Friday, November 18, 2016

Snowdrift and Other Stories - Georgette Heyer

This is 'Pistols For Two' repackaged for Christmas and with three recently rediscovered stories added. It's a hardback (which means it'll take up too much space on my shelf - space is more than ever at a premium), but at £9.99 it's a very reasonably priced one and if the publisher hadn't been kind enough to send me a copy I'd have been begging for it as a stocking filler.

My love of Georgette Heyer is no secret, and whilst her short stories don't necessarily show her at her best* they're still wonderful bits of escapism. The reason I'd say they don't show her at her best however is also one of the things I find particularly interesting about them - with less space to expand out into her technique and particular mannerisms are much more noticeable.

Because every story is inevitably a variation on a couple meeting and deciding to marry in fairly short order (after overcoming some sort of obstacle first) it's a collection that's best dipped in and out of - it's also very good company on a 20 minute bus journey when it's either to early, or to late, to concentrate on anything more demanding.

I periodically return to Heyer, generally in times of stress, when the mix of her familiar and well ordered world along with her sense of humour is particularly comforting. Another part of her enduring appeal is how generally capable her heroines are, which I think reflects both Heyer's own life, and more generally her generation of women. This was a generation that grew up in the aftermath of the First World War, and then had to deal with the Second World War and someday I'll sit down and try and work out my thoughts on this and how it's reflected in her books.

As far as this collection goes 'Pistols for Two' is a gem for not really being a romance at all (at least not in the traditional sense) but rather an account of what happens when two young men start competing for the same girl. 'Night at the Inn' has a bit of romance, but rather more in the way of gothic horror - though again, shot through with humour and is another highlight. Both show Heyer's versatility.

The three 'new' stories were written for magazines, and if on first reading seem particularly familiar it's probably because all seem to be prototypes for later books (it was fun working out which ones). 'Incident on the Bath Road' was my favourite - but all three are fun. They do alter the balance of the original 'Pistols For Two' anthology - more stories feels like less variety as the new ones all fit a very traditional romance mould - but more Heyer is unquestionably a good thing.

Sometimes reissues, especially with a new name (like last years reissue of 'Envious Casca'as 'A Christmas Party') are mildly annoying - you get all excited by the promise of something new only to discover it's not. 'Snowdrift', however, delivers with the new material, it's pretty to look at as well, so for long time Heyer fans it's probably (if your copy of Pistols for Two is as tatty as mine) a timely replacement. New fans are lucky however I look at it.

It's also just really good to see Heyer getting a bit of love. Whatever her faults she was a remarkable woman who deserves a bit of celebrating.

*I kept thinking of Angela Thirkell's, Laura Morland and her books about cloths and romance every time an outfit was described (and an outfit is described every time). There's room for it in a full length novel where the details are part of the pleasure. In a short story it's something of a distraction.


  1. It is such a long time since I read any Heyer, perhaps I should re-discover her at the library?

  2. Yes! Yes you should. She never lets me down, still makes me laugh, and just makes me feel generally quite happy with the world.