Stars in the Night, by Clare Rhoden: A story of enduring love

1970 in suburban Melbourne: ‘That was how it happened, thought Harry, feeling the memories rise; they were never far away .. Trusting you to remember, trusting you to do something about it. As if you could fix things, mend the dead, put the world back the way it was.’

And so we go back into Harry’s memories, into the seared experiences that gave him nightmares for decades, back to the day in 1917 when Harry cannot find his foster brother Eddie. Harry searches. He crawls out of the Passchendaele mud in no-man’s land searching for him. He looks into dugouts and stumbles down communication trenches and he asks at Casualty Clearing Stations. Fifty years later his granddaughter comes upon an old notebook in the attic and asks him,”Who is Eddie?”

The Stars In The Night is a story of love. Nora waits for Harry but he harbours fears whether she can accept him after what he has been through. Eddie hopes for a life with Claudelle. It is a story too of love between men, brothers-in-arms, Harry and Eddie, Wallis, Hartigan, Alex. From Gallipoli to Flanders the war thunders over all of them like the endless numbing artillery barrages. But it does not end for them when the guns fall silent.

We only recently have begun to speak openly of PTSD and try to understand that it messes people up for a long time. Harry survives wounds and sickness and comes home, but in dreams he returns to no-mans’ land, still trying to rescue mates. The women have their losses too, made harder to bear by Harry’s inability to speak of things he simply does not want to bring to mind. Harry’s mother Ellen, for instance, cannot connect with him any more.

The mines and the shelling is like the end of the world. The worst we have seen, and we have seen some bad ones. Harry and me are fine but it makes you cry. There are so many dead you cant help but walk on them’. Eddies notebook.

Clare Rhoden takes us into this vast arena of events, from the debate in Australia about the rightness of the war, into terrible battles, and on through into the waves of pyschological effects upon those who survived and their families. These 220 pages hold material for a 1000 page book. But the author has brought large and complicated things down to the personal level by revealing them in the way that we all ordinarily talk to each other: through a household argument, the queries of a nosy neighbour, the grumbles of soldiers about the food and the cold, the guarded talk about Gallipoli by a sergeant to a fresh officer as they weigh each other up, and through diaries and letters home. This makes The Stars In The Night deeply personal and emotional. I got so caught up in it that I paused reading several times so as to absorb it. I cannot praise this novel highly enough both for its story and it’s technical execution.

Although it is about the experiences of Australian soldiers, this heartache and loss described in this novel could really be about the horror of any war, not just the one that millions prayed would be ‘The War To End All Wars.’ The character Harry Fletcher, like many veterans, could not bring himself to attend Anzac Day ceremonies but stayed quietly at home. Yet for anyone interested in the scars left by the Great War and thus the origin of the ‘Anzac legend’, the facts of it, and sometimes the mythology of it, this is a must-read.

Lest We Forget.

Note about ‘Anzac’ to readers unfamiliar with the term: The first units of Australians shipped out in 1915 were merged with the first New Zealanders into the Australia New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC). Their losses in Gallipoli and later in France shocked both young countries. Australia, population four million in 1914, sent 417,000 volunteers to the conflict. 62,000 died. Both Australia and New Zealand suffered casualty rates of over 55% – killed, wounded, gassed, captured, marked as ‘missing’. The term ‘ANZAC’ endures.

Personal note 2020: As I began this book, Australia was dealing with the Black Summer and the whole world was attuned to news about some sort of virus. There was tension in the air, and for the first time I think I had an inkling of what it might have felt like in late 1914 in the households across nations as they readied for conflict, not knowing what lay ahead. On the day that I thoughtfully laid down The Stars in the Night, Anzac Day services were cancelled for the first time due to the menace of Covid-19.

Where to find The Stars in the Night: From publisher Odyssey Books , from Book Shop Org (supporting local bookshops)from BookDepository (with free shipping worldwide) and from Amazon in softcover and Kindle, Barnes and Noble in soft cover Nook, Chapters Indigo, Booktopia, and Waterstones. Or, ask your friendly local bookstore to order it in for you.

