Strip the Willow and Rip the Bodice

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Period Period Fiction July 12, 2010

As promised in the last vlog, a picture of this week’s book – Georgette Heyer’s Powder and Patch – on the shelf with the other novels of this genre:

see the difference?

There was a lot that that attracted me to this book beyond the difference in shape – the cover, as I also mentioned in my vlog, was different.

'Powder and Patch' by Georgette Heyer

There was no Fabio-type man clutching a woman on the cover. The length was odd. And, more importantly, when I flipped through Powder and Patches I found it missing.

‘It’ being sex.

The quick answer to the last point – the absence of sex – can be easily marked off by the ‘period period fiction.’ Powder and Patch was a novel originally published in 1930. Not that the time period is the excuse, but the Author’s bio provides more insight into why the ‘usual’ aspect of these types of novels was missing:

“Author of over fifty book, Georgette Heyer is one of the best-known and best-loved of all historical novelists, making the regency period her own Her first novel, The Black Moth, published in 1921, was written at the age of fifteen to amuse her convalescent brother; her last was My Lord John. Although famous for her historical novels, she also wrote twelve detective stories. Georgette Heyer died in 1974 at the age of seventy-one.” p.185

First of all, the author was still quite young when writing this novel but also – there was no formula yet – was there? Plus, if she continued to write from the air she took when writing for her brother – there’s no need for sex at all. Secondly (and this enforces the former, I suppose), her first novel was written for entertainment – I like that. Thus – Heyer seems to be writing to entertain – but in her way.

And then there’s that third thing: she’s a historical novelist. It’s stressed not only in the biography but throughout the book – this is historical fiction.

When I finished the novel I asked myself: why the heck was this in the romance section? As I predicted in my vlog, this was very much a comedy of manners. A … Wodehousian sort of romp of the mid-eighteenth century. In fact, so little is actual romance, that I’m still trying to figure out why it was marketed as such.

The story is insanely simple (I read the back cover in my vlog – and nothing at all strays) – the characters are two-dimensional, but in a good way, and there’s no fussing about anything other than the simple, black and white plot that had these little 2D characters tripping over each other and laughing about it.

As I said – I liked this novel (not the best thing I’ve ever written – especially since there was no translation to the French some of the characters speak – FOOTNOTES PLEASE!) – but why wasn’t it put in plain fiction?

My guess is that was what it was placed in when originally published (I’ll have to do a little research into that, of course – but it still brings up the question about Wodehouse … but more on Wodehouse later). Beyond that – I’m clueless. I certainly wouldn’t have placed it in the Romance section.

Now, it’s not because I’m biased – because I liked the novel, because it didn’t follow the formula, because it was a comedy of manners. It’s not like I want to ‘rescue’ this book from it’s place in B&N – I’m just wondering why it’s there.

So – this week, I’m going to try and figure that out … with the text. I think structure will be interesting to talk about as well – but looking at why this novel is sold under ‘Romance’ look be interesting to look at.

Breaking it down … nah – I’ll just surprise you in the next few days.

And if you couldn’t tell – yes, I’m quite drowsy. Enjoy this cat and dog .gif.

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Reference

Heyer, Georgette. Power and Patch. Naperville: Sourcebooks, Inc., 1930.

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