Recently, I was offered a choice of Georgette Heyers to review for the Historical Novel Society (Arrow Books are re-publishing all her novels) and I chose one of my favourites, The Grand Sophy. My own copy, a 1962 Pan paperback which belonged to my mother, is falling apart and the pages have gone brown and brittle. It was a win-win situation; I enjoyed doing the review – and I acquired a new copy.
The contrast between the two covers, sixty years apart, struck me forcibly. I don’t know about you, but I like the cover illustration to match with the story. If the heroine is a brunette, say, I get really cross if there is a picture of a voluptuous blonde on the front. I have been known to write to my cover designer, quoting my descriptions of hero and heroine, and sending them pictures of contemporary costumes to make sure they get it right.
Both the Pan and Arrow cover designers were obviously instructed to include a monkey and a parrot in a cage. The Pan designer, correctly, gives Sophy chestnut curls but her pink dress is scarcely Regency. The monkey, Jacko wears a little green hat and a green cummerbund – and my teeth are grinding slightly because, in fact, he wore a scarlet jacket; and the bird in the cage looks more like a canary to me.
However, my main wrath is reserved for the gentleman in the picture, presumably the hero, Charles Rivenhall. Heyer describes him as ‘a powerfully-built man… who nearly always wore riding-dress in preference to the more fashionable pantaloons and Hessians; tied his cravat in the plainest of styles… and wholly disdained such fopperies as seals, fobs or quizzing-glasses.’ And what do we have? Exactly what Charles is not. However, the strap line calls the book ‘A rollicking Regency comedy’ and I have to confess that the cover does make it look like a fun read.
The new Arrow cover style is chick lit in pink, metallic green and black. The background is pink and the monkey swinging from a branch, the birdcage, Sophy, her horse, and her greyhound, are all black silhouettes. The leaves, Sophy’s dress and the book’s title are metallic green.
It has a simplicity which I like but I have a few niggles. The horse, judging by its stance, is obviously old. It’s a far cry from Sophy’s thorough-bred Spanish horse, Salamanca. And what’s happened to Sophy’s knees? She would have ridden side-saddle, so they should be crooked over the pommel.
However, the book is stylishly produced with an elegant italic capital letter at the opening of each chapter to give it a classy touch. I hope that the 21st century-style Arrow Georgette Heyer paperbacks attract a whole new generation of readers to the delights of this witty, romantic and stylish writer.