Monday, November 7, 2016

Review - Arabella

Original Title: Arabella
Series: -
Author: Georgette Heyer
Published: 1949


*THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS*

I decided to grab this book because I heard such praises of its author that I thought I needed to give her a chance. But I’m afraid that, even when I was more than willing to love this book, I couldn’t.

Nevertheless, it is a lovely, relaxing read, and it has, here and there, hints that reminded me a lot of Jane Austen. Arabella Tallant, the heroine, is a great character, with a sweet nature and a strong, bold personality. She’s the eldest sister in a family of eight siblings, who depend on her catching a wealthy husband. I really liked her; she’s no shy, modest girl, but an outspoken young woman with a well defined personality. I found her somewhat naïve at times, but she’s still a lovable character. She can’t hide who she truly is, and even when she tries to maintain the masquerade she starts around Beaumaris and his friend, she can’t help it. As a preacher’s daughter, she can’t stand injustice, and though she acts like a proper young lady -the toast of London’s finest society-, her true self comes out when she meets the little boy on her chimney, and the dog being beaten on the street. In both moments, Beaumaris is there, being able to see her real personality and temper, and getting to know she’s more than the beautiful debutante in ball gowns and walking dresses he needs to favor so she can eventually find a wealthy husband. Even when she practically makes him take care both of the boy and the dog, he still finds her charming, and even when he just compliments her out of duty, his interest turns real, because he gets to know her real self, the Arabella she is out of the ballroom, and her aunt’s drawing room, and that no one else could see.

Just one tiny thing. I found the first few chapters with her whole preparation to finally depart to London a bit too long. I found myself wanting the story to start, instead of saying this and that about packing, and dresses, and jewels... It seems to go on forever, until finally, Arabella sits on the carriage and leaves.

As for Robert Beaumaris, I liked him but not as much as I wanted to. He reminded me both of Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy and Captain Wentworth, and his dialogues with Ulysses are pretty much his funniest moments. I liked the fact that he finds amusement seeing how society copies him blindly, but... I just couldn’t love him. I mean, I was supposed to feel something when he realizes he’s in love with Arabella, right? But I didn’t see him being changed by love, he stayed the same man. Also, something that bothered me is that Arabella realizes she loves him, but I, as reader, didn’t think there was enough interaction between them for love to grow. They didn’t convince me. I mean, yes, they spent a lot of time together, but I felt that this romance was meant to be sparky, and finally fell short. Although it is nice how Arabella doesn’t notice when she stops following convention to actually love Beaumaris. She’s so worried about her brother’s situation, that she forgets about her own heart, and all the sudden she finds herself in love... But still, their story, even when it is funny and lovely (and Georgette Heyer is a very witty narrator), felt a bit flat from time to time, and as a couple, I didn’t really find them very engaging. Although the book still had enough to keep me reading to the end.

As for the whole gambling plot around Bertram, I couldn’t help finding it so boring... The scenes in the club, where he starts winning, but then losing all over again, and his debts start mounting, are a bit tedious, and too long. I couldn’t keep focused on the story, as it went endlessly about this card hand, or that bet... It says too many times he is indebted, as if thinking we are going to forget it, and perhaps, that part of the story could have been told in a lot shorter way. But still, Beaumaris’ attitude, purchasing his debts and paying them all, just to save Arabella, is the sweetest thing. I loved that he doesn’t get angry upon discovering her lie about her family and fortune, and still, even with such a big family, so little money, and such an impetuous attitude, he finds her worthy of his love. That’s a hero for me.

It’s not that I didn’t like this book, because I did. It’s just that I didn’t think it was so great as many people seem to think. It’s not, however, the end of this author for me. I will definitely read more books by her, and I already have in mind which one will be next. There’s something wonderful in Heyer’s narration, and that’s the promise I’ll cling to. Classics are classics for a reason, right?