Clare Rhoden has also written a dsytopian series called The Chronicles of the Pale. See more about the series at her website here. My review of the first book, The Pale, is here.

Another novel I have reviewed here on this blog about WWI is ‘Nursing Fox‘ by Jim Ditchfield which focuses on the nurses. You can read about it here.

Acknowledgement: The graphics shown here are by courtesy of Clare Rhoden and Odyssey Books.

Mark, your reviewer here, is guardian and blundering typist for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears.

Stories by Rebecca Burns: The Settling Earth

The women in these stories voyaged from Britain to the ends of the earth, “the Antipodes”. Driven by hardship, propelled by hope, they left behind their old lives and strived to make new ones in New Zealand. But the settlers brought with them the same stultifying conventions and social constraints they had left behind. For women in particular, sometimes little seemed to have been gained.

Isolated on bleak farms or confined to soul-destroying boarding houses, these women are each at the mercy of men’s whims and male control of property. They live one slip away from destitution, and must reach deep inside themselves, getting past old ways of life and old conditioning, to do what they need to do to survive.

Each story is complete and satisfying in itself, and yet, like life, they are also connected by events or characters; so that the stories towards the end satisfyingly close the circle of themes raised by the earlier ones. The last story, by Shelly Davies of the Ngātiwai tribe, adds a Maori viewpoint of these arrivals.

 I found The Settling Earth to be a fascinating perspective into frontier New Zealand and Burns new novel Beyond The Bay further looks into life in a raw new country as seen through the eyes of two sisters in Auckland.

Novels and short stories by Dr Rebecca Burns

Where to find The Settling Earth: Published by Odyssey Books, The Settling Earth is at BookDepository, Amazon, and Bookshop Org, among others. More excellent short stories by Rebecca Burns can be read in Artefacts and Catching the Barramundi. Her novels include The Bishops Girl and Beyond the Bay. See her website here.

You are with Mark at Baffled Bear Books. I am guardian and blundering typist for Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears. Mawson has his own website too, called (wiggles ears modestly) Mawson Bear.

The Bishop’s Girl, by Rebecca Burns

And then, as the cloth was split in two, long, black hair tumbled forth, still attached to grey bones, now wet in the midday sun. …Behind, a crow called accusingly.’ Prologue.

A hundred year old mystery, secret lives, torn relationships. The Bishops Girl by Rebecca Burns.
Cover image shows the mystifying nurses smock that both excites and puzzles researchers for decades.
A hundred year old mystery, secret lives, torn relationships. The Bishops Girl by Rebecca Burns

My first impression of The Bishop’s Girl was of a quiet story of frustrated lives as two scholars in hushed archives are stymied in their own ambitions by their boss. And this is indeed one of the stories threaded amidst several layers in this novel. But then it becomes clear that this no less than a cold case detective story. From few clues arise many questions. Why, for instance, was the Bishop considered so important as to be dug up from a wartime district and then reburied in England? How did an unidentified woman come to be buried with him? Who was she? The scholars, Jess and Billy, find hints and fragments in the old letters but will these leads come to anything? And I read on enthralled by the mystery of it.

As we learn more of the unexpected century old romantic connection with Greece, and as Jess begins an affair, I found myself reading for the tangle of relationships between lovers, between spouses, between parents and children, and all of their messiness and importance.

But now, with hindsight, I think this absorbing and satisfying novel is mostly a story of secrets, especially of secrets within families, and how they can have far reaching repercussions. It is a great read on all these levels.

Where to find The Bishop’s Girl which is published by Odyssey Books. At BookDepository, Amazon, and Bookshop Org, among others. More excellent short stories by Rebecca Burns can be read in Artefacts and Catching the Barramundi. Her novels also include Beyond the Bay. See her website here.

You are with Mark at Baffled Bear Books. I am guardian and blundering typist for Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears. Mawson has his own website too, called (wiggles ears modestly) Mawson Bear.

Artefacts and Other Stories, by Rebecca Burns

With skill and economy, Rebecca Burns allows us to slip into moments in the lives of her characters when the meaning and emotion of their struggles up to that point seems to compress. Memories overwhelm. New choices perhaps appear.

