Review: Sylvester, Or the Wicked Uncle (book & audio)

Sylvester, Or the Wicked Uncle
Georgette Heyer
Harlequin Books, 2004 (original copyright 1957)

Abridged audio version read by Richard Armitage
Naxos Audiobooks, 2009

Silence fell. Miss Marlow sat gazing abstractedly at a Buhl cabinet; and his grace of Salford, unaccustomed to such treatment, eyed her in gathering resentment. He was much inclined to pick up the newspaper again, and was only deterred from doing so by the reflection that disgust at her want of conduct was no excuse for lowering his own standard of good manners. He said in the voice of one trying to set a bashful schoolgirl at her ease: ‘Your father tells me, Miss Marlow, that you are a notable horsewoman.’

‘Does he?’ she responded. ‘Well, he told us that you showed him the way with the Heythrop.’

He glanced quickly down at her, but decided, after an instant, that this remark sprang from inanity. ‘I imagine I need not tell you that I did no such thing!’

‘Oh, no! I am very sure you did not,’ she said.

He almost jumped; and being now convinced that this seeming gaucherie was deliberate began to feel as much interested as he was ruffled. Perhaps there was rather more to this little provincial than he had supposed, though why she should utter malicious remarks he was at a loss to understand.

At first glance, Sylvester is not the usual sort of book I like. I’m not a fan of romance novels, the Regency period holds no historical interest for me, and Georgette Heyer’s punctuation style, with its excess of dashes and exclamation marks and inadequate use of commas, drives me crazy. In fact, having been subjected to numerous recommendations of her work, I attempted to read Cotillion a couple of years ago and barely made it beyond the first chapter.

I am a fan of the British actor Richard Armitage, however, and he happens to have narrated abridged audiobooks of three Heyer works, among them Sylvester. After comparing synopses of the three novels, I settled on Sylvester, and downloaded it from iTunes.

Was I instantly hooked? No, not really. I enjoyed it, to be sure, but it was more the appeal of Armitage’s voice than the story itself that had me listening to it over and over. In time I purchased the audiobook of Venetia, also read by Armitage, and though I enjoyed that one as well, I kept going back to Sylvester. Curious to see what had been cut from the original, I checked Sylvester out of the local library.

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