Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Nonesuch

Ancilla Trent is a governess and a spinster at the ripe old age of 26. Miss Trent has successfully suppressed any youthful romantic dreams she may have had and has instead made the education of her young ward her life's purpose. Never has she felt even the faintest stirring in her heart for any man... until she meets the Nonesuch. The Nonesuch, as he is called, is Sir Waldo Hawkridge, a confirmed bachelor, who is touted for his athletic achievements, wit, handsomeness, and his overall masculine perfection. Indeed, that is the very definition of a nonesuch: unrivaled, an ideal, a paragon. Despite her attempts at remaining aloof, and much to his own surprise, Miss Trent and the Nonesuch find themselves perfectly matched in intellect and humor, and find themselves in love. But in true Regency romance fashion, the road to happy-ever-after is hampered by social gaffes, trivial misunderstandings, and a tangled web of snooty meddling characters and their affairs.

I've made an attempt to discover some literary oldie-but-goodies. I noticed this year that there is a gap in my reading roughly the size of a large part of the 20th century. Other than books that have been deemed "classics" from that era, I have hardly paid any attention to period bestsellers or other popular works from the decades spanning roughly from 1930 to 1970. So I've read a few this year: Anya Seton's Katherine is still a hugely popular book and a great historical romance. Andersonville by MacKinlay Cantor won the Pulitzer Prize in 1955 (Admittedly, I've kinda lost steam on this one.) Georgette Heyer was greatly prolific and wrote popular romances and thrillers for nearly 50 years. I've encountered references to her books for a long time, so I selected The Nonesuch at random, for no other reason than I liked the title. What a silly word! And what does it mean? 

The Nonesuch showcased an amazing mastery of dialogue. Naturally, it's dialogue befitting Regency-era people, but Heyer immaculately captures realism and timing in her characters' voices. I could just picture Tiffany Wield, Miss Trent's spoiled hellion of a ward, shrieking in another tantrum, and The Nonesuch's bemused response, followed by Miss Trent's suppressed giggle. The character development in a novel of this kind is rarely the writer's focus; The Nonesuch is a story driven by dialogue, but through it and the vivid depictions of the interactions between characters, the reader can discern much about each character's feelings and motivations.

Ancilla Trent and Sir Waldo Hawkridge are two of the most likeable characters I've ever encountered. Ancilla tries valiantly to curb her blossoming feelings for the Nonesuch. I love this! I dare you not to giggle:

She decided that her wisest course would be to put him out of her mind. After reaching this conclusion she lay thinking about him until at last she fell asleep. 

Their flirtation and affection for each other was obvious from the first, and had me positively grinning while I read.

She did her best to stifle it, but he caught the sound of the tiny choke of her laughter in her throat, and said appreciatively: "Do you know, I think that of all your idiosyncrasies, that choke you give, when you are determined not to laugh, is the one that most enchants me. I wish you will do it again!"
And Ancilla: 
You are an atrocious person! Since the day I met you I have become steadily more depraved!

Grade: 4/5 stars. Further proof that readers love when the wallflower finally gets what she deserves: a good man. Funny and fun and light and sweet. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oooh, I like this one! I do love a regency romance ;) It's the witty banter and finding the loop-holes in society that I love the most. I think we've lost that art of conversation in modern times.

P.S. The word nonesuch is awesome. Nice choice, lol.