That compression of time can be triggered by an item, an artefact; perhaps a greatcoat, a letter, a bootie. Bits and scraps. Moments. Glimpses.

Artefacts lrg 2477

In ‘The Bread Princess’, we discover that an array of bonnets can give us impressions of the changing attitudes in a small community across a century. In other stories we view obliquely into the psychological impact of the 1914-1918 war through unexpected portals: a kitchen, a railway waiting room, a cricket match.

These snippets about each of Burn’s characters are like a sheaf of loose pages fallen from the larger books of their lives. We discover enough to give us a feel for who they are and to wonder what will happen to them, even while we must accept that we’ll never get to read all of their pages, just as we cannot ever really know someone’ else’s life story.

Where to find it: Amazon, BookDepository, Bookshop Org, Barnes and Noble, Waterstones, Chapters Indigo and more. Or ask your friendly local bookshop to obtain it for you.

Artefacts and Other Stories, by Rebecca Burns is published by Odyssey Books. More excellent short stories can be found in The Settling Earth and Catching The Barramundi.

You are with Mark at Baffled Bear Books. I am guardian and blundering typist for Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears.

Asena Blessed, Book 2 of The Chronicles of Altaica, by Tracy M. Joyce

The Chronicles of Altaica make for a great read, the kind that you keep reading as you stumble off the bus and still read right up until you arrive (sigh) at the door of the day job. Adventure and danger, hard rides and mountain crossings, spies and plots and murders, primal magic and goddesses, war and strategy, skirmishes and battles and desperate duels. Here is a whole world of rivalries, peoples, cultures and absorbing characters.

First, catch up by looking at my review of the first part of The Chronicles of Altaica in which villagers fled an invading army, got swept out to sea and then were rescued by people in another country that they knew nothing of.

My difficulty now is to urge you to read this sequel, Asena Blessed, without blurting out ‘spoilers’. The Cover tells us this: ‘Isaura has emerged from the spirit realm forever altered .. Caught between two ancient powers, Isaura must try to make her own path. .. Aid arrives from an unexpected source – one who knows no rules and respects no one.’ I will highlight some aspects of the world building and the characters that I particularly liked.

Animal guardians have become a feature in fantasy tales since their appearance in Phillip Pullman’s books. We readers may have grown used to these linked animals existing mainly for the sake of the humans, like enhanced pets. Tracy Joyce turns that idea on its head by considering the wild nature of the linked animal. What if the linked animal has it’s its own intentions? What if it could be too powerful and difficult to control? Some scenes in Asena Blessed took me by surprise because the guardian acted on its own account, and the result was not remotely cutesy

Complicated heroes. Throughout the first book the reader identifies with the dilemmas of the central character, Isaura. In Asena Blessed, however, she is swept unwillingly into the spirit realm and emerges more conflicted than ever. Her resulting actions are not necessarily noble at all times. I often blinked at the turn of events. ‘Did she really do that?’

Matriarchs and Female Warriors. To say this book includes ‘strong female characters’ is an understatement. Among the Altaicans, all adults train for fighting and the tattooed and hardened women ride with the men.Key movers in this story include the female keepers of lore known as ‘Kenati’, the matriarch of the wolf-like Asena clan , the Lady Malak, who strives to undermine the power of the tyrant Ratilal, and an intervening female spirit who may or may not be a goddess but who in any case seems to be playing her own game.

Plausible Warfare: We have all endured movies and novels in which the fighting scenes are over the top: every warrior somehow knows all the modern martial arts. Bows fire multiple arrows at a time, arrows and sword blades cut like lasers through the heaviest body armour, and so on until it all gets silly. Not so here. The tactics, weapons, armour, siegecraft and melees are based on the authors research of warfare in our own non-Altaica world. The fighting here is brutal, the wounds nasty, and soldiers do appalling things to civilians. This is a fantasy world but it is no fairy tale.

The Chronicles of  Altaica: are published by Odyssey Books. The beautiful covers, full of meaning about the stories within, are designed by Karri Klawitter. You can obtain signed copies at Tracy Joyce’s website and also read about the forthcoming third book in the series. You can also read FREE COPIES of ‘Rada’, a story set in the Zaragarian Empire 16 years before the Chronicles begin.

