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on 29 May 2017
An informative, sympathetic and well balanced biography.
Sets Heyer's novels, which I continue to re-read, in context.
I recommend to fellow enthusiasts.
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on 29 October 2011
I don't usually read biographies but this one appealed because of a misspent youth reading Georgette Heyer's novels. This biography is very lively and well done - it's absolutely fascinating on the relationship between Georgette, her agent and her various publishers. It also made me want to reread the novels, particularly the lesser ones that I've shied away from, as well as her detective novels which I've never tried.
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I've been reading Georgette Heyer's novels since I was in my early teens and they are still a pleasure to read nearly fifty years later. I was aware that Heyer refused to be interviewed and I knew next to nothing about the rest of her life so I looked forward to reading this biography. I was not disappointed as it is compulsive reading. The author is enthusiastic about her subject and hugely knowledgeable but this does not mean she glosses over Heyer's imperfections.

Here is all the background to Heyer's relationships, sometimes fraught, with her publishers and with her family and friends. I always wondered why she changed from Heinemann to the Bodley Head in the 1960s and it was interesting to read about the reasons behind the change. At that time `The New Georgette Heyer' was always top of my Christmas list and I was desolated if no new book was published in a particular year.

It was interesting to find out why Heyer herself refused to allow reprints of her modern novels - , `Barren Corn', `Instead of the Thorn' and `Pastel'. She did not consider them to be her best work. An early historical novel `The Great Roxhythe' went the same way and has still not been reprinted though Simon The Coldheart has been reprinted since Georgette Heyer died in 1974.

This book brought Heyer vividly to life for me and I felt as though I knew her by the time I had finished reading the book. She was a highly intelligent, witty person with great stamina and dedication to her work. She had a well developed sense of the ridiculous which must have been obvious to anyone who has read her books. At the same time she had diffidence about her abilities which at times prevented her from seeing how really excellent many of her books are. An Infamous Army for example is considered to be one of the best books of fiction or non-fiction about the Battle of Waterloo.

I had not appreciated how prolific Heyer was at times - writing more than one book a year and sometimes finishing them in a matter of weeks. Her publishers for many years never even bothered to read her manuscripts and just sent them sent straight to the printers. Heyer herself rarely revised to any great extent and the stories seemed to just flow from her brain into the typewriter fully formed. The novels which were based on historical events such as Royal Escape and The Spanish Bride took longer to write because of the research involved. She was rarely faulted on her historical accuracy though the author does point out one or two relatively minor mistakes in some of her novels.

The book has plenty of information about the author's sources, an index - though this is not interactive on the ebook version I read - a full list of Heyer's novels and short stories published in the UK and the USA. The publisher has clearly gone to some trouble to ensure that the illustrations display properly in the ebook version and these are very good. This has to be the definitive biography of one of our most popular authors and I would recommend it to anyone who has read and enjoyed her novels.
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on 23 October 2011
I read this fat volume in less than 24 hours - I couldnt put it down! Georgette Heyer has always been my favourite author, and sadly underrated (mainly thanks to the trashy writers who tried to copy her Regency romances, and in failing abyssmally, made the whole genre a joke). I thoroughly enjoyed reading about her life, especially since so much of it was in her own words. Now if only someone would turn up a lost manuscript of a brand new Heyer story.....
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on 26 April 2015
This is a thorough, well-documented account of the events of Georgette Heyer's life and of the circumstances in which she wrote her novels. Over a ten-year period the author had unlimited access to her papers and surviving family and friends, which accounts for the hundreds of people listed in the 'acknowledgements' section at the end of the book.
After ploughing through it all, I'm not sure how I feel: having worn the books to shreds over the last 50 years, will my attitude to them change now I've got to know and rather dislike the author?
Born in 1902 into one desperately aspirational middle-class family and then marrying into another, she was very much a woman of her time and class with some very fixed ideas about things like manners and entitlement. The many quotes from her letters don't show her in the best of lights, being mostly concerned with the deals she made with publishers and agents and the taxes she paid - extremely reluctantly - while living beyond her means. After a while it all gets rather repetitive, and I found myself skimming through some of it - weren't there any more letters that talked in depth about the books themselves, and the unforgettable characters she created? How much more interesting that would have been, and possibly more illuminating about the author.
By the end I felt that I'd learnt a lot about the circumstances of her life without getting to grips with the woman herself. Perhaps no book could do this: I suspect that even in her private letters she was putting on a public persona. I was left with the impression of an unfulfilled woman, chain-smoking her way through a book a year to placate her readers and earn enough money to support her lifestyle (and, to her credit, her feckless-sounding family), but never quite satisfied with the results.
Did she spurn publicity all her life because she was rather ashamed of her 'regency romances'? Ironically, of course, these, rather than the 'serious' but dull medieval novel she never completed, are the books that will endure.
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This sensitive and detailed account of the life and work of Georgette Heyer will be welcomed by fans of her books everywhere. Despite her enormous popularity, Georgette Heyer always refused interviews and rarely appeared at public events. However, this biography has the support and help of her family, which means the author had access to all the information/papers that are available and her love of the authors work also shines through and makes her a very sympathetic biographer.

