Saturday, April 21, 2007


From my HEYER shelves...........................

In 1923 Georgette Heyer published her first contemporary novel, INSTEAD OF THE THORN; her fourth novel to be published. This post-WWI novel tells the story of Elizabeth Arden*, a sheltered 19-year-old who finds herself completely unprepared for the people and situations she finds when she ventures out into the world on her own.

Elizabeth meets and imagines herself in love with Stephen, a successful novelist much older than herself. They marry, and young, innocent Elizabeth, who had been reared by her father and a spinster aunt, is horrified by her first sexual experience with her older husband. The father and aunt had balked at explaining the facts of life to Elizabeth in any way, and, unable to deal with the realities of married life, she runs away from her husband. She comes to learn a lot about herself and marriage in general, and eventually returns and really falls in love with her husband this time. Stephen is depicted as a very good, loving man, who shows a lot of forbearance for his young wife.

This has been called a courageous book to have been written by an unmarried girl of the 1920s, and it is. The journey Elizabeth takes from being appalled by sexual relations to beginning to have real insight into herself and the world around her is well written, and the book sold well when it was published, although not as well as the historical novels.

INSTEAD OF THE THORN is one of only four contemporary novels that were not crime novels, and it is felt to be the most feeling of the four (Heyer later supressed all four of them). It is hard to find an older copy of this book without paying a fortune for it, but Buccaneer Books reprinted it in the 90s, along with the other three set in post-WWI, and this newer issue can be found and purchased at a decent price. The image below is of a 1923 issue.

I do recommend reading this book if you have access to it, and if you are building a Heyer library, be sure to include the four post-WWI novels. They are the only novels that can be said to have offered any kind of insight into Heyer's everyday life.

*It is interesting that the heroine's name is Elizabeth Arden, but there has never been any indication that this was not simply a name pulled out of a hat. The real-life Elizabeth Arden, of beauty spa fame, opened up her first salon in Paris in 1922, and I suppose it is possible that Heyer could have seen the name and that it appealed to her, but again, there is no evidence of that.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Mable Riley

From My "Borrowed Books" Shelf . . .

I just finished a very good book from the library entitled, MABLE RILEY; A RELIABLE RECORD OF HUMDRUM, PERIL AND ROMANCE, by Marthe Jocelyn. The book is published by Candlewick Press, and the copyright is 2004.

This is the story of Mable, a teenage girl who, in 1901, goes with her older sister who is embarking on her first teaching job. The school where Viola will teach is quite a distance from their home and family, but Mable is glad of the opportunity to travel and is longing for adventures. Mable is to attend school and also act as Viola's assistant with the younger students.

Mable and Viola board at the home of a farmer, his wife, and a grown son. Mable eventually makes a couple of friends at the school, and meets a neighbor lady, who is considered by the godly Methodist community as being a "bad apple". But Mable likes Mrs. Rattle, and very soon is pitched into an adventure that she didn't really bargain for, because Mrs. Rattle and a few other ladies in the community secretly hold suffragette meetings. Mable actually becomes involved in a strike on a local factory, almost ends up in jail, and eventually helps bring about a satisfactory ending to the workers' problems.

There is a bit of romance in the story, too, for Viola and for Mable. The book is written in the form of a diary, written by the title character. This form does not interfere with the flow of the story at all. Within Mable's diary entries are absolutely wonderful little poems and a serial story that she writes for her school friends back home and sends in letters to her best friend.

This is a book written for young adults, and can be found in the juvenile section of your public library. I find that quite often I crave a good novel written for the young adult, and this one fit the bill. I would highly recommend it.

The author says she got the inspiration for the book from reading the journals of her maternal grandmother, written more than 100 years earlier, even though her grandmothers' story was nothing like Mable's. Jocelyn says on the back flyleaf, "They are detailed accounts of unremarkable days, but hidden on the back pages are her terrible efforts at poetry...., but I am ever grateful for her need to record the particulars of ironing collars and the selection of hair ribbons."