A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament. ~Oscar Wilde

Posts tagged ‘heyer’

“Who am I?” said Mr Dash to the Duke

The FoundlingTo Kill a Mockingbird

Looking For Alibrandi

Great Expectations

The Harry Potter series.

Little Women

The Book Thief

The Diary of a Young Girl

Jane Eyre

The Secret Garden

And….. The Foundling by Georgette Heyer. What do all these books have in common?

Georgette heyerThe untitled Queen and the creator of the Regency Romance genre has a very special place in my heart. However nonsensical her plots, her dexterous story telling always keeps me gripped. There is never a dull moment… well, maybe there is, on some rare occasions, but much can be forgiven the author who can create side characters like Felix Merriville ( Frederica) and main characters like Freddy Standen (Cotillion). In fact, one  never has to read her in a forgiving spirit, because one is laughing so much and exclaiming so much at some of her more extravagant pen sketches. Heyer is known for her style, and most importantly, for her impeccable research. Each Regency Romance and Georgian Romance is crafted in minute detail from furnishings to language to recreate a genuine feel for the times. Each character is lovingly fleshed out to make it real and palpable. The Foundling is a Regency Romance, even though the love story in it is secondary. I would rather call it a coming of age novel, set in the Regency period.

Twenty four year old Gilly, or, Most Noble Adolphus Gillespie Vernon Ware, Duke of Sale and Marquis of Ormesby; Earl of Sale; Baron Ware of Thame; Baron Ware of Stoven; and Baron Ware of Rufford, rolling in wealth, would rather be Plain Mr Dash of Nowhere in Particular.  Hemmed in on all sides by well wishers and devoted retainers, Gilly is weary, longing for adventure. He yearns for the opportunity to know himself. When, out of the blue, such an opportunity presents itself, he shakes off his shackles, makes off into the unknown, and tumbles straight into one hair raising escapade after another.

I reread this book for the first time last weekend since the stars in my eye, girly romance, chick lit days. ( Not that we called it chick lit in those hoary days of yore). I remember not liking it. It was not lovey enough. The hero was not romantic or magnificent. He was shy, soft-spoken and self-effacing. The last not meaning that he was without self worth. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised. Of course I expected it to be good reading. But I had either forgotten, or never noticed how funny it is. I had definitely missed how wise and multi-dimensional it is. I think I had kept looking for the romance. The beautiful, pert and sweet girl meets dashing, brave and witty boy. The scrapes the two get into, and out of. The everlasting declarations of love, and, the happily ever after feel.

This time around, remembering that the romance had been disappointing, I kept my reading slow. I determined even before I opened the first yellow page to savour the style and the wit, and not worry about the romance. Not being of that romantic teenager frame of mind anymore helped, of course.

I had belly laughs, and laughs that escaped me like a loud snort. I had to go back and read some paragraphs as I was laughing so much I missed details. I shed a few tears (I am an easy crier). But most of all, I fell in love with quiet, shy, Gilly. Gilly who knew his mind. Gilly who had a tender heart. Gilly who did not need to be loud, brash and overbearing to be manly. Gilly who was gentle and kind, and loving, and incredibly brave.

He does resort to stern speaking a few times in the novel, and has recourse to a couple of almost violent acts in self defence. But for a novel set in the early 1800s, with very few resources to save himself, he manages quite well. He learns his own power, he learns to value his blessings, and he learns that while he can fend for himself quite well as Plain Mr Dash of Nowhere in Particular, being Duke of Sale has its advantages. He comes home a grown man, and takes his place with sweet dignity. A novel before its time, almost. A SNAG in the days of footpads, and rogues and desperate people.

The romance which is almost an afterthought in this novel also turned out to be very satisfying to my current taste. Or do I mean current wisdom?Cotillion

In fact, I think back to my teenage self, and wonder at how silly I was! In fact, from thinking of it as being one of the worst Georgette Heyer books I have read, I think this has taken up the favourite position. … Mmmmmm.. Cotillion still probably wins by a heartbeat. I will have to read both again, soon, and decide. If I cannot even then, at least I will have read two books full of laughter. Again.

So, Georgette Heyer not only writes the best Regency Romances, she also writes a killer coming of age story.

Do you ever read romances? What is your favourite romance? Would you recommend any? If you don’t read romance, what is your favourite genre? Any suggestions? I am forming a 2013 reading list.

Love Frederica

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Kookaburra Sits On The Old Gum Tree. Er… Palm Tree!

Across from our  balcony is a palm tree. I have no idea why, in Sydney, people plant palm trees! This is NOT a tropical paradise! But more of that, anon!