Georgette Heyer was born in 1902 and had a very sheltered childhood. She was the eldest child of an affluent, middle class family. Her father a French master at Kings College School, who also organised charity theatre events and was a Shakespeare afficionado, and her mother a graduate of the Royal Academy of Music. She did not have a grand house, but it was comfortable and she was played music, read to, and very much loved. Her parents encouraged and stimulated, but did not pressure. Two brothers followed her, but Georgette had no formal education (often typical for girls of her class then) and did not attend school until she was thirteen.

As Georgette reached the 1920's, she was less of a Bright Young Thing than a traditionalist, who always looked back rather than forwards. At the age of only seventeen, she wrote "The Black Moth", which her father suggested be submitted for publication. It was published when she was just nineteen and has never been out of print. In 1920 she also met George Ronald Rougier, who later became her husband, after the sudden death of her father in 1925. His loss was a blow to Georgette - he was her closest ally and guiding light, but marriage and travel to Tanzania and then Macedonia with Ronald helped her to move on.

It does seem as though Georgette, for all her passionate historical romances, was essentially a very self contained person. Her new husband worked in mining and in Tanzania she was living a very remote and solitary life, but without complaint. Wherever she was, she simply continued working. They returned to England in 1930, where, in 1932, their only son was born. Ronald found it hard to start a career in England, they had dependents in members of Georgette's family, and money worries were to plague them for many years despite her success, as were problems with publishers.

This book has much detail about this intensely private woman and her career. Her sudden dislike of people she once championed, her inability to cope with money, her despair when forced to write and write in order to keep the wolves at the door. When war was declared in 1939 she declared, "I wish some German would come and drop a bomb on me. It would solve all my problems." Luckily it didn't and her life did improve, although she never really felt valued as a writer and often became frustrated with how she was perceived as an author and how her work was viewed. Despite her fear nobody took her seriously, her work was always popular - sometimes too popular - and she almost took Barbara Cartland to court when her early books 'borrowed' heavily from her work for example.

For all lovers of Georgette Heyer, this is a must read to understand and appreciate her work, life and books. She was a prolific and professional author and I am sure that this is how she would like to be remembered. Lastly, I read the kindle version of this book and the illustrations were included at the very end of the book. Highly recommended.
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on 22 March 2012
I am not a fan of Heyer's books but thought I'd try this biography to induce a bit more interest. It's not without merit and clearly based on a lot of research and access to private material. However it was a bit 'this happened and then next year that happened', too strictly chronological with not much discussion of Heyer's appeal to ordinary readers or the actual content of her writing.Worth buying if you are a Heyer fan but otherwise try the library.
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on 28 July 2013
I was given this book as a gift by someone who had seen me reading a Georgette Heyer book many years ago. I found myself enlightened as to why she had focused on the Regency period in her novels. The author obviously became very close to her subject while preparing for the book, but kept an objective eye throughout, including a great deal of historical detail from letters and other documents she had hunted down.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn how characterful and feisty Georgette Heyer was and how strong was the influence of her early family life on her writing. Her beloved father took a keen interest, as an author himself. The most interesting aspects were the battles with her various publishers and agents, some of whom seemed to understand her better than others.

Georgette Heyer's long and happy marriage and their lives at various addresses, including the famous Albany 'sets', was described in detail, as were their roller coaster finances. Not brilliant at managing money or dismissing hopeless agents, Georgette nevertheless had a powerful sense of duty towards providing for members of her family. She worked very hard to write engaging stories (and, most importantly, historically accurate ones, based on materials available at the time) and they became incredibly popular worldwide. It was her clever and witty style that gave her novels such wide appeal. Another author once attempted blatantly to copy her plots and was sent a powerful shot across the bows!

After reading the book I felt I understood Georgette Heyer's motivation and style origins very well. The photographs were well chosen and supported the biographical story, so that you could keep flipping back to them and imagining the players.
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on 31 March 2013
I have recently become a Georgette Heyer fan (in my 50s) so was interested to read this book about an author that I find fascinating.

At first I found the book a bit on the boring side as there was too much chronological data and very little insight into her character or attitudes to life. The book has only come alive for me once World War II was entered and there are now a lot of quotes from Heyer and more of her own voice comes through in the discussion of her life. There are times when it is really engaging. clearly this is the author's first attempt at a book and she will improve with practise. One hint, there is lots of implication that Heyer's relationship with her mother was strained at times, but nothing concrete is said. I would have found the book a lot more interesting if this very human side of Heyer had come out more.
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on 24 July 2014
I had previously read the Jane Aiken Hodge autobiography but I did not feel that I already knew everything when i read this one. The author had a nice style and added really useful details to what I already knew. I found this an enjoyable and informative read.
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