Friday, 9 December 2016

Review: The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer

Title: The Grand Sophy
Author: Georgette Heyer
Publisher:  Arrow
Pages: 336
Genres: Regency Romance

When the redoubtable Sir Horace Stanton-Lacy is ordered to South America on Diplomatic Business he parks his only daughter Sophy with his sister's family, the Ombersleys, in Berkeley Square.

Upon her arrival, Sophy is bemused to see her cousins are in a sad tangle. The heartless and tyrannical Charles is betrothed to a pedantic bluestocking almost as tiresome as himself; Cecilia is besotted with a beautiful but quite feather-brained poet; and Hubert has fallen foul of a money-lender.

It looks like the Grand Sophy has arrived just in time to sort them out, but she hasn't reckoned with Charles, the Ombersleys' heir, who has only one thought - to marry her off and rid the family of her meddlesome ways.
This was my first Georgette Heyer novel and it was as entertaining and delightful as expected. Focusing on the often ridiculous situations the upper classes get into, what results is a story full of biting wit that would rival a Jane Austen novel.

The main character of this book is Sophy, a niece of Mrs. Ombersley's brother who comes to stay at Ombersley house while her father is abroad. Sophy is a force to be reckoned with though, as her strong personality compels her to meddle in her cousins' affairs and display some shocking behaviour that is frowned upon in the English upper class society of the time. I really liked Sophy, she was no nonsense, funny and spoke her mind. Her arguments with her cousin, Charles were some of the funniest especially when it was about comparing his betrothed's face to a horse. I cannot deny that Georgette Heyer is writing primarily to entertain as I was thoroughly entertained throughout. However....

Then came the scene that featured a Jewish moneylender. A man who was so thoroughly caricatured as the nastiest anti-semitic stereotype that I have ever read in a book. The descriptions of this man was so over the top that he seemed more like an evil fantastical creature rather than a human being. I am not sure whether anti-semitism was that severe in the early 19th century but I feel like that scene perfectly demonstrates Georgette's own feelings towards Jews at time of writing which was around 1950. It left me feeling quite uneasy as a modern reader being confronted with such a blatantly nasty side of the author.

It is because of that highly problematic scene that I feel I can't rate this book higher but, I did find the ending a little disappointing too as Sophy seems to undergo a confusing personality change and becomes meek and submissive. Nonetheless, I think The Grand Sophy is a great story but I would skip if you find reading anti-semitism greatly upsets you.

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