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05 November, 2006

Georgette Heyer: An Infamous Army

Fed up with the deep and meaningful book I’d taken with me on holiday, I borrowed Georgette Heyer’s novel An Infamous Army from Wifie.

Oddly enough, I read a lot of Georgette Heyer novels as a young teenager. My mother was a big fan and, since I devoured every book that came into the house in those days, regardless of genre, I got through plenty of bodice rippers. I also read the entire works of Eric von Daniken and Denis Wheatley, to name but two of the weird authors my mother was into. It’s true that better authors also came my way from that source – Shakespeare, Browning, du Maurier and le Carré, for example – but for the most part my mother favoured rather sensational and mystical writers. Still, it is arguable that 13 is the best age at which to be reading von Daniken, or Denis Wheatley, and that one should save the sensible stuff for when one is old enough to appreciate it.

So I approached the prospect of being stuck with nothing to read except a Georgette Heyer novels as something akin to being stuck with a Dr Seuss book, or a Rupert the Bear annual – something a child would put itself to sleep with.

Yet An Infamous Army turned out to be the best read I’d had in ages. Of course, it had the usual Mills & Boon plot (boy meets girl, boy and girl fall madly and instantly in love, boy and girl stupidly get all confused and upset with one another, boy and girl finally work it out and live happily ever after) but it also had the background and events of the battle of Waterloo, thoroughly researched and very well presented. And it was well-written too – something I’d forgotten about Georgette Heyer. The characters were convincing, the settings and situations realistic and the great battle itself was so evocative that I still carry many of the images around in my head weeks later.

All-in-all, I’d recommend it to anyone. It wasn’t Vanity Fair by any means but it was a real page turner.

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