Review – Georgette Heyer: Biography of a Bestseller

Posted February 16, 2016 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Georgette Heyer: Biography of a Bestseller by Jennifer KloesterGeorgette Heyer: Biography of a Bestseller, Jennifer Kloester

If you ever feel like, as a writer, feeling like you’re a hack who doesn’t even write that fast, I do suggest you read this biography of Georgette Heyer — or just take a look at her publishing history. Holy wow. She started early and kept on going and going and going, producing books which people love to this day almost right up to her death. And yeah, she had a formula for the Regency books, in a way, but they still remained full of wit and humour which makes each one feel fresh, and she did venture beyond those bounds: she wrote a medieval historical novel, contemporary romances, short stories, a novel which is still used as an example for her portrayal of the battle of Waterloo…

She was a versatile, accomplished and prolific author. I feel like she’d have got on with modern writers like Kameron Hurley in her outlook (though not, goodness me, politically or morally) on writing as a job, and one where she had to keep to deadlines, pay attention to her income, and constantly stay ahead of debt and the Tax Man. She may have loved it and it may have been a craft to her, and I think that is apparent, but it was also work and she took it seriously, using it to support her family.

The personality of Heyer is a little elusive because she was a notoriously private person, giving no interviews. On the other hand, there is a wealth of letters written by her available, including some she wrote to fans and to her agent, so her personality shines through there: self-deprecating in a very proper British way, but proud of her work and her research where merited; conscientious about her commitments; blunt and to the point about her likes and dislikes, even when she’s trying to support a friend.

There is quite a bit of repetition on these points, including a recurring theme of Heyer claiming that she doesn’t write well in adversity, and Kloester pointing out that she does. There’s a bit of repetition about her deep relationship with her husband (and the fact that it was not especially physical). But overall it’s an interesting biography which shines a bit of light on Heyer, and has made me scribble some of her works down in my list to read soon. Something about knowing the context in which she wrote them and the feelings she had about them makes them more intriguing. And oh, Heyer, how dare you not just adore The Taliman Ring? It’s so much fun!

Rating: 4/5

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