Where was I? yes… across from my balcony is a palm tree with a hollowed out trunk, abut three-quarters of the way above the ground. I would always look at it thinking that some birds would surely love to make their nests there. Sure enough, late this Winter, a pair of kookaburras swooped around checking the real estate out. What they saw must have appealed, because come Spring they were continuously coming and going. My son and I had a vantage point: we would spend time -peeking at first, then getting bolder and standing on the balcony quite loudly discussing the new neighbours. We watched as the baby kookaburras peeped and cheeped, observed their grey down, we saw them grow bigger.

Very soon, the adult couple took to resting on the railing on our balcony. They would take it in turns to sit there. They would swoop down into the hollow and get on with their little household chores and then fly back again. Sometimes one or the other would come, and at other times they would both come. My son got busy with his camera, and they would sit there unabashed, while he crept as close as he dared to photograph them. What I found eerie was that they never, ever, made a sound.

I thought back to another house I had lived in. All Spring and Summer, we would have Kookaburras sitting on a particular branch, just above the swimming pool, sometimes up to a dozen of them, cackling away, cutting up the quiet of an afternoon. They sounded like old women, making fun of us and being quite rude about it, I felt. But these two, never uttered a single screech.

One morning, I heard some unusual activity in the kitchen and went in to discover my husband and my son quietly excited. One of the birds had flown into the kitchen, and past, and was currently sitting in the laundry.

And as I went in towards the laundry saying that this was unacceptable, adorable as they were, they were not welcome, inside, he flew out and sat on the kitchen window sill. On the inside window sill. Being a very rational person, and not wanting to hurt his feelings, I said, “thank you for your visit, now please go outside and sit on the balcony railing, please do not stay indoors.”

My son, who was busily trying to photograph him, said, ”Shush, you will offend him”

But after a moment the grey bird with a flash of blue flew out and sat on the balcony railing. I thanked him, and closed the window reflecting how easy it had been to convince a bird, but the males in my household?……

I was, of course quite charmed that I had these visitors as long as they did not set up parties of raucous laughter, and made my balcony uncouth with their poop.  Also, of course, I told my sister about it. As I was telling her about it, suddenly, I heard one of them sitting on its perch, chortling. I was taken aback at how “human” it sounded. I narrated this back to her( we were on Skype).

My sister is a Tarot Card ReaderAs I was quite happily telling her this charming story, and expressing my (grateful) surprise at the quiet of these birds, she suddenly started talking about animal spirits and totems, and checked my flow of narrative. She pointed me to a web link, and peremptorily ordered me to read it. Would not take “later” for an answer. So I did.

What jumped out at me was the line “The kookaburra encourages us to use laughter as a form of healing.” Now, I am not sick, or convalescent. But I had over the last few months or, even a year,  noticed that I do not laugh as much as I used to. Nor do I smile as much. There was a time, when I was always irritated, and if anything occurred to make me smile, I would consciously turn away from it, perhaps, due to circumstances, feeling that to succumb to laughter right then would be a weakness. Perhaps, that had slowly gelled into a non smiling countenance, and an inability to recognise the ridiculous. I had acquired the dubious distinction of being able to read Oscar Wilde from end to end, without breaking a single smile. Recently, when I speak to people, I have had to train myself to say to myself, “ And now, smile” because I keep forgetting.

But, for most of my life, I have laughed a lot. Falling off my chair laughing was a common occurrence in my life. As I read the web page, I remembered how, growing up in India, a song that had lived within me had been “Laugh, Kookaburra laugh! Kookaburra gay your life must be!” And I remembered that I would sing the song out loud, when I felt upset, and would feel better in an instant. It was perhaps not my favourite song, but it was one I often hummed far beyond my nursery days.

So, I took my sister’s/the kookaburras’ advice. That afternoon, I spent a few hours watching videos on YouTube. She pointed me to: Rowan Atkinson 

Which took me on to more. :

And “A Bit of Fry and Laurie” and many others.

I pulled down a couple of Georgette Heyer novels and read them, and when I reached the funny bits I forced myself to laugh out loud. Pretty soon, I was chortling and sniggering away at the life like caricatures and I even guffawed out loud at the TV show “Modern Family”.

I remind myself each day to smile, unnecessarily, and unpunctually. I laugh out loud, even if the joke is small. Laughter, and a sense of the ridiculous is a big part of me, and denying it had, possibly, frozen that part. I hope, that if there is any darkness within me that needs healing, the laughter is working. It has only been a few days, but my smile muscles don’t feel rusty any more. Thank you, Kookaburra. Thank you, Sister.

Epilogue:

The birds are not very visible any more. Instead of their almost constant presence on my balcony I have only seen them twice since. Both times only for a flash as they sat there quietly, and then quietly flew away. I hope wherever they are, others are taking notice and allowing laughter back into their lives.

Yes, Dear Ornithologist, I know there may be other, scientific explanations for their arrival and departure. This is the one that worked for me.

The psychology of laughter.

The health benefits of humour and laughter

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