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.

1 comment:

bttrflybubbles2 said...

I read this book a few weeks ago from the library.  

It was interesting to see the social climate of the young adults in the early part of the 20th century contrasted with the older Aunt's suppressed thinking.  

I thought the husband was extremely tolerant and forbearing.   By the end, I thought she was very lucky to have a man like him to love her.  I liked how she came to enjoy farm animals and cultivate them at her country house--that she found what she enjoyed, personally, separately from her husband's likes.  

The psychological theme at that time in society seemed to stress honesty and openness about the realities of married life.  That parents should prepare their daughters by openly telling them what to expect in marriage.  

It seemed to me that a novel like this expressed the times it was written in and would not be shocking in today's society.