An Infamous Army, by Georgette Heyer – A Review

Guest review by Elaine Simpson-Long of Random Jottings

An Infamous Army is a novel about the battle of Waterloo with a love story attached, not the other way round and the title refers to the Duke of Wellington’s unkind nickname for the motley collection of national armies under his command in 1815.

The story is set in Brussels where English society, the ‘ton’, had flocked for the season as it was the place to be and a hectic social whirl takes place in the months before Waterloo. Here we find Lord Worth and his now wife, Judith, whose romance we read about in Regency Buck.  Judith, who I freely admit is not one of my favourite Heyer heroines, is now a matron of some years with a child and rather conscious of her status and reputation so when the notorious Bab Childe hits town and Charles Audley, her delightful and charming brother in law falls madly in love with her, she is not best pleased, foreseeing disaster and scandal.

Bab Childe is a character who I really love, though on the surface she seems to have inherited all the wildest characteristics of her grandfather, Vidal (yes he of Devil’s Cub who makes a brief appearance), she is beautiful, brave and warm hearted and it is the involvement we, as readers, have with Charles and Barbara, their coming together, their parting and their final reconciliation which keeps us hooked.

Heyer is very clever here. Would you read some seventy pages given over to a description of the campaign at Waterloo if you were not personally involved? Probably not.  The first time I read this Heyer I was totally overwhelmed with admiration when reading this section – it doesn’t bore, it doesn’t drag, it is as history should be.  It seems that I am not alone in my admiration as this account of the Battle of Waterloo is so highly thought of that it has been used at Sandhurst Military Academy in their training programme ever since.

When reading a biography of Georgette Heyer I came across a rather lovely anecdote from her son who remembers being taken, as a child, to the United Services Institute, where they found a model of the Battle of Waterloo. His mother began to describe it to him, too absorbed to notice the arrival of a party of school children filing in behind her whose mistress told them to hush and listen as she recognized the speaker and knew she was in the presence of an authority.

When I go to my library, I find Heyer’s books filed in the romance section along with Mills & Boon, Harlequin et al. Please don’t think I am dissing such books, I am not.  I adore a good romance as much as the next person but I think Georgette Heyer is a writer who should not be classified in this genre. She deserves more recognition and appreciation. She never received it in her lifetime from the literati of the day and it was a source of some bitterness to her.  She certainly proves that she deserves it in this marvelous book.

An Infamous Army, by Georgette Heyer
Sourcebooks (2007)
Trade paperback (492) pages
ISBN: 978-1402210075

Elaine Simpson-Long has been blogging at Random Jottings now for four years and is amazed and delighted by the response she receives from her many visitors.  Thinking that nobody would want to read her thoughts on books as well as opera and life in general, she finds blogging to be enormous fun and very satisfying. Now retired after years of commuting to the city, she enjoys looking after her granddaughter whenever possible, traveling, going to the theatre and opera and of course, reading, reading, reading. Follow Elaine on Twitter as Brooksideelaine.

Celebrating Georgette Heyer – Day 06 Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one copy of An Infamous Army, by Georgette Heyer (Sourcebooks, 2007) by leaving a comment stating what intrigues you about the plot or characters, or if you have read it, which is your favorite character or scene by midnight Pacific time, Monday, September 6th, 2010. Winners will be announced on Tuesday, September 7th, 2010. Shipment to continental US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

Upcoming event posts

Day 06    Aug 09 – Review: The Spanish Bride
Day 07    Aug 11 – Review: The Corinthian
Day 07    Aug 11 – Review: Faro’s Daughter
Day 08    Aug 13 – Review: The Reluctant Widow

Celebrating Georgette Heyer   •   August 1st – 31st, 2010

Jane Austen and The Battle of Waterloo

Illustration of the Allies entering Paris after Napoleons defeat at Waterloo, October 1815

Allied troops entering Paris after the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte

the little bit (two inches wide) of ivory on which I work with so fine a brush, as produces so little effect after so much labour” Letter to Edward Austen, 16 December 1816, The Letters of Jane Austen

Today marks the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, which is generally credited as Napoleon Bonaparte’s final defeat; – a significant event in European history that deeply affected the lives of every Englishman and the World. Bonaparte would soon surrender his troops and abdicate the throne, ending a seventeen year conflict between Britain and France, and other European nations. You can read a complete account of the battle here.  

Jane Austen had very little to say about the Battle of Waterloo or any aspect of the Napoleonic War, and that really irritated some of her critics. For some reason, the fact that she did not discuss politics or war in her novels makes her somehow negligent and narrow as an authoress. Her surviving personal correspondence is a bit better, with dribs and drabs of comment to her sister Cassandra about their two brothers Frank and Charles who served as sailors in his Majesties Navy, and were deep into the thick of the fighting. 

She lived almost her entire life in the shadow of the Napoleon’s tyranny. To criticize her because she chose not to include mention of it or other external political events in her novels is a misunderstanding of her intensions. Author David Nokes in his biography Jane Austen: A Life, touches upon this point and offers a logical explanation. 

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