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Once Upon A Bookshelf

Where Fiction and Reality Meet

The Corinthian

Author: Georgette Heyer
Originally Published: 1940
Courtney’s Edition: 2004
Publisher: Arrow Books, Random House
Source: borrowed from the library

The Story

Sir Richard, looking ahead to a loveless marriage, stumbles upon a young Penelope Creed escaping out of her bedroom window one evening. Pen has disguised herself as a boy and is planning on escaping to her country home, and even though Sir Richard is extremely inebriated, he knows that a girl her age should not be traipsing around the countryside on her own. And so, he decides that he simply must accompany her.

Of course, there are all sorts of crazy hijinks that ensue – the stage coach gets turned over, they come into close contact with a thief, a friend of Sir Richard’s gets murdered, and Pen is convinced that her aunt will come chasing after her to take her back and force her to marry Pen’s cousin.

And of course, as with any of Heyer’s regency books, there is a dash of adorable and delicious romance.

The Review

Rachel and I read this together and then decided to blog about it together.

Courtney: I haven’t read any Georgette Heyer in a while and I’m always pleasantly surprised by her books when I pick them up just because of how fun they are. I found The Corinthian to be a lot more fun than some of the others I’ve read just because of the crazy hijinks that were involved – girls dressed as boys getting into scrapes, murder, theft, running away in the middle of the night, oh joy! What a great escapist novel, and how perfect for the February blahs. You’ve been devouring your way through her books – how did you find this one compared to the others that you’ve read?

Rachel: I really liked the pace of this one. There was lots of adventure and it didn’t take her very long to catapult us into the plot. Plus, she kept the whole cloak-and-dagger motif running rampant throughout the story. Like you, I really enjoyed the hijinks— and the image of carriages running helter skelter at a dizzying pace. This was sheer fun. Some of the books of hers I have read have serious undertones — like These Old Shades ( a great romance of redemption, in a way) and Black Sheep ( where the theme of women as marriageable commodities is pretty abundant ) —- but The Corinthian—well—- it was as of Heyer was writing with her tongue in her cheek.

Courtney: Yes, she does tongue in cheek very well. One thing that I noticed with this book is how much the quality of her writing improved from earlier books – this one is about 20 years into her career as a novelist, and you can really tell the difference. There’s more depth, more maturity in the writing (not necessarily the content, but certainly the writing style), etc. That’s one thing that is so much more noticeable when you can pick and choose your way through an author’s whole catalogue of books, as opposed to having to wait for the next one to be released.

Rachel: I also get the sense that Heyer was writing first and foremost for her own enjoyment. I love books like that because they allow the author’s personality to seep through. To continue your noting of her depth and maturity, I also feel she improves her grasp of how to tell convincing historical fiction. Whereas her early works had the tendency to lapse into encyclopediac knowledge now and then ( in an almost cut and paste fashion), the regency details in the Corinthian were more implied and ingrained so you had a keen picture in your mind’s eye and got a feel for the period without it being bludgeoned over your head with numerous factoids. Can I also just throw the word verisimilitude in here because I never get to use it? Thanks.

Courtney: I just had to look up “verisimilitude.” Google tells me that it is “the quality of seeming to be true or real.” But I can really see how this applies to The Corinthian. It does appear that she knows a lot of what is going on in the regency period, and it is sometimes surprising (in the case of this book, for example) to realize that she didn’t experience it herself. While this was a fun romp, it still does touch on some of the issues that would have been relevant at that point in time – specifically expectations of women who spent unchaperoned time with men, the difficulties families face with financial issues, and the necessity of women to make a good marriage. As much as I love reading regency books, I really don’t think I’d want to live in a time where it was depended on me to marry well just so I could secure my family’s financial stability!

Rachel: What I liked about this particular novel is that Sir Richard was facing the same impending threat of a loveless marriage to secure his family’s financial gain and to hold up in society. It is rather refreshing to see a man have the same expectations thrust upon him. It immediately set the stage for an understanding friendship between Sir Richard and Penn. I rather enjoyed this. Richard immediately understood Penn’s dilemma and I think, in part, that was why he was so eager to jump and save her. He knew what it felt like to have this unsavoury future looming afore him.

Courtney: Well, that plus he was completely smashed when he came across her attempting to run away in the first place. That might have had something to do with it, haha. I love the relationship that Penn and Sir Richard have right from the beginning in this book – she’s adventurous and naïve, and he is amused by her and knows that she needs protection in her wild and crazy schemes. I love that she puts him in situations he doesn’t feel comfortable with at all (hello, stagecoach?) and that he lets her do this. And that he goes out of her way to protect her without caging her in or patronizing her for her naïveté.

Rachel: He treats her like an equal— and I suppose she is— in humour and in situation and circumstance. But, I think he smiles at her out of his eyes the entire time and doesn’t always take her seriously. But, I am not altogether sure he completely takes life seriously so this is just another one of his many charms. I also enjoy the hint of rogue he has. In fact, talking about him makes me want to cast him. Jack Davenport?

Courtney: Mmm. I was just watching The Wedding Date last night and he is in it. He would definitely be able to pull off the rogue aspect, and we’ve already seen him in that same sort of time period in Pirates of the Caribbean. He could pull off being Sir Richard. What about Penn?

