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The Private World of Georgette Heyer (1984)

de Jane Aiken Hodge

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3421356,440 (4.05)45
An internationally bestselling phenomenon and queen of the Regency romance, Georgette Heyer is one of the most beloved historical novelists of our time. She wrote more than fifty novels, yet her private life was inaccessible to many but her nearest friends and relatives. With access to private papers, correspondence and family archives, this classic biography opens a window into Georgette Heyer's world and that of her most memorable characters, revealing a formidable, energetic woman with an impeccable sense of style and, beyond everything, a love for all things Regency.… (més)
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This readable biography was a pleasant surprise. Hodge created an accurate and sympathetic view of the historical fiction written over the decades by Georgette Heyer. The prose never descended into maudlin praise or esoteric speculation about the very private person that was ‘Miss Heyer’. Remarks and quotes throughout about the development of most of her novels added an excellent insight into Heyer’s way of writing. At one point, Hodge details very succinctly that people who sneer at Heyer's work clearly haven't read any. I loved her passages on this topic because it shows how thoroughly the inner workings of Heyer's writing was analyzed.

It was especially astonishing to read about her difficulties with the British income tax assessments. One now can understand why many citizens became British ex-pats in order to survive. It was also very refreshing to have Heyer’s work revealed as highly capable and well-researched narratives that men apparently read as well as women. It was increasingly evident as Heyer’s research came to light that she was a notable expert in military strategy of the Napoleanic and Peninsular war histories. Highly recommended biography. ( )
  SandyAMcPherson | Feb 28, 2019 |
Georgette Heyer was a wonderful writer, but she was also an intensely private person, who loathed publicity and refused over and over to be interviewed. That makes it tough to write a biography. Ms. Hodge, however, is up to the challenge, providing a detailed history of Heyer's life and a convincing portrait of her character. I especially enjoyed the degree to which Ms. Hodge brought Heyer's books into the story, setting each one in the context of Heyer's life when it was written, her relationships with her publishers, and her overall body of work. Heyer comes across as a less forbidding personage than she does in Jennifer Kloester's biography. For that reason I prefer Ms. Hodge's book, but both of them are excellent and carefully researched biographies. ( )
  annbury | Jul 10, 2017 |
An in-depth look at the life of Georgette Heyer, writer of a prodigious number of historical romances. Heyer was a well-read, stylish, very private woman who enjoyed a small but close circle of friends and family and researched her books meticulously. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
Interesting insights into the life of novelist Georgette Heyer, who wrote some of my favourite historical fiction, mostly based in Regency times. She was a private person who evidently had a great sense of humour; Jane Aiken Hodge - a historical novelist herself - has written this book with great sensitivity, giving a clear picture of this fascinating woman. Recommended to anyone who would like to know more about Heyer and some of the background to her novels. ( )
  SueinCyprus | Jan 26, 2016 |
Jane Aiken Hodge’s 1984 biography of Georgette Heyer, reissued this month by Sourcebooks, was until very recently the only one available. Published ten years after Heyer’s death, it describes her life primarily from her letters to her publisher. An intensely private person, Heyer eschewed publicity, never giving an interview, and not keeping her papers. Thus a biographer has relatively little material available. Hodge interviewed Heyer’s editors, surviving family members, and a very few friends (all of whom loved or respected her), and then wove a narrative around the books themselves, using them to illustrate her life, and vice versa.

A lot of the criticism of this biography has focused on either errors Hodge made about the novels themselves, or some kind of personal disappointment the reader feels from finding Heyer “unlikeable.” I personally find whatever errors Hodge made to be minor and forgivable, and find Heyer herself to be witty, strong-willed, and very likeable. Her personality comes forth in her letters, and makes me want to read more of them. Coupled with her friends’ descriptions of her immense style and charm, they make me wish I could have known her.

Her private nature prevented her from discussing her books with her friends. She would talk about everything else in the world with them, but when the conversation came around to her work, she would remain silent on it, leaving any discussion to her husband, or changing the subject. It is hard to tell from this remove (of both time and culture), but it seems to me that this was, at its core, a very large dose of British reticence and self-deprecation. The idea of self-promotion was simply repugnant to her, and since her first novel, written as a serial to amuse a sick brother when she was 17 and published before she was twenty, had sold well, and a later novel had come out during a general strike with no publicity and yet sold 190,000 copies, she was convinced that she had no need to promote her work. She referred requesters of interviews back to her work. Hodge reports that she would say: You will find me in my work.

