Monday, March 29, 2010

The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer

Title: The Grand Sophy
Author: Georgette Heyer
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons (1950)

After Cotillion kicked things off for me in the Heyer world I've been sneaking in Heyers between review books, my TBR pile and book club books. And, oh joy, I sure am glad I have been as The Grand Sophy is my fourth and favorite so far. Holy shitballs, this book is funny! I was snickering through most of it and laughing out loud quite a bit. So much fun! The set-up: Mr. Charles Rivenhall is an uptight elder son that has wrested control of his father's estate and keeps an officious eye on all his family does. Cousin Sophia Stanton-Lacy has been raised on the Continent by her widowed father, Sir Horace, but needs a place to stay for a while as dad is off to Brazil. And so it comes to pass that Sophy enters the Rivenhall household for an undetermined length of time. Sophy has got to be one of the most observant and mischievous characters I've come across in a while. She's also very thoughtful and uses her schemes to promote the happiness of those around her. Of course, she only does this if she thinks it's for the best. Otherwise, she'll leave well enough alone. ;) Naturally, the household is full of people who need her help so let's welcome some hijinks into our story.

Not surprisingly, the way that Sophy chooses to help the members of the household is not met with approval by Charles. However, no matter how much Sophy irritates him (and she really, really does) he never manages to get the better of her or prevent her scheming. The only person Sophy annoys more than Charles is his affianced, Eugenia. Eugenia is a self-important bitch and almost ruins the story at times. She drove me nuts. She's a great counter-point to Sophy and certainly served the purpose of helping the reader get to know Charles better but damn! She was overdone. It's pretty easy to get her number within the first few times she is on the scene so her relentless bitchery became trying. Thankfully, it's easy enough to skip over her crap and move on to the more fun and funny characters around her.

Sophy is quite a woman and pretty well able to handle any situation she comes by. Her father is not often in the book but his unfailing faith in her competency is well-deserved. Also, I bet she'd be fun to have as a friend - as long as she didn't decide you needed any 'help.' At that point, you're pretty much Sophy's puppet. I imagine that Charles' character is rather basic simply because Sophy's is so larger than life. Don't get me wrong, Charles is perfectly lovely but still pretty vanilla. The reader comes to know each character better almost exclusively through dialogue and Charles is particularly fun to watch interact with Sophy and then later with Eugenia since they are such different women. The story also features an extensive selection of secondary characters and they are riotous. The poet that Charles' younger sister wants to marry is so freaking hilarious. I'm giggling just sitting here thinking about him. I mostly laughed AT him but that wasn't the case with everyone. Everybody ends up having a part to play in Sophy's puppet show and their interactions with each other and easy banter are what end up being so much fun.

Like the other Heyer books I've read, this one is pretty light where plot is concerned but Sophy's scheming makes up for it by keeping the book moving along and the reader interested in how things are going to end up. Also, it's so damn funny at every turn that ya just want to keep reading for some more funny. Speaking of the funny, I'm flipping through the pages to find a few lines to share (quotes may be condensed):

Sophy: "But I never knew anyone...whose judgment I would rather trust when it comes to buying a horse. Sir Vincent, I want to purchase a pair for my phaeton!"
"Allow me a moment in which to recover my manhood! So that is all the use you have for me!"
"Don't be absurd!" said Sophy. "What better use could I have for anyone?"
"Dear Juno, I have told you a great many times, and I shall tell you no more!"

Eugenia: " is inclined not to be as careful as one should be, perhaps. I wonder if I might venture to put you a little on your guard? In Paris and Vienna I am sure you would be able to tell me how I should go on, but in London I must be more at home than you."
"Oh, I should never be so impertinent as to tell you how to go on anywhere!" Sophy declared.
"Well, perhaps it would not be necessary," acknowledged Miss Wraxton graciously. ... "Allow me to speak without reserve!" she begged.
"Short of overturning you [in the phaeton] I can hardly prevent you," Sophy replied. "But you had much better not, you know! I am very unbiddable, and if I were to lose my temper I might do what I should afterward be sorry for."

Sophy: "I suppose I could remove to Merton... But Sancia would not like that at all, I fear."
"She has my sympathy!"
Sophy looked at him. Under his amazed and horrified gaze, large tears slowly welled over her eyelids and rolled down her cheeks. She did not sniff, or gulp, or even sob; merely she allowed her tears to gather and fall.
"Sophy!" ejaculated Mr. Rivenhall, visibly shaken. He took an involuntary step toward her, checked himself, and said rather disjointedly, "Pray do not! I did not mean--I had no intention-- You know how it is with me! I say more than I mean, when-- Sophy, for God's sake do not cry!"
"Oh, do not stop me!" begged Sophy. "Sir Horace says it is my only accomplishment!"

The dialogue really is divine. It's got that subtle bite characteristic of English humor and it'll keep you laughing throughout. I'm starting to think any Heyer is worth picking up but certainly this one is so if you haven't already read it it must be added to your TBR pile.

rating: 4 of 5 stars


  1. I LOVED Grandy Sophy. Made me giggle constantly, I read it slowly over several lunch breaks and spent a week or two smiling because of it. It's so awesome, and oodles better than the other two (I think, maybe 3) Heyers I've read.

    Must re-read. Thanks for reminding me! :-)

  2. I'm aways delighted when people discover Heyer. In my youth (40+ years ago) the very romantic ones (Devil's Cub, These Old Shades) were my favorites. Now, I'm liking the comedy of manners. Sophy is tops. Try the Unknown Ajax.


  3. Hey Beth! I agree, this one really is worth a re-read. I had to return my copy to the lib but I plan to get my own. As you say, it keeps you smiling and that's always worth reading over and over.

    Hi Renee! Thanks for leaving some specific titles for me to read. I'm putting those on my TBR Now pile. I only wish I'd not waited so long for my Heyer discovery.

  4. I've just reread The Grand Sophy! I am also having a bit of a Heyer indulgence. The Grand Sophy is my absolute favourite, though Cotillion, The Unknown Ajax and Arabella come close behind. I disagree with you about Eugenia though, I didn't think she was overdone - I can see her being jealous of Sophy, and trying here and there to be good for the family, but just never getting it. I was glad for her sake that she ended up with Lord Bromford, they suited each other perfectly (though you could see how their double impact at dinner parties would make you always avoid them).

  5. Hi Sheena! Thanks for including more Heyer suggestions for me. It's nice to see fan favorites in the comments as it helps me choose which ones to pick up next.

    Thanks for sharing your take on Eugenia. I'm always interested in how differently readers can respond to characters or stories. And because I'm a bit of a sap I was also very happy to see her matched up, as well. She annoyed the crap out of me but I would not have liked to see her all alone. lol re dinner parties.