Reading Journal Entry: Barren Corn, by Georgette Heyer

Georgette Heyer is most well-known for creating a genre - the Regency Romance. Her Regencies are impeccably researched and sparklingly witty, so much so that they spawned legions of imitators.

She also wrote several modern-day novels. This is the first 'modern' Heyer I've read. It's a love story set shortly after the first World War (pub date: 1930). Laura and Hugh, two Britons, meet and fall in love in France. She's thirty-years-old Briton from a respectable bourgeois family; he's the slightly spoiled nephew of a Baron. Their class differences concern Laura but Hugh convinces her to marry him.

After an idyllic honeymoon, eventually they must go back to Britain; to Hugh's 'smart set' and Laura's dismayingly stultifying family members. The class conflict is both old-fashioned and very un-American; I'm not sure whether Hugh was supposed to come off as quite so much of an ass. He can't stand her family - why? I don't know, but it 'just won't do'. Laura conversely can't enter into the interests of Hugh's life, riding and hunting (aside: what an ass). She's concerned when they run into debt and this irritates him (ibid). She doesn't get along with his friends, who are over-educated snobs (see above).

The great weakness of the book is that the conflict is not entirely class or education-based. Heyer seems to conflate class and intelligence. The problem isn't that Laura holds the coffee-pot wrong (<---not kidding), it's that she's stupid. She doesn't get people's jokes. She can't make conversation. She's boring. That's not the same thing as being middle-class. It kills the premise. This isn't a love doomed by social inequity; it's a love doomed by mental inequity. I just can't have much patience with a heroine who initially is portrayed as sensitive and principled, but six months later can't find anything to do while her husband isn't at home.

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