything that would make her life complicated or which would upset or discompose him. I love the descriptions of how they are going to deceive him because his good nature and forgiveness depresses them so much ::takes notes for future reference::.

I wonder how realistic Beaumaris' descriptions are of how he is beset by fortune hunters. Of course there were more hopeful mamas and daughters than rich men (and more hopeful "financially embarrassed" men than rich women) but did GH make up the twisted ankles etc or did she find them described somewhere and shoehorn them in?

I learned about tight yellow breeches recently, which became very telling in this book. Bertram is very careful of his at the beginning; Beaumaris is far more careless of his later on and casually remarks that they are knitted. Tight yellow breeches were absolutely de rigueur but notoriously difficult or even impossible to wash. Knitwear was a brand new innovation. Once your yellow pants were grubby, or baggy, you had to throw them out, so they were a definite show of wealth.

Beaumaris shows well in the book but we see glimpses that he can be an utter arsehole. The champagne/lemonade trick is shown by Miss Blackburn and Lord Fleetwood's responses to be underhand and unkind, and when Bertram comes to play too deep Beaumaris considers utterly destroying Bertram's reputation and standing by refusing to play with him. And he could have insisted on the redemption of the vowels (assuming the other player had been over 21) which would have utterly ruined that other player but just paid for a few more pairs of yellow buckskins.

The amounts of money are quite interesting. A hundred pounds is so much to Bertram that he expects a couple of weeks in London on it, even with a few new items of clothing; fifty pounds is Arabella's entire spending money for the season, and she still has ten guineas to give to Bertram; but Bertram loses six hundred guineas in a few hours' play... Insanity.

LeonieDeSainteVire Wed 30-Jan-13 20:44:46

Casey can you get it from the library? It's not one of the better ones IMO.

Yes, The Vicarage Family is the one I meant by Streatfeild's autobiography, I know she changes their names (I have a feeling she used their real middle names) but I think it is an autobiography nonetheless. And the later one 'Away from the Vicarage'. I think she would have been a fascinating person to meet It's interesting that there is often an undertone or background of adult mental health issues in her books and yet they manage not to be bleak.

I've not read Eva Ibbotson but shall add her to my lists. Daphne du Maurier is anther early 20th century writer I devoured when I was younger.

Will someone please start a Sophy discussion? I have read it but can't get on the pc and can't write essays on smartphone grin

thewhistler Fri 01-Feb-13 19:15:10

Done it but can't link as on phone and its short and full of typos.

Over to you, Horatia. And everyone else

Thank you!

thewhistler Fri 01-Feb-13 19:52:22

Ps. Fawn hope is brilliant, forlorn hope, fawns, etc. The Dishonorable Alfred is pretty good too, though I always wonder when Alfred came into usage.

Synpathises in the final sentence. Bleep phone. Bleep eyesight.

CaseyShraeger Sat 02-Feb-13 14:06:37

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