Book Review: Georgette Heyer: Biography of a Bestseller

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Georgette Heyer: Biography of a Bestseller
Jennifer Kloester (Heinemann, £30, *£17)

Many modern biographies are full of cheerful PR spin, but this account of Georgette Heyer’s life could have been a misery memoir. Her first book was published when she was still a teenager. When she died, aged 71, she had written 56 novels and at least 26 short stories. Her light-hearted ‘escapist literature’ made and make-life happier for millions, but she desperately wanted to write a serious book.

Heyer, as much as her readers, used sparkling heroines and dashing heroes to forget the present. She was demanding, prickly, snobbish and ungrateful, but it was leeching relatives who made the shy, imaginative girl so-she supported an ineffective husband, a moody brother, a young son and two unpleasant old widows (mother and mother-in-law). No wonder she worried constantly about money.

She wrote The Masqueraders in Africa and Beauvallet in Macedonia when her husband was prospecting for manganese and tin and finding nothing much. Within five years, she had finished 12 books, but most of them were not read either by her agent or her publishers.

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Heyer longed for recognition from the literary establishment and never got it. Yet, today, her books are still loved by her many readers for their lighthearted fun, when many of her grander contemporaries are forgotten. Jennifer Kloester’s book is an exhaustive and detailed bio-graphy, which is quite as gripping as The Regency Buck or The Corinthian. Recognition at last.

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