Monday, August 29, 2011

The Private World of Georgette Heyer by Jane Aiken Hodge

Georgette Heyer was one of the most popular and prolific writers of the twentieth century. A native of England, Heyer established herself as a premier author of historical fiction and detective novels. She ultimately excelled at writing in one time period, the regency era, and her brand of “regency romance” spawned many imitators that couldn’t capture the magic and witty dialogue of the original novels.

I discovered Georgette Heyer’s novels about four years ago and was very excited. Her novels reminded me of Jane Austen’s and I soon discovered that each novel I picked up seemed to be even better than the previous novels. I became curious about Georgette Heyer herself. She was an extremely private person and not much information is known about her. I jumped at a chance to read and review a biography of one of my favorite authors.

The biography, The Private World of Georgette Heyer, was first published in 1984 by author and fan Jane Aiken Hodge. This was just 10 short years after Heyer’s death, which allowed Hodge to be able to interview surviving family and friends for her biography, as well as to review and include letters from the ultra private Heyer herself. Heyer first became a published author at the age of nineteen.

Heyer famously deflected any attention while she was alive and soon had an alias when she married Ronald Rougier. She did not consent to interviews, meeting fans, or any sort of press. This would make it rather difficult to construct a biography, but Hodge achieves it by looking through Heyer’s publications. Georgette Heyer had said that you could find her by looking through her works, and indeed you can. Hodge makes a good illustration of what was going on in Heyer’s life when she wrote each of her novels.

Georgette Heyer started with historical fiction, but also wrote some contemporary novels and mysteries at the beginning of the career. I was intrigued by the summaries of the contemporary novels that were later suppressed. I would LOVE to read them. I hope they will be released one of these days. Heyer dedicated herself to meticulous research and became the expert on all things Regency. She found her most success with her regency romantic novels, and took it upon herself to make sure all facts found within them were accurate. She also seemed to enjoy finding colloquial phrases for her characters to use. Reading about her dedication for accuracy in these phrases made me appreciate them in her novels much more than I had previously. I was amazed reading about her research library in her home and wish I could have seen it for myself.

Heyer battled with plagiarist and tax collectors for most of her life. It really made me angry that authors so blatantly stole her works, but she wasn’t able to do anything about it as it would cause too much publicity.

The Private World of Georgette Heyer is a book I want to reread and keep by my side for reference as I continue to read Heyer’s works. I really enjoy the illustrations throughout the text which showed many of the sources that Heyer used for illustrations of period garb, carriages, etc.

Book Source: Advance Review Copy from Sourcebooks. Thank-you!


  1. This sounds fascinating. I just started reading Georgette Heyer's books last year and she's quickly becoming a favourite author. I didn't know she had written some contemporary novels - hopefully they'll be released one day!

  2. This sounds like a wonderful book for Georgette Heyer fans.

    Laura, I'm taking a break from blogging but will be back within a week or two. :)

  3. I really want to read this! BTW..Please come by my site...You won my giveaway!