8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
A Quiet Enjoyment
, 23 Feb. 2008
This review is from: The Quiet Gentleman (Paperback)
When reading some customer critics' plot synopsis on this novel, I come to think about all the chances Ms. Heyer has missed to make this book a pompous, over-dramatized epic about an ill-treated young man who in spite of his father's neglect of him comes and collects his inheritance, defies his evil relatives and gets himself a bride after hardship and persecution. We may thank God that this is not at all in Ms. Heyer's style.
Instead we have a thoroughly charming, intelligent hero with a very sound sense of humour, an unorthodox, totally practical heroine who doesn't seem to understand at all what a heroine she is, a collection of very vivid people surrounding the two, representing the whole spectrum of human virtues and weaknesses. People in real life are seldom (or never) totally black or white, which they tend to be in many a romantic book or TV series, and Ms. Heyer is always aware of this. Even her most horrible figures seem to be able to arouse some sort of sympathy that almost sneaks upon us without our knowledge; when we laugh with her and her hero Gervase at Gervase's dreadful step-mother, the laughter is not mean. Is Ms. Heyer ever sarcastic about her characters? I don't seem to recall an instance. It is always easier to tolerate an irritating person if you can be amused by her and her ways in a gentle and purely humorous way. This seems to be Gervase's attitude towards his relatives. Good for him. He also understands that there always are two sides to every coin; there are positive sides even to his secret enemy, and Gervase is aware of them and does not want totally to condemn him.
The romantic development between Gervase and his Drusilla is very subtle and written without italics of any kind. Drusilla is very far indeed from the alluring, wilful, sexually enticing, manipulating heroine of some stories. She is criticizing herself for her lack of those qualities, and this is one of the most endearing features of the story. She doesn't appreciate her practical intelligence, her caring for other people in spite of their possible flaws, or her immense social skills that derive from the fact that she is confident but not conceited. Luckily, Gervase sees all this.
Gervase is beautiful, graceful, sweet-tempered, wealthy and an Earl, the dream of every mother-in-law; through the book we find out that he is more resilient than anybody at first suspects, he knows what he wants and how to get it without having to quarrel with anybody. In fact, his way of making things happen his way reminds me strongly of the defensive moves of the Swedish national ice-hockey team (i.e. making it impossible for the adversary to have it his way). Moreover, he seems to have an unending tolerance to other people's being different from himself (my husband is like him in this although not an Earl, and it is the secret of our 23-year-old marriage). He could pick any beautiful heiress as his bride; instead he observes Drusilla, notices her excellent qualities, is amused by her eternal common sense, respects her as a friend, and on top of all this, understands that this is the woman he wants to live his life with. I can see them as life-companions, Drusilla adoring her thoroughly lovable husband and Gervase loving her and congratulating himself for his successful choice of bride.
The humour in this book is typically "heyerish", contained in the people and in the way they speak and react, not explained or underlined. The best examples of this are the discussions involving Drusilla's parents and the enormous self-satisfaction of Lady St.Erth. Everything that Drusilla says has high comedy in it, and Gervase is the first to appreciate this, not in a way to ironize over her, but to enjoy her matter-of-factness and her realism that distinguish her from other women.
For you that have not yet discovered this piece of literary art, I congratulate you for the nice time you are going to have.
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