Writing History, reflecting history: Georgette Heyer’s Recency Novels in Context

Dr Jennifer Kloester (University of Melbourne) –  Writing History, reflecting history:  Georgette Heyer’s Recency Novels in Context

b 1902
d 1974
– has never been out of print since 1919 (The Black Moth)
– changing perceptions of her work – her own, publisher, reader
– 20th century woman with Edwardian perceptions
– wrote novels in different genres – confident, clear sighted writer
5 novels in the first four years of her writing life in different genres (up to the death of her father)
The Black Moth (historical)
The Great Rocks Heist
The Transformation of Philip Jetan (pseudonym)
Instead of the Thorn (contemporary) – title comes from Isiah, classical education reference
Simon the Coldheart (historical)

Many of her titles have Shakespearean titles, assumptions about her readers (Behold here’s poison, Envious Casca etc)
Has a clear vision of who her reader is (“I don’t writer for tobacconists assistants”)
– struggled to come to terms with the treatment of women on the basis of their gender
– contradictions especially in the contemporary novels in depictions of women
– finds herelf changeable, later surpasses the four contemporary novels
– has no time for unfeminine women, disparages those who
– yet her heroines are often independent, feisty, pushing boundaries, doing their best to circumvent the circumstances they find themselves in

Literary Context – the leather edition of her historical books were part of a series with these authors:
Joseph Conrad
John Galsworthy
DH Lawrence
Georgette Heyer
JB Priestley
Kate O’Brien
W Somerset Maugham
Beatrice Tunstall
George Moore

Highly regarded, popular author, considered a good seller – in very serious company looking at this list.

Was unhappy with the way her four contemporary novels were positioned on being re-released and later had them suppressed – these were the most autobiographical of her books, and perhaps felt they were taken too lightly?

Heyer was very confident within herself as a writer, and didn’t take advice from editers.  She wrote quickly (Faro’s Daughter directly typed in 8 weeks), and confidently, knowing ‘who’ her audience was – literate and educated.

While the puzzles in her detective stories were not as complex as say Christie’s, and the level of academic writing was not as high as Sayers, the standout factor of Heyer’s detective stories has to be her characters.  They leap off the page, and the repartee and dialogue sparkles in a way that her contemporaries did not emulate (the Whimsey / Vane conversations may come closest, but were quite different to say the Verekers in Death in the Stocks)

2 thoughts on “Writing History, reflecting history: Georgette Heyer’s Recency Novels in Context

  1. yes, I discussed Sayers with her (and Christie too) in the Q&A session. I will be attending another panel with Jennifer today

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