By browsing the Naxos AudioBooks website you agree to our use of cookies. You will only see this message once. Find out more...

The Grand Sophy (abridged)

Georgette Heyer

The Grand Sophy

Read by Clare Wille

abridged

Resourceful, adventurous and utterly indefatigable, Sophy is hardly the mild-mannered girl that the Rivenhalls expect when they agree to take her in. Kind-hearted Aunt Lizzy is shocked; stern Cousin Charles and his humourless fiancée Eugenia are disapproving. With her inimitable mixture of exuberance and grace Sophy soon sets about endearing herself to her family, but finds herself increasingly drawn to her cousin. Can she really be falling in love with him, and he with her? And what of his betrothal to Eugenia? Find out more about The Grand Sophy below.

Audio Sample You may download the MP3 audio sample above –
the audio sample player requires
Adobe® Flash Player
Play Audio Sample

4 CDs | Running Time: 4h 44m | ISBN: 978-184-379-544-5 | Cat. no.: NA0065 | RRP: £16.99RRP:£16.99 GBPSRP: US $ 28.98RRP:£16.99 GBP

ldquo; Recommended for all fiction collections ”

Read the review

Buy online now >

PODCAST

The Grand Sophy

Reader Clare Wille on Georgette Heyer’s The Grand Sophy:

Download link: The Grand Sophy Interview (MP3, 3 min., 1.3 MB)

IMPORTANT
Clicking on the link(s) above and downloading the file(s) signifies you have read, understand, and agree to the
Terms and Conditions of using Naxos AudioBooks digital downloads.

PC Users:
1. Right-click the link(s) above and
2. choose “Save Target As...” in the popup menu
3. Click the Save button in the “Save dialog box”.
4. The file will be downloaded to the place you have specified.

Mac Users:
1. Click the link(s) above (or control-click on it and choose “Download link/linked file” from the popup menu).

› Page Top

ABOUT The Grand Sophy

The Napoleonic Wars cast a long shadow over the first two decades of the nineteenth century, and they feature heavily in many of Georgette Heyer’s novels. The events of The Grand Sophy take place in 1816, a year after Napoleon’s final campaign was brought to an end. It is made clear that Sophy herself, with her father Sir Horace, was at the centre of the action. Sir Horace states that they were ‘in Brussels last year’, Brussels being where the British army, under the command of the Duke of Wellington (1769–1852), was headquartered in 1815. Although it is not directly involved in the main narrative of the plot, this part of Sophy’s colourful history is frequently alluded to in the novel, and it is crucial in establishing her character as capable and brave.

As is often the case with Georgette Heyer’s work, references such as these are woven so deftly into the fabric of the book that they pass almost unnoticed; although her knowledge of the Regency period was extensive, she wore her erudition lightly. In a throwaway comment, for example, Sir Horace reveals that Augustus Fawnhope – absent-minded suitor to Sophy’s cousin Cecilia – was staying in Brussels ‘with Stuart’; ‘Stuart’, in this context, probably refers to Charles Stuart, 1st Baron Stuart de Rothesay (1779–1845), a lifetime diplomat who in 1815 was the Ambassador to France, and who was also present in Brussels that year. Similarly, Sophy fleetingly mentions that she danced the quadrille with Fawnhope at the Duchess of Richmond’s ball in Brussels. No more is said of this  historic event, yet it has been described as ‘the most famous ball in history’. It took place on 15 June 1815, the night before the critical Battle of Quatre Bras, and the guest list included such illustrious names as William II of Orange (1792–1849), Prince Frederick William, Duke of Brunswick (1771–1815), who was killed the next day, and the Duke of Wellington.

Heyer produced
novels at the
extraordinary
rate of almost
one a year,
spawning a new
literary genre

The Grand Sophy was published in 1950, when Heyer was at the height of her popularity. It bears all the hallmarks of her best romances; it is witty, charming and brimming with historical insight. It features a number of familiar comic characters, including the kind-hearted, ineffectual Lady Ombersley, the humourless bluestocking Eugenia, a host of incorrigible children and, of course, the stern, proud but ultimately good-natured hero, Charles. Sophy herself is one of Heyer’s most memorable creations. Resourceful, kind and utterly indefatigable, she is a spirited, likeable heroine. From the outset, she both shocks and endears herself to her family, pushing the restrictive boundaries of Regency propriety to their limits. Sophy shoots and rides with supposedly unfeminine skill, and Lady Ombersley is amazed that she wishes to deal directly with Hoare’s Bank. Here Heyer once again weaves fact and fiction: now C. Hoare & Co., Hoare’s Bank is still extant; indeed, founded in 1672, it is the oldest privately owned bank in England. In an extraordinary sequence, Sophy visits a moneylender who has been blackmailing her cousin Hubert and threatens him with a gun, frightening him into giving back the bond and the emerald ring with which he has been threatening her hapless relative. Her excellent aim, discussed earlier in the novel during a conversation with Charles, becomes crucial during the final denouement, where she finds it necessary to wound one of her friends in the arm lightly.

