Monday, March 1, 2010

Book Review: Frederica by Georgette Heyer

I'd like to welcome Georgette Heyer to my blog as part of the Classics Circuit tour.  For other stops on the tour, visit the Classics Cirtuit blog(Listless Monday will be back next week.)


Frederica is not your typical woman in Regency England.  When her father dies and she is left basically in charge of her three younger siblings, Frederica is determined to launch her beautiful younger sister Charis into London society, with no thought for her own place in society.  In order to accomplish this, she turns to her distant cousin-by-marriage Lord Alverstoke who, in general is not disposed to do favors for his family.  After consenting to hold a party for Charis (much to the surprise of everyone), he gets a lot more than he bargained for when he finds himself helping (for no apparent reason!) Frederica and her siblings out of multiple interesting scrapes.  


Things I Liked:
This was my first Heyer book and I found the story to be so much fun!  I became a huge fan of Frederica, Lord Alverstoke, and particularly Jessamy and Felix.  The witty dialog and humorous situations are plentiful throughout and so much fun, you can't help but laugh.  I liked how the main characters are fully formed and very much imperfect.  Particularly Alverstoke, who tends to be a jerk, but is just as surprised as everyone else when he isn't.  Overall, a fun lovely romp.

Things I Didn't Like:
Heyer's writing can be very much a turn-off I think.  While she does a masterful job at the details and language of the period, I think she sometimes is over the top.  I can read Jane Austen's novels and understand entirely what is happening or what they are saying, even if the language is more formal and archaic than ours.  But, with Heyer, there are so many (historically accurate, I'm sure) slang words and odd phrases used that it becomes almost obscure what she is meaning.  Such as this sentence: "It was nothing - just fun and gig!  But the Bag-wig was feeling out of curl, and he chose to cut up stiff" (p.233).  I could usually work out the gist of what they were saying, but I wonder if people actually used that much slang or that many words we wouldn't at least recognize today.  (A sample of some of the interesting names they called each other: pea-goose, wet-goose, mawworm, chawbacon, bacon-picker, shag-rag, greenhead - what is it with geese and bacon?)  Heyer is definitely not for someone who is just entering the world of historical fiction.  But, I have to admit the story and humor made up for the frustrations I felt with the language.

Frederica and Charis reminded me of Elizabeth and Jane from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (though Jane had a lot more sense than Charis)

s-factor: !
every now and then, but nothing strong

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: none

Overall rating: ****

What do you think of Heyer?  Love her, hate her, or somewhere in between?
If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage


  1. sorry I missed talking to you at the social! I realized how I don't know what some of my favorite bloggers look like. We need larger nametags next time, on big hats or something.

    Next time, right?

  2. Frederica was my first Heyer (only last year!) and I loved it too. So much fun! I agree about the language, although I think it helped a lot that I listened to it as a book on tape. Somehow hearing it aloud made some of the period lingo flow better and perhaps even more understandable with a good reader.

    Frederica has definitely made me a Heyer fan! I'm glad you enjoyed it too!

  3. Brodi, big hats sound perfect! I recognized you, just didn't have the guts to come say hi. Go figure.

    Deva, listening to it probably does help the flow a lot! I think I'll read more Heyer, but I definitely need a break from her :)

  4. I have read only a few Heyer books and this one is on my TBR. I just finished The Convenient Marriage today and it was good.

  5. Glad to see you liked this one - I think I'll be reading my first Heyer novel soon!

  6. I am read Heyer before next week for my own tour post and I admit I'm not crazy about it. In the first 25 pages, I can see what you're saying about the writing. But I'm glad to here that the plot made up for it, and I'm hopeful I enjoy it more as I go along!

  7. I know her writing can be a little difficult and odd, but once you get used to it (in a couple of books), you'll start thinking in just the same way they talk :-) I hope you continue with Heyer!

  8. Brittanie, glad to hear you enjoyed more Heyer - I think I'd like more in the future.

    Amused, I'll be interested to see what you think of Heyer.

    Rebecca, I hope your book turns out ok - characters and plot helped me get over the language.

    Aarti, I'd like to continue. I think I will starting using more geese and bacon in my language if I read more of her :)

  9. I think everyone should use more geese and bacon when speaking! That's so odd -- but I read that Heyer was incredibly diligent about the accuracy of her books, so it's probably authentic. But still hilarious and weird. I'm trying to imagine Elizabeth Bennet saying one or the other. . . maybe it's more soldier slang? I guess I'll have to read it and find out.

  10. Karen, it sounds historically accurate, but a bit ridiculous. It wasn't just soldiers, though it did consist mostly of young men.

  11. +JMJ+

    I must say that I really like your Book Content Ratings! =)

  12. Enbrethiliel (cool name :), thank you! I'm glad you like them.

  13. Both my man and I love Georgette Heyer and I think it quite telling that so many guys out there do (although not all will admit to it. I think it is her humor that makes the books, although her historical accuracy is awesome. Our favorites are (in no particular order but starting with the more adventurous ones):

    The Masqueraders
    These Old Shades
    The Talisman Ring
    The Grand Sophy
    Friday's Child

  14. Andie, good for your man for admitting his Heyer love :) I think maybe I'll try an adventurous one next time. Thanks for the suggestions!

  15. I'm reading a Heyer for the Classics Circuit also, and although it takes place in a different time period, there's a lot of period slang in this book too. I haven't warmed up to it just yet...

  16. Valerie, it took me a while to get used to it as well. Hope you like yours!

  17. melissa@1br

    The first 3 on my list are the more adventurous, the second 3 are more just social comedy--but all very funny. I've never minded the cant/slang; it is mostly the young men in the stories who use it and I suppose it's like kids these days saying that things are "the bomb", "gay" etc. One difference between Heyer and Austen perhaps, since I understand that Austen only ever drew on conversational modes she "knew", which is why there is never a conversation in the book between men with no females present, whereas Heyer researched the period very thoroughly. I love both, but Heyer is entertainment, Austen writing to a deeper level (imo).

  18. Andie, that's an excellent assessment of the differences between Austen and Heyer (though, really I'm not a scholar)! Good points.

  19. This is my fav Heyer book, but I totally agree with Heyer's overuse of slang at times. I like that you quoted some in your review!

  20. naida, it was such a good rollicking fun book, I almost overlooked all the slang. Almost. :)


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