June 27, 2009

My Lord John by Georgette Heyer: Review

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Although Georgette Heyer is known for her Regency novels, she was fascinated with the Middle Ages. Before her death, she planned to write a trilogy revolving around the House of Lancaster. The work took years because of the amount of research. Her husband said she was a perfectionist and studied every detail of the period.

The first book she planned was a tribute to Henry V's brother John of Bedford- My Lord John. The book starts when John and his brothers are children. His father is not yet king but the cards are being dealt. Henry of Bolingbroke will soon be on the throne. The children are separated and although raised far from each other, they are still loyal brothers. When their dad is king, he relies on them to keep his kingdom together. What happens next, I do not know. I couldn't finish it. I read close to 300 pages but can't see me finishing the next 200. I usually feel really bad about this but in this case not so much because the book is not finished either.

John does seem like an interesting character. I liked reading the parts where John's personality is the focus but these moments are too few. I can't help but think that if Heyer finished the book she would have breathed more life into it. Her Regencies are so lively. The dialogue seems to just be for conveying information to the reader. I didn't get a sense of who they were as people. They didn't have any great thoughts or desires other than strategies for war. I'm not saying I wanted John to be Dr Zhivago but some inner dialogue would have helped me connect with him better.

So far, being a king stinks. It's a good thing Henry IV had a bunch of sons. He sends them out to defend his borders, beat off usurpers, and do it all without a budget. Lather, rinse, repeat. How do these guys have time for anything else? And why would any of them want to be king? What is the payoff? An early grave? These are questions I would have liked Heyer to have explored.

My copy from Sourcebooks includes a glossary, a genealogy, and a character list which is very helpful. There are numerous characters who have similar names.

As I read My Lord John, I was saddened. Heyer was one talented lady with a passion for her country's history. She never got to complete her life's work. What would her trilogy been if she had lived to finish it?

Thanks to Sourcebooks for the review copy.

3 comments :

  1. I wonder if anyone really liked this book. I think one person on LibraryThing mentioned reading it 3 times. I also really wish Heyer had had the chance to complete it and polish it. I think it would have been much better in that case.

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  2. Oh how sad to hear you don't even feel like finishing it, it's so dry. Evidently she must have polished her books in other drafts or editing. Too bad she didn't have a chance, it does sound like it would have been a fascinating trilogy, if written in her normal style.

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  3. You're right about the dialogue, a few glimmers of personality come thru but it does seem that it mostly just conveys information. I'm hoping that the other historicals she wrote are better.

    Carey

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