Dress is another important means of characterisation for Heyer. When we are first introduced to Charles it is made clear that though his clothes are well-made he is no dandy (a group for whom Heyer frequently expressed disdain in her novels). Similarly, our opinion of Charles’s fiancée Eugenia is influenced before we have even met her. Cecilia reports that ‘Eugenia never wears modish gowns. She says there are more important things to think of than one’s dresses,’ to which Sophy responds, ‘What a stupid thing to say! Naturally there are, but not, I hold, when one is dressing for dinner.’ The meaning is clear: Eugenia considers herself above such foolish considerations as dresses, but Sophy – wiser than her rival – knows that paying attention to her clothes does not make her frivolous.

Another source of humour in the novel is the would-be poet Augustus Fawnhope. Easily distracted, making frequent recourse to quotation, and always dreaming of his next magnum opus, Augustus is obsessed with beauty, and views the world through a literary haze. Indeed, literature is often a prominent theme in Georgette Heyer’s novels. She inherited a love of books from her father, George Heyer, and two of her closest childhood friends, Carola Oman and Joanna Cannan, with whom she spent many hours discussing literature, both grew up to be authors. Heyer showed promise from an early age, writing her first book, entitled The Black Moth, at the age of 17. It was published, with George Heyer’s help, in 1921, initiating a steady stream of novels. In 1926, Heyer had her first major success with These Old Shades. By this time, she had been married for a year to a young mining engineer named Ronald Rougier and had already published five books.

From 1932 until her death in 1974, Heyer produced novels at the extraordinary rate of almost one a year, spawning a new literary genre: the Regency romance. Yet despite her undeniable success, she was frequently troubled by plagiarism and financial problems. Throughout the ’50s and ’60s, her company, Heron Enterprises, was a source of contention between her and the tax authorities, and a large chunk of the profits from books written around this time went towards paying back money to the Treasury. Plagiarism also became a problem: from the 1950s onwards, several other writers traded on her popularity by writing novels using names, phrases and events from her books. She was even accused by some of her fans of publishing substandard work under a pseudonym. Although Heyer sought legal advice on several occasions, she never chose to sue.

The Grand Sophy, published in 1950, is a product of these troubled years, yet there is no trace of them in the novel, and it sparkles with all the vitality, humour and brilliance of her best work. Sophy is one of Heyer’s most charming and adventurous protagonists, determinedly navigating her way through the social battlefield of Regency London with exuberance, enthusiasm and grace.

Notes by Caroline Waight

› Page Top

REVIEWS

Sophy arrives at the Rivenhall household with a monkey. She is not the shy, retiring girl that her cousins had been led to expect. She’s exuberant, clever and resourceful and quickly sets the household on its ear. If it isn’t publicly racing horses, it’s setting up assignations for her cousin and her unsuitable beau or rescuing another cousin from a loan shark. And she does it all with a cheerful determination that makes this story a winner sixty years after its publication. Although it begins with an interminably dull conversation between Sophy’s father and aunt, once Sophy enters the picture, Clare Wille is in her element. Her Sophy brings sunshine to the stage merely by her presence in the scene. Her joyful disposition and quick mind means she sees a solution to every problem, even, and perhaps especially, when that solution will drive her cousin Charles past the end of his reason. Wille shows off vocal range with Spanish Marquessas, every age of person and station in life, including a very memorable gentleman with a cold, and all the timeSophy with a smile in her voice. The hilarious courtship of her cousin Charles, which requires eliminating his current prune-faced fiancée, is what makes Heyer the grand master of Regency Romance. Recommended for all fiction collections.

soundcommentary.com

 

Claire Wille has exactly the right touch in her reading of The Grand Sophy, which is Regency romance at its very best. When Sir Horace Stanton-Lacy, bound for South America, asks his sister to take in his daughter ’little Sophy’, Lady Ombersley agrees – only to discover that her niece stands 5’ 9” tall, is both great fun and incredibly chic, and is destined to become the belle of every ball she attends. Her cousins soon adore her – except for the eldest, Charles, burdened by the debts his reckless father had left him with. He is betrothed to the dull and humourless Eugenia, and of course he disapproves of Sophy… Full of witty dialogue, delightful family feeling and heart-racing romance – just the thing for a rainy September evening!