Rachel: I really like the idea of Carey Mulligan (Bleak House, An Education, Dr. Who) as Penn.

Courtney: Is that Sally Sparrow? She looks a bit old for the role… I don’t know too many young females in acting, so this part is a little hard for me. What about Alexa Vega or Eliza Bennett? Actually, Eliza Bennett probably looks a little bit too young. Oh, what about Rachel Hurd-Wood? She’s rather adorable.

Rachel: What’s REALLY funny is that when you said Eliza Bennett I was thinking of the “real” Eliza Bennett ( which, in my crazy mind, was automatically Jennifer Ehle ). Alexa Vega!

Courtney: Yeah, I remember thinking that quite a bit when I read her name in the credits for Inkheart! Oh, Jennifer Ehle is such a wonderful actress. And Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, mmm… Anyway! Tangent! I hate to say this, but I think if they were to make a movie out of this, it would actually be better as a 2 hour movie than a 4 hour miniseries. As much as was going on, it felt like not everything was necessarily needed to make this a good story. Not that it dragged on, but it just wasn’t all that important to furthering character development or pushing the story to a climax – like the meeting between Penn’s aunt and Sir. Richard.

Rachel: What they should do is a BBC series featuring two hour episodes of each Heyer novel. They could totally squeeze this into two hours. I mean look at the ITV Northanger Abbey— that worked brilliantly. As did the ITV Persuasion ( Unfortunately, I have nothing good to say about the ITV Mansfield Park so I am just not going to say anything at all…..)

Penn’s aunt! Sir Richard! How Lady Catherine de Bourgh-esque was that pivotal moment. Good God Georgette Heyer! You’re like mango gelato. You are the sweetest confection in the world. And you ruin me for real life…. And so do your men with their boots and cravats and eye glasses hanging from dainty chains!

Back to Jack Davenport ( because isn’t that just the best segway??? ) he has a delicious voice. I have a feeling Sir Richard would have a delicious voice.

Courtney: He really does have a delicious voice. And I imagine Sir Richard would too, especially when he is amused at Penn. And Jack Davenport could totally pull off Sir Richard’s bored attitude that seems to intimidate those he doesn’t care a fig about. Mmm, I totally want to rewatch all the Pirates of the Caribbean movies now, darn it!

What did you think of all the secondary characters? I loved me the thief they met in the stage coach. He was a lot of fun.

Rachel: I loved the thief and I loved the rather portly relative whose house Sir Richard visits at the beginning of the story— the one who tries hard to emulate Sir Richard’s flair with a cravat ( his name escapes me right now )

Courtney: The sister’s husband?

Rachel: Yah. That’s him. He was super cool.

Courtney: Yeah, he was pretty awesome. They were all mostly awesome; in fact, there were only two characters that I DIDN’T like – Penn’s childhood friend (again, the name is not coming to mind) and the girl he’s in love with. I have no patience for silly little people like them. I was especially aggravated when whats-her-name told her father that she met Penn for a romantic rendezvous instead of whats-his-name. This girl came across as being way too flakey, and I have no stomach for characters like that.

Before I start going on a rant, I need to change the subject.

How about the last moment when Penn and Sir Richard finally both admit and realize that the other is in love with them? It is up there with the awesome endings of Rilla of Ingleside and North & South, as far as my favourites go.

Rachel: I also loved the last moment. The thing with Georgette Heyer is she always leaves the romantic climax until the very last page. You know it is coming but she makes you wait and wait and THEN …. Then she ties it up with a happy bow ( same with North and South, eh?)

I really enjoyed the ending and the discovery of love which, really, when you think about it had been there since Sir Richard first saw Penn—all inebriated and blurry and cleaned her up and whisked her away.…..

Courtney: Oh, he obviously loved her from the beginning. And she was in love with him from that point too even though she didn’t realize it until later. But all-in-all a satisfying end to a good book then. Yay!

The Bottom Line

Read this book. Reeeaaad it!

Other Reviews

A Work in Progress, Bookfoolery and Babble, Becky’s Book Reviews, Ex Libris. Have you reviewed this book on your blog? Let me know and I’ll add your link.

Posted by Courtney Wilson @ 7:05 am February 24, 2010.
Category: Historical Fiction
Book Author(s):
Publisher(s): ,

  • http://weeklybookpixie.blogspot.com kiirstin

    This is an awesome review! I love the discussion. It’s a tonne of fun to read. Also, though I’m afraid I can’t credit the two of you with introducing me to the idea of reading Heyer (that was Aarti who finally convinced me I should) I am thinking I’m going to start with this one.

  • http://dreamingenigma.livejournal.com Amanda

    I love Heyer. Great review.

  • http://www.danitorres.typepad.com Danielle

    So glad you liked this. It’s one of my very favorite books–it has everything–adventure, romance and even laughs. It’s a playful, fun book and I think it would make a great movie!

  • http://aartichapati.blogspot.com/ Aarti

    Yay for this review! (And for me pushing Heyer on Kiirstin.) The Corinthian is not my favorite Heyer, and actually probably doesn’t make it on my top five list, though I don’t know why after reading your review! Maybe I should read it again.

    I am pretty sure I disliked Pen- she seemed very obtuse in going after that neighbor boy…