Where to find Asena Blessed: Book Depository, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
And if you would like your dollars to go to other than the giant companies, consider these retailers:
Bookshop.org, Booktopia, AbeBooks, Chapters Indigo.

(Images on this post are courtesy of publisher Odyssey Books and permission of the author.)

Your host, Mark, is Mawson Bear’s Guardian, photographer, editor, blundering typist, chocolates fetcher and cushions re-arranger. Baffled Bear Books ABN: 4787910119.

Altaica, Book 1 in the Chronicles of Altaica, by Tracy M. Joyce

I made a classic blunder with this first book of the Chronicles of Altaica by having  ‘just a quick look’ during my lunch break. By the time I looked up I had escaped rampaging armies, got embroiled in village jealousies and tensions, fought off invading scouts, got swept out to sea on a raft .. And was late to get back to work!

It was months before I obtained the sequel, Asena Blessed. Before touching it, I read the first book again. I enjoyed it even more this time, absorbing more of the interplay of the characters, the skill of the world building, and quite simply the story.

‘Her stories are gritty, a little dark and morality is like quicksand.  You won’t find any unicorns or fairies here.’ (Tracymjoyce.com.)

As the refugees on the raft drift at the mercy of ocean currents they become suspicious of one another, and particularly of healer Isaura, even though her skills with a bow had saved their lives. Ah, but in their codes of behaviour women ought not to fight at all, let alone kill.

‘Two things your race is known for -magic and murder. Hill clan witch!’ …. No one would look at Isaura, no one would speak to her.

The action now shifts to the peoples of Altaica, ‘a land rich in tradition; ruled by three powerful clans. with a history marked by warfare; where magic as we know it does not exist. Instead what is here, in abundance, is a more primal power. (Back cover.)’ Umniga, a wise woman, discovers the strangers and has her reasons for wanting to rescue them, altruism not being the first. Umniga and her acolyte Asha persuade the ruling clan chiefs to help.’

‘By the gods, how long have they been on this boat? How much longer can they last?’ Umniga the Kenati of Bear Clan.

 Now begins a canny play of brutal politics between the clans. The refugees have not arrived at a peaceful land! Ambushes, plots, murder, hard rides, sieges .. the pace doesn’t let up. A great read about people responding to the shock of having to make a new life among strangers. Plenty of battles too.

As I ready to plunge into Asena Blessed, I am full of questions, in particular, what are the ‘Asena’ and why do they have their own quarrel with a seeming goddess; and will Isaura’s raw and unpracticed powers do more harm than good? Now I open the next book and, yes, I am straight into a world of raw magic and unexpected twists once again. Review soon.

The Chronicles of  Altaica: are published by Odyssey Books. The beautiful covers which are full of meaning about the stories within are designed by Karri Klawitter. You can obtain signed copies at Tracy Joyce’s website and also read about the forthcoming third book in the series.

Where to find Altaica:  Book Depository, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
And if you would like your dollars to go to other than the giant companies, please consider these retailers:
Bookshop.org, Booktopia, AbeBooks, Chapters Indigo , Desertcart.

(Images on this post are courtesy of publisher Odyssey Books and permission of the author.)

Your host, Mark, is Mawson Bear’s Guardian, photographer, editor, blundering typist, chocolates fetcher and cushions re-arranger. Baffled Bear Books ABN: 4787910119.

The Esme Trilogy: Esme’s Gift, by Elizabeth Foster

A parade of craft cruised the lagoon: gilt-edged ferries and gondolas in jewel-like colours – dazzling blues, crimsons, emerald greens. Sea dragons looped above the rooftops, twisting their sinuous forms … . Esme’s Gift Ch. 3.’

Mark, guardian of Mawson Bear says: Oh dear, our world is not in its finest shape right now, is it. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be elsewhere. Fortunately, I have to hand Esme’s Gift, the sequel to Esme’s Wish (see my review here and my re-visit here) and I can plunge once more into another world and see again the towers of the city of Esperance and the siren islands of Aeolia.

