I’ve always had immense respect for people who can fly in the face of convention and societal expectations to do what they want to and what they think is right. Sophy, from the book the Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer, is a character who does exactly that. The book is a romance set during the period of English Regency. Women in this time did not have much freedom. Society was governed by strict rules of behaviour: sports such as driving and shooting were considered extremely unsuitable for women; single women could not entertain men without a chaperone; it was unheard-of for a woman to remain unmarried past the age of 21; flirting was one of the cardinal sins for a woman.
In such a society, Sophy is a breath of fresh air. She was brought up by her eccentric diplomat father who taught her to look out for herself instead of depending on a man for protection. Sophy learned to become an excellent shot and to “drive to an inch”, sometimes making her the talk of the town.
The independence and strength of mind that I love in Sophy is obvious throughout the book. When she’s left in London with her aunt while her father travels to Brazil, she proceeds to take the entire family in hand to solve their problems. She formulates a plan that is as scandalous as it is innovative to make one of her cousins recognise that the man she loves for who he really is; she goes to a villainous moneylender herself to stop him from harassing another cousin, something that no woman is ever supposed to do; she stops yet another cousin from foisting his unwelcome and unpleasant fiancée onto his family, and puts an end to his unquestioned but well-intentioned authority over his siblings.
I love Sophy’s practical way of looking at a situation and never giving up. According to her, the people who say that there’s nothing to be done are those who are “too lazy or too timorous to make a push to be helpful”. And Sophy was definitely neither: she came up with successful plans to put an end to any problem that she saw.
Sophy has a very witty sense of humour, which kept me in splits throughout the book. Her hot temper rises up only in situations where I can’t help but agree with her, but never drowns out her innate sense of fairness. She does not let her love for a person blind her to the person’s faults, nor does she ever blind herself to her own faults. She doesn’t hide her opinions from men the way she’s supposed to, and is not afraid to tell her equally strong-willed cousin (and future husband) when she disagrees with his actions.
It’s because of Sophy that I never go anywhere without my copy of The Grand Sophy. Not only would I love to have written her, but in many ways, I’d love to be like her.