The experience of reading and at the same time – but not simultaneously - listening to SYLVESTER or the Wicked Uncle has been a delight!

It is my first Georgette Heyer ’s novel and I admit that I approached it partly prejudiced (romances!), partly curious, but completely unaware of what expected me. I didn’t want to read much about the writer nor the about the plot before starting. I carefully avoided any review or comment on the book. Then I did something I had already tried with “Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen addict”: I put aside my academic way of reading and went back to when I read just for pleasure. It is not that simple: old habits are hard to remove, but I succeeded again and I owe Mrs Heyer several happy hours in these late summer days.
I AM sorry, it is happening again. I tend to write more about my feelings and emotions before/ while/ after reading or watching something than just write a “prim and proper” review . Maybe I’m too self-focused – and this is not good – but it is just my way of analysing myself, knowing myself, through literature and cinema. I only hope you don’t mind it too much or that it doesn’t disturb orthodox reviewers too much.
Now, back to the point! This story contains all the romance, humour and satirical traits of an Austen’s book but it is a witty novel of manners set in the Regency Era but published in 1957. With its unique juxtaposition of light-hearted romance and meticulous historical accuracy, it succeeded in convincing a “ disbeliever” like me!


Wealthy Sylvester, Duke of Salford, is looking for a wife and has very particular requirements. Phoebe Marlow is suggested as a possible bride to Salford by her grandmother who is also his godmother. Sylvester doesn’t remember Phoebe though he has already met her at a ball .He, finding her dull and insipid, hadn’t even recognized her the second time they met. Phoebe, instead, found him so arrogant and insufferable that she decided to model the villain of her gothic novel on him: she makes him her Count Ugolino, the wicked uncle in THE LOST HEIR. Not the right premises for a good match, apparently- or just the opposite?

So, when Phoebe’s father and her step-mother want to force her to marry Sylvester and he arrives at Austerby to propose, she runs away with her life-long friend, Tom. But fate throws Sylvester on their way to London. Phoebe and Sylvester, stuck by the snow in the same lonely country inn for a week, begin to understand each other better. But, unfortunately, Phoebe's novel is published and soon all of fashionable London recognise Sylvester as the villainous 'Count Ugolino'...

(from Austenprose – Read Laurel Ann’s review HERE)

In 1816, less than two years before the events in the novel take place, a strikingly similar scandal occurred that both delighted and horrified ‘society’. Taking her revenge against Lord Byron after their affair ended badly, Lady Caroline Lamb published Glenarvon – a Gothic novel featuring satirical depictions of well-known society figures and, in particular, a bitter, thinly disguised portrait of Byron himself. Although the novel was published anonymously (and became wildly popular), Lamb had her Almack’s voucher rescinded and was exiled from fashionable society. Phoebe would have been aware of the furore – would probably even have read the book – and she would have known of Lady Caroline’s fate.

With her wit, her page-turning writing ability, and her genius at bringing characters to life, Georgette Heyer still brings new admirers to her novels more then 30 years after her death. Have a look at this site dedicated to this so-much loved writer. Click HERE.

There is also a perpetual challenge going on. If you are interested, you can take part in it. Just click HERE.

It consists of 4 CDs , total time 4:51:46 . It is, of course, an abridged version of the original novel. It is not Richard Armitage’s first experience as a reader. He has also featured on BBC Radio 4’s The Ted Hughes Letters - giving an excellent moving performance - as well as recorded several audiobooks among which THE LORDS OF THE NORTH and others linked to Robin Hood series 1 and 3. ( I’ve posted about these audio-materials HERE, HERE and HERE) . For more information about SYLVESTER recorded version read THIS at Naxos Audiobooks site.


Anonymous said...

Welcome to the Club, Maria Grazia!
I'm glad to hear that you choose to read your first Heyer avoiding prejudices. Hope you'll enjoy her talent and wit again in the near future.
I'm a fan - gosh, I shouldn't say 'fan' anymore ;-) - since I was 13, and still can't stop reading her.
Le sue principali doto sono leggerezza, spirito e rara documentazione storica, soprattutto - ma non solo - nelle storie Regency.
Buona lettura (e che invidia! Tutta la Heyer ancora da scoprire! ;-)

Maria Grazia said...

I did enjoy her witty prose and this novel was lovely.A good way to set apart the melancholy which usually characterize my September days at the seaside. I start thinking: summer is over, school is starting over and ... Not this year though! But don't envy me too much! Buona serata!

Luciana said...

Oh, this sounds a good story! I'm very prejudiced with romances, for more that I love some novels that have some aspect of romance in it I tend to like them as a whole, not only for their love stories. That's why I've fougth a lot with people that have only seen the movie Atonement and hate Briony. But, as this is YOUR recommendation I may try it when I get less busy with all the things I have to read for university. Oh, I also wanted to ask you something MG. I've seen on YT a video of RA reading a part of N&S and I wanted to know if you have any clue if he has done it for some special reason or if there is any version of the book read by him. Have a nice week!

Maria Grazia said...