Esme returns to Aeolia after her failed attempt to convince her father to join her. The evil Nathan Mare is at large and intent on finding the secret knowledge entrusted to her. But high-school waits for no teenager, and in the classrooms and library of Pierpont school she can find friends and allies. And what a library it is.

(Ancient gondalas) repurposed into shelves, lined the library’s walls … No longer fit to carry passengers, they now carried books to the shores of the readers’ minds. Esme’s Gift Ch. 12.’

Esme must gather the strange ingredients of the only elixir that can save her mother. To obtain these elements takes all her courage and all the combined gifts and powers of her friends. But some people are not who they seem to be, and the tension never lets up.

Esme’s Wish and Esme’s Gift are written by Elizabeth Foster with the ‘Young Adult’ audience in mind. But if you happen to be older (after all, some of us have yet to find a potion to wind back the years – and if the high risk alchemical experiments in Esperance are anything to go by, we should stay well away from any such potions or concoctions, or who knows what could happen!) .. if you are an older reader who loves beguiling fantasy worlds and tales of ghosts and of quests into caverns guarded by monsters and ghouls, and if you also don’t object to dragons .. The books of the Esme trilogy will be a treat for you.

Reading of Esperance in Aeolia, a realm of seas, islands, lagoons, oh – and dragons.

Where to find this other world: Esme’s Gift is published by Odyssey Books, a small press where ‘books are an adventure’. You can immerse yourself in this trilogy by looking at Amazon Australia, at Amazon USA, at Book Depository , at Barnes and Noble, and more. You can see more about Esme’s search for her mother and about the author, Elizabeth Foster, on her web den.

You have wandered into Mark’s blog. I am guardian and photographer for Mawson Bear, one of this bright world’s very few Writer-Bears. Mawson wrote She Ran Away From Love and It’s A Bright world To Feel Lost In.
Reviews about Mawson’s books: ‘Great book, well written and extremely engaging. Bonus it is all about bears!!!! Marvellous !!!!!!!’  Reviewer Navaron on Amazon. ‘ A magical little grand tour into the meaning of happiness’ Sharrie Williams, author, on Amazon.

Return to Aeolia: Refresh your soul in the realm of Esme’s Wish

Tears pricked Esme’s eyes. Her mother had vanished, without trace, when she was eight. No one know what had really happened to her- or so they said. Esme’s Wish. Ch. 1.’

Mark, guardian of Mawson Bear says:
Another dreary Monday. I popped my head out from the pillows and saw that my Grownup ‘real’ world was not in it’s finest state. Longing to immerse myself in another realm, I picked up Esme’s Wish (which I reviewed here), to read once again on the commuter ride to work.

Esperance appearing to be drifting on the lagoon’s surface, as if its hold on existence was so tenuous that it could slip back into the depths at any moment. High above the city, sinuous shapes pinwheeled across the sky … Dragons. Esme’s Wish Ch.3.’

Not that Aeolia is trouble free either, far from it. Evil characters disrupt the harmony and the city of Esperance is crumbling from earthquakes. The mystery of her lost mother just gets deeper no matter how far Esme investigates nor how many dangers she faces.

A loud cry derailed Esme’s train of thought. Her head whipped up. A rush of feathers filled her vision. The sea eagle was streaking down toward her, it’s sharp talons poised, ready to strike. Esme’s Wish Ch.3.’

Aeolia, even so, was a welcome haven for me from Year of The Covid for a week of train rides and lunch breaks. All too soon, I turned the last page. The wind-played harps and song spells faded, and the horrible upsets of Grownup Reality shoved themselves again into my mind.

Esme’s Wish and Esme’s Gift are written by Elizabeth Foster with the ‘Young Adult’ audience in mind, and as Esme and her friends are aged about 15, it is rightly finding a wide readership there. Why then, do I recommend these books to those of us older than fifteen (in my case far older). Why, that is, apart from your certain appreciation of this well crafted fantasy world with its own myths, history and songs, the believable characters, the well paced plot, the fine literary language and, oh, the dragons? Didn’t Tolkein say that he longed for a world in which there were dragons? Don’t we all.

