Sunday, January 30, 2011

Review: The Convenient Marriage

The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer, 1934, 307 p.

Thanks to my membership in Paperback Swap, I finally scored this beautiful edition of one of my all time favorite Regency romance novels, by the incomparable Georgette Heyer.

When Horatia's beautiful older sister is to be sacrificed on the altar of Family Duty, giving up her true love in order to marry the wealthy Earl of Rule (and pull her family out of their financial difficulties), Horry offers herself to the Earl as a replacement bride. To everyone's shock, he accepts, and his new wife takes the fashionable world by storm. But even as Horry's independent spirit beguiles her new husband, the frustrated earl finds that the one woman in the fashionable ton who will not fall at his feet is his own wife.

Heyer's plot is cleverly contrived, and the level of historical detail woven into the text is absolutely superb. In its familiar treatments of everything from men's fashions to interior decorating to illegal gaming, the book makes the period spring to sparkling life.

But much as I enjoy the historical trivia smorgasbord, what has always delighted me about Heyer is her talent for hilarious dialogue.

In the following excerpt, Horatia has just escaped from her husband's arch enemy (Lethbridge), and run into her intoxicated brother (the Viscount) and his equally inebriated buddy (Sir Roland):

"I've ... k-killed Lord Lethbridge," shuddered Horatia.
"Nonsense!" said the Viscount.
"It isn't nonsense! I hit him with a p-poker as hard as I could, and he f-fell and lay quite still."
"Where did you hit him?" demanded the Viscount.
"Oh the head," said Horatia.
The Viscount looked at Sir Roland. "D'you suppose she killed him, Pom?"
"Might have," said Sir Roland judicially.
"Lay you five to one she didn't," offered the Viscount.
"Done!" said Sir Roland.
"Tell you what," said the Viscount suddenly. "I'm going to see."
Horatia caught him by the skirts of his coat. "No, you sh-shan't! You've go to take me home."
"Oh, very well," replied the Viscount, relinquishing his purpose. "But you've no business to go killing people with a poker at two in the morning. It ain't genteel."
Sir Roland came unexpectedly to Horatia's support. "Don't see that," he said. "Why shouldn't she hit Lethbridge with a poker? You don't like him. I don't like him."
"No," said the Viscount, acknowledging the truth of this statement. "But I wouldn't hit him with a poker. Never heard of such a thing."
"No more have I," admitted Sir Roland. "But I tell you what I think, Pel: it's a good thing."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Vun! Vun veek of bloggink!

Check it out! My third post, and I'm still on schedule.

I'll be adding another category to the things I'm counting: Dickens Project Word Count. I'm enrolled in a special seminar on the late works of Charles Dickens this year, and I have to produce "a substantial piece of written work." Holding my breath, with fingers crossed, half aghast at my own temerity, I asked my professor whether, instead of researching an article, I could write a Dickens themed middle grade novel. And he said yes! I probably won't finish the whole thing this semester, but I'm hoping for a minimum of 25,000 words, or three out of my seven planned sections.

Enough chatting! On with the counting!

Pounds to lose to next reward sticker: 1
Fantasy novel word count: 30,115
Dickens project word count: 1,785

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Review: The Winter Prince

The Winter Prince by Elizabeth Wein. 1993. 202 pages.

Sometimes a book gets inside of you. It curls up in your mind and refuses to go away. It changes the way you think about reading and about what books can do. It becomes a permanent part of your mental landscape of literature, and you start measuring other books by it, like it's a yardstick.

The Winter Prince is one of my yardstick books, which I discovered just last fall. The story immediately attracted me - it's a retelling of Arthurian legend from the perspective of Mordred (renamed Medraut). The story revolves around the relationship between Medraut and his legitimate half brother, Lleu, whom Medraut both hates and loves. It's a dark story, which is a given if you know anything about Mordred's parentage, but also one that's full of courage and ultimately, hope. I always thought that Mordred got a raw deal and wished he could have a second chance. Here, finally, he gets one.

What I find almost as fascinating as the book itself is what Wein says about what it was like to write: "The creating of The Winter Prince and the writing of it were two very different things. The creating of it took more than ten years .... But once that was over, the writing itself took place over a brief year and a half. It began with the sudden realization that Medraut was the narrator .... Once I knew that, I almost felt that I was no longer writing the book myself. Medraut was leaning over my shoulder with his hand guiding my pen .... I did not own or use a computer until I was three-quarters of the way through the book. I swore I could compose the whole thing in my head. A month after I finished the first draft, my cousin opened the manuscript to a random page, and challenged, 'Let's see how well you know your own book.' He prompted me with a sentence. I answered him by quoting the rest of the page. I had been living dreaming, and breathing this book for a dozen years."

I can only imagine creating with such passionate intensity. Sometimes, I can't even remember what I wrote yesterday, much less quote it :) But, for an aspiring author, it's something to dream about.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A new year, a new blog post!

Still in search of a blogging style that suits me! After having not posted for a couple of months, I think it's become clear to all of us that the daily blog thing isn't going to work for me :)

So, new strategy which will have two components.

1. My new year seems to be involving a lot of counting. And what better place to keep track of all the things I'm counting than right here? Wednesdays will be count update day.

2. Book reviews - I feel like these should be fun and, more importantly, that they will, like multivitamins, be good for me. Sundays will be book review day.

That's it, nice and simple. So without further ado, things I am counting! (And yes, I am hoping to turn into a muppet vampire by the end of the semester.)

I'm going to start out with two categories of counting and gradually work up to more. I don't want to strain my not-so-hot mathematical abilities right at the start.

Part of my New Year's program is membership in Weight Watchers. Therefore, I present category number one!

Pounds left to lose before next Weight Watchers reward sticker (got my very first one today!): 1.2

And category number two!

Fantasy novel rewrite word count: 25, 195

Notice how I have one count down and one count up? Yeah, I did that on purpose. Feel the genius.