So this biography focuses on her work, and how it informs us about the author. And in that regard, it is particularly interesting to writers. There is advice to new authors (she sometimes read other people’s manuscripts for her publisher) and there is the long incubation and development and experimentation of her own style and settings before she settled into the Regency period. It took her twenty years, and twenty-four novels, before she did so. For many years she wrote a historical novel and a thriller every year. It was an intense pace. And her meticulous research is always highlighted.

I was surprised by the size of the Sourcebooks edition, which was smaller and thinner than I had expected. The comparative sizes of this trade-paperback-sized edition and the original hardcover edition is deceptive, however. The new edition runs to 242 pages while the original is only 216. The new edition has a new sentence at the end of the Acknowledgements stating that some new material has been incorporated into the text. While I did not make a word-for-word comparison of the two editions, I did not find any additions or corrections. The most significant difference between the editions appears to be the lack of color illustrations in the new one, and the omission of as many as half of the illustrations that were in the original. The hardcover edition is one of the best-illustrated books about the Regency anywhere, full of large color and black and white plates of photographs, portraits, caricatures, fashion plates, and paintings, something on nearly every page. Many, perhaps most, of these are missing in the new edition, and of course the smaller format and plain paper reduces the beauty, and even the utility, of many of those that remain. It is still well-illustrated, just no longer exceptionally so. This is the only thing that restrains what would otherwise be an enthusiastic recommendation of this book to all Heyer and Regency fans. Even so, it is still well worth reading for anyone who enjoys Heyer or who is interested in the development of a successful author’s career.

Note: I wrote this review for Austenprose, where it was published 14 August 2011. ( )
  laura1814 | Oct 4, 2012 |
Es mostren 1-5 de 13 (següent | mostra-les totes)
Georgette Heyer is remembered chiefly as a writer of detective stories and popular historical novels, notably for her Regency romances. These, with titles such as The convenient marriage, Regency buck, and The Spanish bride, pretty, pouting heroines and dashing rakes of heroes, are perhaps not regarded very seriously as examples of their genre; so it may come as a surprise to learn from Jane Aiken Hodge's biography that Heyer's historical research and recording were scrupulous. When Heyer planned a historical biography of John, Duke of Bedford, 'She began to collect information ... for the years of John's life, 1389 to 1435. Three card indexes cover this period, itemized by year, month and day', as well as 'a card index of biographies, running from the dukes of Alencon to Richard, Duke of York', and files 'thick with information of every kind'. Clearly, the instincts of an indexer lay within the writer of romances. We may recognize too her glee in discovering errors when proof-reading: 'I had given the same name to Mrs Underhill's housekeeper and Sir Waldo's valet ... I went through the proofs of Carola Oman's new book and don't seem to have missed a thing'. Indeed, for her friend Carola Oman, a more serious historical writer, Georgette Heyer compiled a back-of-the-book index: to Oman's Britain against Napoleon.
 

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Jane Aiken Hodgeautor primaritotes les edicionscalculat
Nash, PhyllidaNarradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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To Georgette Heyer
alias Mrs Ronald Rougier
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Georgette Heyer was born on 16 August 1902, in the prosperous London suburb of Wimbledon.
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She was beginning to collect her reference library and to accumulate research material ... Illustrations from magazine articles were lovingly clipped and filed ... Useful material from books was carefully traced or copied ... meticulous files of notes ... growing fast. She could turn to her indexed vocabulary books and find `rumbo' for Newgate when she wanted to introduce thieves' cant ... notes meticulously cross-referred.
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An internationally bestselling phenomenon and queen of the Regency romance, Georgette Heyer is one of the most beloved historical novelists of our time. She wrote more than fifty novels, yet her private life was inaccessible to many but her nearest friends and relatives. With access to private papers, correspondence and family archives, this classic biography opens a window into Georgette Heyer's world and that of her most memorable characters, revealing a formidable, energetic woman with an impeccable sense of style and, beyond everything, a love for all things Regency.

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