The Grand Sophy – Georgette Heyer

[asa book]0099465639[/asa] Many fine writers of romance list The Grand Sophy as one of their favorite novels, and as it was recently re-issued, I finally picked it up. It’s also my first venture into the world of Georgette Heyer. I have been meaning to read her books for years, I have no idea what kept me so long.

This is, without a doubt, one of the most amusing love stories I’ve read in a long time. The characters are priceless, the plotting without flaw. It’s a first class romance, which means simply this: you know right away that in spite of all obstacles, Sophy will end up with Charles. What you don’t know is, how that will come about. Much in the same way you know Elizabeth Bennett will end up with Fitzwilliam Darcy: the fun is in getting there, and Heyer takes you on a wild ride.

I think Sophy must rank up there with Elizabeth Bennett in terms of sheer memorable characterization. She is the kind of woman who refuses to stay on the page, who climbs out and follows you around long after you’ve put the book down. And who could mind? We could all use a Sophy to liven up our days and make order out of chaos.

And still, there’s a problem I just can’t get over: Heyer’s love affair with the exclamation point. I hate ’em. Always have. In fact I wrote a small poem about my distaste for exclamation marks.

It’s true that these books were written fifty years ago and literary styles change, but I had the hardest time getting past this punctuation issue. In fact, I counted twenty five of the little buggers on one page. It’s really too bad, because otherwise the dialog is clever and revealing. I think if they re-issued it (yet again) but deleted 99.9% of the exclamation points, I would have loved this without reservation.

3 Replies to “The Grand Sophy – Georgette Heyer”

  1. This post of yours puzzled me quite a lot, as I also feel that the exclamation mark is most effective with very sparing use. “The Grand Sophy” is my all-time favourite Georgette Heyer (closely followed by “These Old Shades”, “A Civil Contract”, and “An Infamous Army”) and I have never noticed the author sprinkling exclamation marks about in it (believe me, I would have – I have been a cataloguing librarian and that kind of thing sticks out to me). So after reading your post I went back and re-read my copy (no chore), paying careful attention to punctuation, and the only exclamation marks I could find were in the dialog, and there were only one or two. I’m tempted to wonder, therefore, what the imprint was of your copy and what fantastic liberties the publisher took with it. Unfortunately the copy I have was given to me by my mother around twenty years ago and so the imprint has long been superseded. I don’t know how to help you to another copy so that the book can be redeemed for you.

  2. Sheena,

    I’m going to go look for my copy (which was a reissue) and scan a page to post, so you can see what I’m talking about.

    Then I’m going to get in touch with the editor who handled the reissue, and track down the guilty party. Because really, if somebody went back in and added exclamation marks, that’s a sin.

  3. Exclamation marks – they may have been added by Putnam’s editor. Now I look at it again their beautifully produced edition of 1950 has a fair few scatttered about. At that time Heinemann, Georgette Heyer’s English publishers, were still using shoddy post-war paper and bindings which fell to pieces, resulting in a dearth of second-hand copies in good condition, so I haven’t got an English version to compare it with. But some editors are capable of almost any illiteracy; I recall that the editor of a 1980’s Penguin paperback version took it on himself to “correct” the grammar and vocabulary of that fastidious writer Stella Gibbons and to misquote the epigraph by Jane Austen of her “Cold Comfort Farm”.

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