Arabella ~ Georgette Heyer

  • Title: Arabella
  • Author: Georgette Heyer
  • Genre: Romance
  • Format: Paperback
  • Source: Own
  • Reviewed by: Olga
  • Rating: 3 out of 5

Description:  To Arabella Tallant, the eldest daughter of a penniless country clergyman, the invitation to stay with her London godmother was like the key to heaven, for in addition to living in the glamorous city, Arabella might even find a suitable husband there. Armed with beauty, virtue and a benevolent godmother, the impetuous but impoverished Arabella embarked on her first London season with her mother’s wish in mind: snare a rich husband.

Impetuosity is Arabella’s only fault. When fate cast her in the path of arrogant, socially prominent Robert Beaumaris, who accused her of being another petty female after his wealth, the proud, headstrong ingenue made a most startling claim — she was an heiress! Suddenly Arabella found herself the talk of the ton and pursued by every amorous fortune hunter in London and some of the most eligible young men of the day.

But only one caught Arabella’s fancy: Mr Beaumaris, the handsome and dedicated bachelor. She should know better than to allow herself to be provoked by nonpareil Beau. That gentleman, however, although a most artful matrimonial dodger, badly underestimated his seemingly naive adversary… But would her deceitful charade destroy her one chance for true love?

Review:  Not my favorite among Heyer’s romances, the book was nonetheless a pleasure to read: a light, slightly farcical story with a humorous flavor. Nothing outstanding, but I suspect that a few years from now, I’ll re-read it … again.

The tale is charming and simple. Seventeen-year-old Arabella is a penniless vicar’s daughter from a village in Yorkshire. Her rich godmother invites her to London for a Season, and the entire family is atwiddle in preparations.  It takes a while – about 60 pages – for Arabella to depart for London, but once she leaves home, the adventure starts.

During a chance meeting with a wealthy and jaded bachelor, Mr. Beaumaris, she overhears his snide remark directed at her, and in a pique, declares herself a great heiress. Beaumaris doesn’t call her bluff. Quite the opposite – for his own amusement, he supports her story, and by the time she arrives in London, she is in great demand at every ball and picnic, and every gazetted fortune hunter is after her ‘fortune’.

Arabella enjoys her London Season, even though it’s based on a lie, and Beaumaris enjoys watching her innocent triumphs. And of course, after some guilt trips and family emergencies, love conquers it all in the end.

My problems with this novel: the action is too slow, and the narrative, although masterful, consists of too much telling instead of showing. But when Heyer offers a rare scene or dialog to her readers, there is always an emotional undertone, often highlighted by a giggle or a smile.

Arabella is a great character, alive and contradictory, compassionate and temperamental. On one hand, she doesn’t feel much remorse at deceiving the ton about her dowry. After all, it’s too much fun to be ‘in vogue.’ On the other hand, she can’t even conceive the idea of her father, the worthy vicar, discovering her fib. Secrets always make into good fiction, and this book is no exception. There is so much to explore in a good secret.
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As sometimes happens, this book led me on a tangent of contemplation wholly unconnected with its content. The novel was published in 1949, but my paperback edition was printed in 1972, over 40 years ago. The book is a bit yellow with age but still in a pretty good condition. If I want to re-read it in 10 or 20 years, I have no doubt I’ll be able to.

As I held it in my hands, I wondered: what would happen to my books on Kindle, to any Kindle file, 40 years from now? Would the files still exist? Would any device 40 years into the future be able to read the surviving files? For that matter, what about 20 years into the future? Look what’s happened in the last 20 years to the vinyl records, or audio tapes, or CDs. They’ve all become obsolete, together with the devices to read them. But the sheet music, written on paper, has persisted for centuries.

I shudder to think what will happen, when the paper books are pushed out of circulation. It hasn’t happened yet, but the signs are here. We might lose the entire generation of new writers, only because paper is much more expensive than digital files. But the problem is: a digital file is immaterial. We still can read some ancient writing on clay tablets thousands of years after the writers died. What will our descendants read about us, thousands of years from now, if so many books exist only in digital format?
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My grandfather had a suit made of gabardine – a fabric that endured. He wore it for about 20 years, turned it (does the modern generation even know what the term means?), and wore it some more. Eventually, the suit was converted into some clothing for my son, when he was still a boy and didn’t care about fashion. Now, when someone buys a suit, how long will it last? My T-shirts start disintegrating after 2 seasons. They’re made bio-degradable, like plastic bags. It’s called progress. Will books go the way of such ‘progress’ too? I hope I don’t live long enough to witness it.

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