Hi, Luciana! I know which is the video you refer to but, I have no clue where the audio comes from . RA didn't record an audiobook for N&S. Maybe it was something to promote the series before it came out. I'm sorry, I've looked for it, but there is no trace on line. Can't help you.
I love ATONEMENT! both McEwan's novel and the movie. I can't say I LOVE Briony but...she's masterfully written by the author. It's an incredible character. You can understand her but hate her at the same time. Then you must forgive her in the end, she had to live all her life in atonement for her guilt.
P.S. 2
In this novel by Heyer, just like in Jane Austen, romance is not the only nor the main feature.

Luciana said...

Hi MG! Thanks anyway! Oh, I don't love Briony, but she's a very complex character and I like her for that. McEwan is a genius and probably my favourite author alive as well as Paul Auster. Thanks for your attention!

Lotta Dahl said...

I've been wondering about this book. I'm looking locally for a copy of RA reading it. The copies of Lords of the North are near impossible to find, I have a phone number for BBC where I can order it, I just haven't yet. LOL. Now after your review I have to break down and read it! my list gets longer by the DAY!

Anonymous said...


I enjoyed several of Ms Heyers work. The Devil's Cub is my particular favourite. But after reading a few of her Regency romances I've noticed that the heroes and heroines are all pretty much they same. The gentlemen, especially, I found to be rather too stock for my liking.... But I'll try Sylvester out. Even though I'm not a fan of her characters, her writing is something I really enjoy!

Kathryn said...

I haven't read a Georgette Heyer book in years - when I was a child I hardly read anything and only really started when I was about 15 - and I started with Georgette Heyer !!

Maria Grazia said...

@Jenny Kerr
Have you tried to get your stuff at Amazon? I always find anything I want, even second-hand and cheaper.
@MissBluestocking & Kathryn
It seems I was the only one who had never read Heyer - till last week! There's so much I want to read and discover yet. I'd need 48-hour days!
As for Heyer's characters,June, I didn't particularly like Sylvester but found Phoebe quite charming. This is my first and only Heyer, I can't say much more.
Run to school. Meeting at 9.oo. Have a nice day all of you!!!

Lotta Dahl said...

I tried to get the lords of the north with RA reading it via amazon, they had ONE copy and it was $89! lol... I can get it via the BBC for about $30 once all is said and done. It's on my christmas list! lol

Elvira said...

I have read 6 of her novels, but not this one. Thanks for the interesting review, Maria Grazia!!

Maria Grazia said...

@Jenny Kerr
Yes, I checked. What I found at AmazonUK is an abridged version read by another actor. That's quite cheap £9.90 RA's recording is instead unabridged (12 hours!) and can be found at BBCshop online. I'm sorry. You'll have to wait for Christmas.
I didn't know you were one of Heyer's esteemers, E. As I've already written, it's my first experience in this genre. There are very few authors of whom I can say to have read the whole of their work: JANE AUSTEN and E.M FORSTER. Of some I've read much - Dickens, Gaskell, Bronte, MacEwan, Nick Hornby among others. I like to change and try new things as well as re- read what I enjoy.

Elvira said...

I read them when I was in my late 20's or early 30's, and I must confess I don't remember much. :(

These 2 authors are favourites of mine too. I loved my first E. M. Forster novel: A room with a view. An English friend recommended it to me. And the film was very good too!!

Maria Grazia said...

I read "A room with a view" first and I too loved the movie. I've also read and seen "Howard's End" , "Where the Angels fear to Tread" and "A passage to India". Then I've only read "The Last Journey" and "Maurice". I can't stand reading collections of short-stories. I can't tell you why. So I've never read Forster's ones either.

Table Talk said...

I went through a period in my teens when I read almost every historical novelist going and yet for some reason never quite made it to Heyer. I think it has something to do with the covers. I've never been a floaty sort of woman. I will try and get over my prejudice and think about reading her now, but as I've moved through my historical phase it might be some time.

Maria Grazia said...

@Table Talk
As for the cover, Ann, the lady on my copy of Sylvester doesn't resemble the protagonist at all. Impertinent and indipendent, Phoebe is more like the young girl in the third picture I used in this post! More than the story or characters, in Heyer I've appreciated the historical accuracy and the extremely witty style.Give her a try as soon as your are in a "historical" mood.

Mo said...

No I'm still not convinced it is for me.

Maria Grazia said...

Hello! I thought you'd comment in Italian now! Jokes, apart, it's up to you, of course. Thanks for dropping by.

Mulubinba said...

Lovely post Maria! I think Phoebe resembles the lady in third picture more than the first too. Glad you enjoyed the book.

Maria Grazia said...

Yes, M. you're right. I mean, I chose that picture as it resembled my idea of Phoebe. Thanks for dropping by and commenting. A great Sunday to you!

Starheart said...

Maria, read your post when it was first published but only now got Sylvester. I enjoyed it a lot and keep it on high rotation on my PC.

Maria Grazia said...

I also put it on from time to time, especially the last chapters!