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Georgette Heyer's Regency World Paperback – August 1, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Meticulously researched yet splendidly entertaining, Kloester's comprehensive guide to the world of upper-class Regency England is a must-have for both Heyer readers and those generally interested in the society and customs of the early 19th-century. With chapters addressing everything from the inside-out details of period costume to the different methods of harnessing horses to carriages and the proper method of table service, even experts on Regency society will find invaluable new information, while the casual reader will find useful context and an answer for nearly every imaginable question about Regency society. Drawing on Heyer's own extensive research notes, Kloester gives a thorough overview of the period, from politics to food production to the pastimes of the ton. Charts and appendixes list Regency slang, periodicals, and the hierarchy of household servants. Small maps of fashionable areas of London and the resort towns of Brighton and Bath accompany extensive coverage of the popular shops, hotels, taverns, and residential neighborhoods. Kloester's prose is not as glittering as the period she covers, and it's disappointing that the many illustrations are modern "adaptations" of period originals. Yet no fan of the period or writer of stories set in the era should be without this guide to the Regency period.
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While Jane Austen is the godmother of the traditional Regency romance, she was, of course, at the time writing contemporary romances. It is Georgette Heyer who was writing historical romances as she created dozens of beloved Regency romances during the twentieth century, including The Nonesuch (2002) and Regency Buck (2008). Heyer is also responsible for establishing many of the genre’s literary conventions. Kloester, a British literary critic who is in the process of writing an official biography of Heyer, delivers a wonderfully entertaining and informative guide to the Regency era, its people, places, manners, and customs along with apropos references to Heyer’s own romances. From fashion and food to sporting events and social outings, Kloester’s lively book will delight died-in-the-wool Regency readers and give those new to the genre a better understanding of the enduring appeal of Austen’s world and Heyer’s classic books. As they would have said in Jane’s time, Georgette Heyer’s Regency World is all the crack! --John Charles
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Top Customer Reviews
Drew and Madeline and Nick spend the week at a Regency House Party where the dress code is strictly enforced, so naturally I had to have a good reference book for things like food and clothing and amusements from the early 1800s. I was thrilled to find I already owned a copy of Georgette Heyer's Regency World by Jennifer Kloester.
The book is not an exhaustive resource by any means, but it definitely gave me a basic and very practical place to start. There are sections on social classes, town and country homes, domestic staff, men and women's social expectations and opportunities, etiquette, fashionable places to see and be seen, modes of transportation, fashionable places to shop, sports, businesses and even the most influential people of the day, including of course the Prince Regent himself. And there are appendices for period slang, publications, period books mentioned in Heyer's works, further reading about the period, and a list of Heyer's Regency novels.
But best of all is the detailed description of styles for clothing and hair for both men and women. From hats to shoes and everything in between, including the unmentionables for both sexes, and accessories such as quizzing glasses, fobs and snuff boxes, there is an amazing amount of information presented. I'm only about a quarter of the way into my manuscript, but since I am by no means a Regency expert, Kloester's book has already saved me hours of research.
It's also very enjoyable to read little tie-ins to Heyer's books in the descriptions of various items. For example, in the paragraph about Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, it says, "The Duke of Sale could hardly put it down in The Foundling" (pg. 339). Or " . . . Sophy Stanton-Lacy in The Grand Sophy was ineligible to attend this grand affair because she had not yet been presented at one of the Queen's Drawing-Rooms" (pg. 71). It's a lovely way to show how these rules of etiquette and dress are used to great advantage in story telling and had the unintended result of making me want to read more of Heyer's beautifully written and always witty Regency stories.
I have to add, just because I have to add it, that you can't go wrong with the audiobooks of Heyer's Venetia, Sylvester or The Convenient Marriage as read by Richard Armitage. He's a delight to listen to (as always) and really brings each character to life. I hope he will read more of her works (or anyone's!) soon.
The writings of Georgette Heyer are emphasized throughout the book and you can't go wrong if you choose to read some of her Regency novels. She was a master story-teller.
What sets it apart from other works on the Regency is its value as a reference work. The information is presented in a very straightforward, well organized, and highly specific. As an example, Kloester has a handy table giving amounts of money, coinage, slang terms and values. I would recommend it to anyone wanting to write about this era. Most guides to the era are too vague to be useful in finding the sort of period details one needs, and most of the writers' guides that I have seen lump the entire 19th century together, and lack sufficient depth. As a reference work, I could wish that the index was more detailed; for example, the author explains what negus is, but it isn't indexed. The very detailed table of contents makes up in part for the indexing.
The book is illustrated with a number of black and white drawings. These are helpful, although one might wish for a series comparing developments in fashion silhouettes, for example.
The work includes lists of famous people, generally British, a glossary of slang arranged by subject, newspapers and magazines, books mentioned by Heyer, a timeline, a fairly detailed map of English regions, and lists for further reading.
Another great reference work is The Regency Companion by Sharon Laudermilk and Teresa L. Hamlin. The two cover a lot of the same material, but have slightly different emphases. Kloester dwells a little more on the nuts and bolts of everyday living, Laudermilk and Hamlin discuss more of the broader European scene. I am glad to have both.