We read, in the end, to not be entirely stuck in the ordinariness or the troubles of our own lives, and I have found Young Adult books and even some children’s books (think of the Narnia Chronicles) to do this as well for me, and often better, than Adult books can do. Oh, I still appreciate the novels written with the mature, sophisticated, world weary and somewhat cynical reader in mind (ie me); but another world entirely, like Aeolia, suits me very much these days. Perhaps many of you feel the same.

ESME 2409
The island of Esperance in Aeolia, a realm of seas, islands, lagoons, oh- and dragons.

Fortunately, I have to hand Esme’s Gift, the sequel to Esme’s Wish, and I can soon plunge down once more into other far places where I would rather be, the towers of the city of Esperance and the siren islands of Aeolia. Why not get your copies now and join me there.

Where to find this other world: Esme’s Wish is published by Odyssey Books, a small press where ‘books are an adventure’. You can immerse yourself too in the world of Aeolia by looking at Amazon here, at Book Depository and at Barnes and Noble. You can see more about Esme’ search for her mother and about the author, Elizabeth Foster, on her web den.

You have wandered into Mark’s blog. I am guardian and photographer for Mawson Bear, one of this bright world’s very few Writer-Bears. Mawson wrote She Ran Away From Love and It’s A Bright world To Feel Lost In.
Reviews about Mawson’s books: ‘Great book, well written and extremely engaging. Bonus it is all about bears!!!! Marvellous !!!!!!!’  Reviewer Navaron on Amazon. ‘ A magical little grand tour into the meaning of happiness’ Sharrie Williams, author, on Amazon.

Cassandra, by Kathryn Gossow: Shortlisted for Best Fantasy Novel 2017 in Aurealis Awards

Shortlisted for the Best Fantasy Novel 2017 in the Australian Aurealis Awards.

She dreams of plane crashes, earthquakes, tsunamis, bloody coups. She dreams of the stallion sweeping down the hill … . P. 197

Foreboding. Everything in the early chapters of Cassandra author Kathryn Gossow instills a sense of ‘foreboding’. Possibilities thicken of dark changes to come. Would they concern Paulo, or Athena, or a secret in this family? Or would they thunder down on Cassie herself like the ominous horse in her nightmares?

Cassandra: A princess of Troy and priestess of Apollo. She was cursed to utter true prophecies but to never be believed. (Wiki)

What if you could foresee people’s futures, for instance, that one kid on the school bus will die of bowel cancer, another will briefly shine on the stage but never become famous? A wonderful ability, yes? But what if you fill with dread and cannot make out why. Then Something happens. If you had warned people, and if they had believed you, could you have diverted that accident or mistake from happening? In the old legend, of course, Cassie’s namesake Cassandra felt cursed.

The Snake: Some versions of the legend have Cassandra falling asleep in a temple, where the snakes licked her ears so that she could hear the future. (Wiki.)

Cassie seems like an ordinary girl who gets bitten by a snake on a farm in Queensland. Her little brother predicts a drought, she grows to be a grumpy teenager troubled by visions, she scowls at her mother in the ordinary teenage way, she worries about her great-aunt and her Poppy .. Wait a minute. Bitten by a snake? Visions? Her brother foretells a drought? Wasn’t there a legend …?

The Brother: Some versions of the legend give Cassandra a brother, Helenus. Like her, he was always correct in his predictions. Unlike her, he was believed. (Wiki.)

She tries to make one true friend, Athena, who introduces her to the Tarot. (‘Her thoughts swirl with colour and the patterns and the meanings of the cards’. P. 77). She clumsily attempts to fit in with the cool kids, she experiments with alcohol and dope, her visions worsen, she is keen on a boy named Paulo .. Wait, wait. Athena? ‘Paulo’ .. or ‘Apollo’? Didn’t Apollo’s priestesses take hallucinogens to enhance their visions?

Apollo: Many versions of the myth relate that Cassandra incurred the god Apollo’s wrath by refusing him sex, after promising herself to him in exchange for the power of prophecy. (Wiki.)

