Sistermagpie's Reviews > Sylvester

Sylvester by Georgette Heyer
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Apr 12, 2012

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Read in April, 2012

::sigh:: I feel like I'm probably in the minority on this book. I started out loving it and wound up really hating it, so I gave it a three.

The problem, I guess was that it just felt too one-sided to me. Okay, Sylvester's snobby and indifferent to people he doesn't care about so it's good for him to get smacked in the face with his flaws. Either from the mouth of the originally (to me) likable heroine or from her pen as the anonymous author of a trashy novel that casts him as the villain.

Unfortunately, for all his indifference, Sylvester wound up being the character who seemed to feel the most things, and while people criticized him for being cold they also criticized him whenever he openly felt something. Basically I spent a lot of the book sure that it would eventually be satisfying, because after many pages of Sylvester having to face his own flaws surely Phoebe would get her own slap in the face awakening, if only in a short scene. But no, Phoebe was just adorable and her personality was all the best for Sylvester as long as she had the patience to deal with him.

I think the turning point for me was the scene at a ball where Phoebe sees Sylvester for the first time after he's read her novel, knowing that she wrote it. Rather than openly cutting her (and letting everyone know that she was indeed the author) he dances with her, telling her off through a pleasant smile, and promising to keep her secret. But Phoebe can only dish it out and not take it, so Sylvester's just rude for showing actual feelings in response to her book. When she runs off and blows her own cover it's really Sylvester's fault. (No one ever suggests that writing a novel full of caricatures anonymously could also be showing indifference, or be mean, or cowardly.)

So I wound up sick of Phoebe and embarrassed for Sylvester, especially when even the revelation that the specific coldness in him that turned Phoebe off was a by-product of grief didn't make a difference. Like I said, maybe if I read the book again it would come across totally different, but as of now I just found it depressing as a love story between a flawed guy everyone joins in cutting down to size and a flawed girl everyone protects and fusses over. I know that Sylvester himself makes a remark about it, and Tom also does, but there's no scene where she actually has a moment of her own soul-searching. People have compared it to Pride and Prejudice, but it's more like P&P where Lizzie's original picture of Darcy was funny instead of a character flaw.
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08/26 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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Sharon Sylvester is one of my favorite Georgette Heyer novels and I've read it many times. I disagree with your take on things. Phoebe is extremely contrite and horrified about the book. She reacts the way she does at the ball, because Sylvester berates her in public and she can't handle it. She's not sophisticated and used to being in public and putting on a show to disguise her feelings. She's shown throughout the book and by speaking about her past season, that when her step-mother makes her feel uncomfortable about herself, she withdraws and doesn't show to advantage. She's plain looking, and only cute when she's animated and being herself...and she's been over she has low self esteem. Sylvester shouldn't have confronted her in public, at a ball. He knew it...he knew the effect it would have on her - but he lost his temper. So it was his fault. Sylvester basically has everything going for him - he's handsome, charming, clever, rich, titled. He's never had to endure any criticism, or anyone flouting his desires.

Sistermagpie Why wouldn't he lose his temper? This is why people with low self-esteem shouldn't write thinly-veiled satire about real people.

Sharon She never expected to meet him or be identified as the author, when she originally wrote the book. Yes - he's entitled to lose his temper....but he knows the score...he knows society and he knows what will happen if he creates a scene in the middle of a ball. Also, based on what he knows of Phoebe, his accusations and name calling (jade?!) are over the top. In addition, he specifically wanted to dance with her so that there wouldn't be a scandal, and he would squash the rumors- so he should have kept his mouth shut until they were in private.

Sistermagpie She never expected to meet him or be identified as the author, when she originally wrote the book

This is why people with low self-esteem shouldn't write thinly-veiled satire about real people - they might get caught.

Look, I'm fine with agreeing that if Sylvester wanted to make sure to keep things quiet he shouldn't have said anything. But that's why Sylvester isn't the one that bugs me so much. The book never presents him as the innocent victim of everything.

Sharon Yes, you have a point. I just always loved this book so much - the wit and banter and the romance of it, that I didn't really delve into whether or not they were being fair to Sylvester. I guess either you like it or you don't. It's my taste.

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