Venetia - Georgette Heyer I started reading Georgette Heyer when I was a teenager, some thirty five years ago, when my mother gave me Friday's Child and told me she thought I would enjoy it. Since then I have read all the romances, a number of them countless times. They have long been the books I turn to when I'm feeling unwell, a bit fragile, or when it's cold and wet and I need a comfort read!

Just recently I have started listening to audiobook versions of Heyer novels. I did not think that I would enjoy listening to book readings, but I have been acquiring audiobooks to give to my mother, who has lost her sight and have greatly enjoyed listening to them myself. This brings me to Venetia. I still have my first copy of Venetia, a 1971 paperback edition, now showing signs of multiple re-reads. I am currently listening to the unabridged audiobook read by Sian Phillips. (There is an abridged version available and as much as I appreciate the narrator, Richard Armitage, I am sure I would get annoyed listening to an abridged version of such a well-loved book.)

I realized this afternoon, as I listened, that I always feel tears come to my eyes at exactly the same place in the narrative. Feeling weepy is not my usual reaction to reading Heyer. Indeed, off the top of my head, I think that the only other one of her books to have that effect on me is Sylvester, in which a scene towards the end of the book never fails to bring a lump to my throat. Venetia may not be great literature, but in my view it has quiet emotional power, great sweetness and an engaging narrative. It is a book that I have probably read upwards of a dozen times over the years. I am sure that I will read it (or listen to it) many more times in years to come. Venetia is one of Heyer's most likeable heroines and Damerel is one of her most attractive heroes. The minor characters are interesting and even Flurry the dog is beautifully realized! Venetia is definitely on my Top Five Heyer list. Today it's my absolute favourite, but I suspect that's only because it's the one that's engaging me right now!

Update: 5 October 2011. I have just finished a re-read of this novel, as a buddy read with my friend Jemidar. This time I read it on kindle, to save my 1971 paperback edition from further wear and tear. It remains as special to me as ever, my pavlovian response of tearing up in the middle of chapter 15 quite unchanged.