Cassandra can be read is a ‘coming of age’ novel in that it concerns teenage insecurities and self-doubts, the cruel cut and thrust of cliques and friendships, and the tensions within families. But I think you will also soon be reading it, as I did, mindful of the big questions about fate and destiny, and mulling over the extent to which every one of one’s own decisions cuts away previous possibilities and opens up lines of new ones.

Kathryn Gossow is also the author of The Dark Poet. An older Cassie, the central character of Cassandra features in the stories in The Dark Poet. As you can see from my review in this blog, the connection is intriguing. The Dark Poet is also published by Odyssey Books.

(The images of the book in this post are courtesy of Odyssey Books and the author.)

Mark, your reviewer here at Baffled Bear Books, is guardian and blundering typist for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears.

‘Chekov’s Three Sisters Would Have Got To Moscow’. Notes on Georgette Heyer

The Tedettes Jane Austen Book Club are now engrossed in the novels of the Queen of Regency Romance, Georgette Heyer. They have learned more about their heroine from Jane Aiken Hodges biography. It’s called The Private World of Georgette Heyer (Quotes from the Chivers 1984 edition).

Hodge’s Foreword: “She was .. an immensely skilled and meticulous craftswoman. She did her best to conceal her high standards and stern moral code behind the mask of romantic comedy.”

Heyer 1 small 2268
Engrossed in the regency novels of Georgette Heyer

Plots and technique

(From Hodges, Chapter 2). Heyer once said, “My plots are abysmal and I think of them with blood and tears”. Her family confirm she did indeed work at her plots with blood and tears .. plunged in black gloom when things went badly, prowling restlessly about the house until she had her plan worked out, when she would sit down and write … at high speed, often late into the night. Heyer said of her own work in one letter to her publisher:

“ … The Unknown Ajax and Venetia are the best of my later works. My style is really a mixture of Johnson and Austen – what I rely on is a certain gift for the farcial … I know its useless to talk about technique in these degenerate days – but no less a technician than Noel Coward reads me because he thinks my technique is so good. I’m proud of that.”

(From Chapter 8) She kept a single fan letter, received in 1963 from former political prisoner in Romania. The writer spoke of how she had read Friday’s Child before her arrest, and for 12 long years had told and retold the story, committed to memory, of “what Kitten did next” to her fellow inmates.

“Truly, your characters managed to awaken smiles, even when hearts were heavy, stomachs empty and the future dark indeed”.

Praise that would astonish any writer.

Much in Hodge’s biography is of technical interest to writers: Heyer’s dealing with her several publishers and agents, and her views about the blurbs and jackets. There is a lesson too in reading about Heyer’s decades-long tax problems. Even though she always earned a lot she had cash flow problems. These mangled finances were caused by herself and her husband simply not taking a business-like approach to her income.

The Tedettes leave you with their favourite observation from Hodge’s biography:

“She had no patience for .. Russian gloom. If she had been one of Chekhov’s three sisters they would have got to Moscow.”

The Tedettes first looked at Hodge’s biography here, and then they read about Heyer’s hero’s here.

The Private World of Georgette Heyer and more about Miss Heyer the writer can be found at Amazon, and BookDepository. Thanks for joining the Teddettes as they explore the Regency world of Georgette Heyer.

You are at Mark’s blog called Baffled Bear Books. Mark is a dark coffee tragic and bibliophile as well as the Guardian and blundering typist for Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears.

Often A Bounder: The Tedette’s Jane Austen Book Club reads about Georgette Heyer’s Heroes

Thrilled by Jane Austen’s novels, the Tedettes Jane Austen Book Club looked about for more books on the Regency. Their house (like every house, surely) turned out to be a treasure trove of novels by Georgette Heyer.  They also got their paws on Jane Aiken Hodges biography,  The Private World of Georgette Heyer  (Chivers 1984 edition). Read about their discovery here.

Heyer 2 small 2269
The Tedettes get their paws on a trove of Georgette Heyer Novels

Heroes

Georgette Heyer created her heroes very deliberately.  In correspondence with her publishers she gleefully refers to them in a private shorthand by Type, explaining for instance that a particular character is the “The Heyer Mark I” and another is “The Heyer Mark II” and so on.  She’d skilfully build up such a Type, and the readers’ conceptions of such a man,  and then two or three novels later, turn around the readers’ assumption by changing the decisions and actions of the Hero.