Kati Nicholl, Daily Express

 

I’m not what you could call conversant on all things Georgette Heyer, but I do find myself appreciating her more with each audiobook experience. Yet, I think being relatively new to Heyer’s work may have something to do with my enjoyment of the abridged audio versions of her books. I simply don’t recognise missing content.

Although I had listened to a few unabridged audios in my first days of exploring Heyer, my interest didn’t take hold until I was lured in by Richard Armitage’s narration of Sylvester. I listened for two reasons – I needed to fill the abridged category of my 2010 Listening Challenge and I wanted to hear Armitage. I gave that version an A when I reviewed it at AAR and didn’t think twice about requesting The Grand Sophy for review.

Richard Armitage doesn’t narrate The Grand Sophy, but I was delighted to find that I enjoyed narrator Clare Wille even more! Her narration was simply outstanding. Whereas Armitage’s performance of the female voices left something to be desired, Ms Wille has a full range of pleasing voices for both male and female characters.

Sophy comes to live with her aunt and uncle while her father travels to Brazil. They find her to be kind, resourceful, and certainly more self-assured than the average young lady. Her behaviour can be quite shocking at times – she shoots and rides with great proficiency. Sophy’s cousin, Charles, is the eldest in the household and holds a tight rein on the family’s financial affairs. He’s engaged to an unpleasant, self righteous woman but she’s a sensible choice and therefore, fits his sensible lifestyle. Sophy’s outlook on life, as well as her well-meant manipulations, drives Charles a little crazy.

The Grand Sophy is a witty and charming story with a large cast of characters. The size of the cast did cause confusion at times and made me wonder if an unabridged version could have lessened that confusion. Regardless, I found it quite entertaining and think this is a good starting place for those who are curious about Heyer but have yet to give her a try. Dare I say that, to date, I have relished Heyer’s abridged versions more than her unabridged?

The music preceding and following each chapter was delightful and reminded me of the score from A & E’s production of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It truly set the mood for this type of romance. A request to the audiobook industry – please, I want more Clare Wille. How about recording Devil’s Cub with Ms Wille as narrator?

Lea Hensley, All About Romance blog

 

This is a fine performance by Clare Wille, reading a sensitive abridgement of The Grand Sophy. The generously built, pistol-packing Sophy is many people’s favourite Georgette Heyer character; certainly her ingenious ways of getting out of apparently disastrous situations are unequalled. This is the fifth of the uniformly fine Naxos abridgements of Heyer; there is also an interview with Wille on the Naxos website that gives intriguing insights into the art of narration.

Christina Hardyment, The Times

 

I’m not what you could call conversant on all things Georgette Heyer, but I do find myself appreciating her more with each audiobook experience. Yet, I think being relatively new to Heyer’s work may have something to do with my enjoyment of the abridged audio versions of her books. I simply don’t recognize missing content.

Although I had listened to a few unabridged audios in my first days of exploring Heyer, my interest didn’t take hold until I was lured in by Richard Armitage’s narration of Sylvester. I listened for two reasons – I needed to fill the abridged category of my 2010 Listening Challenge, and I wanted to hear Armitage. I gave that version an ’A’ when I reviewed it at AAR and didn’t think twice about requesting The Grand Sophy for review.

Richard Armitage doesn’t narrate The Grand Sophy, but I was delighted to find that I enjoyed narrator Clare Wille even more! Her narration was simply outstanding. Whereas Armitage’s performance of the female voices left something to be desired, Ms Wille has a full range of pleasing voices for both male and female characters.

Sophy comes to live with her aunt and uncle while her father travels to Brazil. They find her to be kind, resourceful, and certainly more self-assured than the average young lady. Her behavior can be quite shocking at times – she shoots and rides with great proficiency.

Sophy’s cousin, Charles, is the eldest in the household and holds a tight rein on the family’s financial affairs. He’s engaged to an unpleasant, self righteous woman but she’s a sensible choice and therefore, fits his sensible lifestyle. Sophy’s outlook on life, as well as her well-meant manipulations, drives Charles a little crazy.

The Grand Sophy is a witty and charming story with a large cast of characters. The size of the cast did cause confusion at times and made me wonder if an unabridged version could have lessened that confusion. Regardless, I found it quite entertaining and think this is a good starting place for those who are curious about Heyer but have yet to give her a try. Dare I say that, to date, I have relished Heyer’s abridged versions more than her unabridged?

The music preceding and following each chapter was delightful and reminded me of the score from A & E’s production of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It truly set the mood for this type of romance. A request to the audiobook industry – please, I want more Clare Wille. How about recording Devil’s Cub with Ms Wille as narrator?

Lea Hensley, All About Romance blog

› Page Top