Georgette Heyer (who died in 1974) is becoming popular in libraries once more as people have started to appreciate again her beautifully written ‘escapist’ stories. I’ve loved her books since I was a teenager but it was always a slightly guilty passion as I was embarrassed to be seen reading historical romances. How times have changed! I was listening to A Good Read on Radio 4 a few weeks ago and heard the comedian Bob Mills choose Heyer’s These Old Shades as a favourite and Harriett Gilbert said that Heyer is the only author ever to be chosen twice on the programme.
My daughter Tess is another fan but is not ashamed of owning all Heyer’s books (a gift from me when she went to uni) and in 2009 she and I went to a wonderful conference at Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge called ‘Re-reading Georgette Heyer‘ where academics discussed her work. Everyone in the room (speakers and audience) was so excited to be talking about her that you could feel the tension and sheer joy in the air!
I’ve recently introduced my sisters, Mary and Claire, to her books. Mary’s a big fan now and is slightly envious of my teenage years escaping into the Heyer world, while she was reading DH Lawrence. We both enjoy the unabridged audiobooks, especially those read by the incomparable Cornelius Garrett (who sounds just like his name suggests). But I made the mistake of lending Claire the CDs of These Old Shades and she found Cornelius’s voice so painfully plummy she gave up after a few minutes and this seems to have put her off the books. But if you persevere you realise that he has the perfect Heyer voice, especially as Justin, the dastardly, but fatally attractive Duke of Avon.
Hopefully I’ve said enough to make you rush to your nearest library to borrow some of her books. Or try the unabridged audiobooks (don’t bother with the abridged versions) – your library should have them.