Mr Rochester: the prototype.

Jane Aiken Hodge found unpublished articles by Heyer, one of which will fascinate her readers (see Ch. 5 of the bio) as it concerns Mr Rochester, from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. This is Heyer’s own view of Mr Rochester:

“It is a accepted fact that women form the bulk of the novel reading public and what woman with romantic leanings wants to read novels which have as their heroes the sort of men she meets every day of her mundane life. (Mr Rochester) is rude, overbearing, and often a bounder, but these blemishes, however repulsive they may be in real life, can be made in the hands of a skilled novelist extremely attractive to many women.”

How ‘Fluffy’ was the Romance, really?

Hodge makes the case that underneath the entertaining friction and tension of her heroes and heroines lies an abiding principle: the protagonists are maturing through the pages into a rich and full relationship .

 Heyer’s idea of romance never ends with “happily married”.  Many of her characters get married off early in the book.  It is the story of their growing mutual respect and understanding afterwards that interests the writer,  and this must be the feature that kept – and still keeps – millions of readers coming back for more.

Antonia Byatt, in an article in Nova, stated,

” (Heyer) is playing romantic games with the novel of manners. In her world of romanticised anti romanticism … men and women really talk to each other … and plan to spend the rest of their lives together developing the relationships”.

In the Tedettes next post they will look at Georgette Heyer’s writing style.

The Private World of Georgette Heyer and more about Georgette Heyer are at Amazon, and BookDepository. Thanks for joining the Teddettes as they explore the Regency world of Georgette Heyer. Next they consider points about Heyer’s methods and style.

AbeBooks. Thousands of booksellers - millions of books.

You are at Mark’s blog called Baffled Bear Books. Mark is a dark coffee tragic and bibliophile as well as the Guardian and blundering typist for Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears.

The Tedette’s Jane Austen Book Club reads: The Private World of Georgette Heyer, by Jane Aiken Hodge

Considered queen of the Regency romance, Georgette Heyer is one of the most beloved historical novelists of our time. As Hodge states in the Foreword of her biography: “She gave her name to a recognisable genre of fiction”.

Thrilled by Jane Austen’s books, the Tedettes looked about for more Regency novels. They’ve now got their paws on Chivers 1984 edition of The Private World of Georgette Heyer

Heyer 3 sm 2272

(From Hodges’ Foreword) “From none of the 51 titles in print when she died would you guess (Heyer) spent the early years of her married life (to Ronald Rougier) in rough camps first in Tanganyika then in Macedonia. But she recognised this for experience she could not use. No heroine of hers would ever sit in a grass hut writing a novel”.

“A best seller all her life without the aid of publicity, Heyer never gave an interview and only answered fan letters herself it they had made an interesting historical point.”

The biographer had access to private papers, correspondence and family archives. Hodge details the research Heyer applied to her period and the skill and craft that went into her characters.  Yet for most of her career, she was dismissed as a light romantic.

Hodge’s overriding theme is well expressed, I think, in this observation: ” If anyone could make the romantic novel respectable it should have been G. Heyer, unacknowledged moralist and stylist extraordinary. It did not happen in her lifetime and she minded, silently .. (yet) .. She gave an immense amount of pleasure to all kinds of people, and must have known she did.”

The Private World of Georgette Heyer is at Amazon, and BookDepository. Thanks for joining the Teddettes as they explore the Regency world of Georgette Heyer. Our next post is about the Heyer Heroes.   And you might also like to read about Heyer’s style, researches and writing.

The Tedettes have also read up on Jane Austen of course. You might like to read about Lady Susan and Two Hundred Years of Reading Pleasure.  You can see more of the Tedettes over at Mawson Bear’s own blob, umm, blog.
AbeBooks. Thousands of booksellers - millions of books.

You are at Mark’s blog called Baffled Bear Books. Mark is a dark coffee tragic and bibliophile as well as the Guardian and blundering typist for Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears.