This year I finally decided to read all of the Lord Peter Wimsey novels I have read the first few many times, but, for whatever reason, I never continued the series I have always heard that Gaudy Night was her best novel and so I was really intrigued to read this book and was interested to see how the character of Harriet Vane would develop Indeed, Harriet is the central character in this novel, which sees her returning to Oxford, to attend the Shrewsbury Gaudy, after being invited by a friend who was about to go abroad for an operation Harriet always loved her time at Oxford, but was nervous about returning, especially after events covered in a previous book, where she was accused of killing a former lover Gathering her courage, Harriet decides to go and actually enjoys her time there, although it is marred when she discovers an anonymous note which is less than flattering Back in London she receives a letter from the Dean, inviting her to the opening of a new library wing and mentioning that the college has had an outbreak of a poltergeist and a poison pen writer suggesting that Harriet s own note was not a one off.
When Harriet returns to the cloistered world of academia and the women s college she previously studied at, it is clear that things are not well Someone is mischief making and, before long, Harriet wishes she could consult Peter who is away in Europe, dealing with the difficult political situation unravelling abroad This novel reminded me a little of Nicholas Blake s, Malice in Wonderland, which also involves a prankster although set in an early holiday camp, rather than a fictitious Oxford college , whose tricks gradually getsandout of hand Like this, that novel is set in the 1930 s, with the threat of war as an undercurrent and, like this, the novel also features crimes which are not the usual murders and mayhem, but are unpleasant nonetheless Although this is not a traditional murder mystery, I found this a really riveting read I thought the insight into how women s education was viewed between the wars very interesting either the women were seen as unnatural or they were viewed with a benign tolerance Likewise, this is the novel where the relationship between Harriet and Peter changes, which is obviously especially interesting if you have followed the books in order I enjoyed meeting the female scholars and other characters, including Peter s nephew I also loved the Oxford setting and thought it worked really well A really interesting read and, if not my favourite of the books so far, certainly among the best.
The Great Dorothy L Sayers Is Considered By Many To Be The Premier Detective Novelist Of The Golden Age, And Her Dashing Sleuth, Lord Peter Wimsey, One Of Mystery Fiction S Most Enduring And Endearing Protagonists Acclaimed Author Ruth Rendell Has Expressed Her Admiration For Sayers S Work, Praising Her Great Fertility Of Invention, Ingenuity, And Wonderful Eye For Detail The Third Dorothy L Sayers Classic To Feature Mystery Writer Harriet Vane, Gaudy Night Is Now Back In Print With An Introduction By Elizabeth George, Herself A Crime Fiction Master Gaudy Night Takes Harriet And Her Paramour, Lord Peter, To Oxford University, Harriet S Alma Mater, For A Reunion, Only To Find Themselves The Targets Of A Nightmare Of Harassment And Mysterious, Murderous Threats I hesitate to call this a Lord Peter book Peter is here, certainly, though in lesser proportion than you might expect, considering he changes in quiet but extraordinary ways But this book is rightly and greatly Harriet Vane s, as she returns to the Oxford college of her education to do some academic work, write her next novel, and investigate some nasty disturbances around the college.
Oh For Oxford alone, which I love, I could love this book Luckily, however, there are any number of other reasons This is a book about pain, about the heart and the mind working in opposition, about academia, about the perils of being an intelligent woman, about the perils of unthinking feminism, about mistakes, about love Harriet has been trampled over by the world and left in the mud, and I love how Sayers understands the way she would snap and snarl at the first hand that reached out to help her, and resent its very kindness Harriet wants to stop hurting, and she thinks she knows how.
If only one could come back to this quiet place where only intellectual achievement counted, if one could work here steadily and obscurely at some close knit piece of reasoning, undistracted and uncorruptedabolishing personal contacts, personal spites, personal jealousies, getting one s teeth into something dull and durable, maturing into solidity like the Shrewsbury beeches, then one might be able to forget the wreck and chaos of the past, or see it, at any rate, in a truer proportion.
It s a beautiful thought, and it s all the ways that academia is not like this that will keep me away In this book it s apainfully direct question, given the social climate of the times, between academia and marriage It s a practical result of separated colleges, of course, but also afundamental observation about the ways that female achievement can become a barrier in and of itself the rule seemed to be that a great woman must either die unwedor find a still greater man to marry her And though the exact correlations of virginity and academia do not apply to us today, the idea of woman having to choose between achievement and relationships still resonates eighty years later Hell, just ask Time Magazine, apparently.
But it scomplex for Harriet, who tried living by the heart once before, with disastrous consequences This book is about her learning to use her heart again, but to do it in balance with the mind She is coming to know that passion and reason are not antithetical, that applying the second to the first makes them both greater, not less Peter is learning the same thing from the other side of the coin, as Harriet refuses his proposals again and again and again and he comes to know that simply wanting and asking are an exercise of privilege, and not the extent of love It s the pressure of other people s personalities that does the mischief Yes You may say you won t interfere with another person s soul, but you do merely by existing The snag about it is the practical difficulty, so to speak, of not existing They both know how awful love can be when it is all heart or all brain, when it presses and demands and makes sacrifices and then says now what will you do for me in return They are both just growing into the awareness that there is another way.
I think, above all, the thing I admire most in this book is the way it practices what it preaches Sayers brain is here, as it always has been, but for perhaps the first time, her heart is too Harriet, her partial avatar, is also learning that the heart is required in equal measure in writing as in love in any work of importance You would have to abandon the jigsaw kind of story and write a book about human beings for a change I m afraid to try that, Peter It might go to near the bone It might be the wisest thing you could do Write it out and get rid of it Yes I ll think about that It would hurt like hell What would that matter, if it made a good book I won t go into Sayers biography here But as Peter says, you can t keep the feeling out The beauty of this book is the way Sayers is here, unashamedly, honestly, with enough distance to be lucid and thoughtful, but enough heart still in it to hurt, and to matter And that s the point of the book writing like that Is writing well, and living like that is living well.
5 stars for Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers.
There was much to like about this book Sayers characterisation was, as always, quite superb She lays a meandering trail of red herrings which she mainly disproves, then brings back into the realm of possibility I learnt a lot about Oxford life there is really nothing with which to compare it in NZ, and what little I knew of it previously came from Morse.
But this seemed to be an exceedingly long book Not that it was boring, because it most certainly was not, but there seemed to be so much filler for lack of a better term Somewhere I read that Sayers is known for her attention to detail In Gaudy Night I think she has given it just a little too much attention Had I been her editor, I would have had my red pencil out Harriet Vane returns to Oxford for Gaudy Night with some trepidation, and is drawn into solving a Poison Pen mystery Senior Common Room in Shrewsbury are being targeted with anonymous vile accusations, threats and damage to their possessions One student attempts suicide as a result of the hate campaign and members of the SCR find themselves fearful and distrusting old friends and colleagues as suspicion and rumours spread.
Lord Peter is not in evidence until some 2 3 of the way through the book We meet his delightful but dissolute nephew, the Viscount Saint George who takes a shine to Harriet and nominates her his honorary aunt.
Harriet sees a new side to Peter and finds herself reconsidering her position in his life.
This isn t my favourite Sayer, but yes, I enjoyed reading it and am looking forward to the next in the series.
What is the deal with lady detective fiction writers Why create a brilliant, memorable central female protagonist, totally capable of bringing teh awesome, only to undermine her by having her mope around after some overbred aristocratic prat Case in point that whole Havers Linley dynamic would be infinitely healthier had detective Havers given pompous assed golden boy Linley a good kick in the yarbles the very first time he tried to pull the whole tired aristo boy superiority trick to put her in her place Given the choice between Havers and Linley, I know who I d want to have my back, and it wouldn t be the effete aristocrat, no matter how hard Elizabeth George tries to protray him as a sensitive, noble, brilliant soul But it s Havers I feel sorry for she really deserves better If you believe, as I do, that George s apparent infatuation with her idealized aristocrat ultimately weakens the Havers Linley stories, then what to make of the hero worship that permeates the entire Peter Wimsey series After all, isn t Harriet Vane just an obvious stand in for her creator, making Lord Peter nothingthan a vehicle for the vicarious fulfilment of Dorothy L Sayers s own romantic fantasies Or, to use the terms I just recently learned from the infinitely amusing but beware, it s a complete timesuck Television Tropes and Idioms website, isn t Peter just the quintessential example of the Blue Blood trope, in response to Harriet s Author Avatar Well, no Not really Although Harriet Vane surely reflects her creator to some degree something Sayers vigorously denied , it would be reductive to regard the character as nothingthan an author avatar Sayers s personal life was actually quite romantically adventurous, though this was not generally known during her lifetime More importantly, Dorothy L Sayers was smart as all get out when she translated Dante, she respected that terza rima , not like some wusses one could mention yeah, I m talking about you, Professor Ciardi Any way you look at it, Harriet Vane rocks out loud, and on lingonberry toast And while I personally find it hard to take Lord Peter seriously, at least he has the virtue of being vaguely amusing, and nowhere near the kind of pompous ass that Inspector Linley manages to be Gaudy Night is my favorite of all the Harriet Peter books There s no murder, but the stakes are high, nonetheless Poison pen letters and obscene effigies are being used to target the female scholars of a prestigious Oxford college Sayers s depiction of the mounting fear and disruption, and of the emotions swirling beneath the veneer of academic rationalism, is riveting Lord Peter is relatively scarce, so Harriet is center stage for most of the story It s a neat story, expertly told, with that irresistible Oxford setting You can appreciate it without knowing anything about campanology or mithridatism And if you do happen to care about the trajectory of the Harriet Peter relationship, then the ending of Gaudy Night will surely warrum the cockles of your sentimental heart This is Dorothy L Sayers at her best EG is not the only authoress to consign her sleuth heroine to an unsatisfying emotional limbo Consider Jacqueline Winspear, creator of the delightful Maisie Dobbs series In five or six meticulously researched, well written, generally tightly constructed stories, Ms Winspear tracks the exploits of her charming, plucky protagonist Maisie during World War I and the decade immediately following Despite the odd lapse placement of the telling historical detail is sometimes a little heavy handed, the high minded purity of motivation of Maisie and her friends can be excessive at times , Ms Winspear delivers the goods stories in the series are reliably entertaining But across a timespan of 15 years, the heroine is allowed littlethan the occasional chaste peck on the cheek for the decade or so after the end of the war the only release outlet for her emotional energy was through occasional visits to her irreversibly shell shocked sweetheart mercifully killed off in the fourth or fifth book The unremitting bleakness of the emotional landscape Ms Winspear imagines for her protagonist is really starting to get me down, though I understand she may be making a point about life after the Great War for women in Maisie s demographic cohort Actually, the Sayers translation is not particularly readable, but I give her points for effort TVTropes has much to say about Lord Peter, some of it quite penetrating Gaudy Night is easily my favorite of Dorothy L Sayers s beloved series of Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries It s one of the last in the series and thus hard to talk about without spoiling earlier books, as it deals with the resolution of the relationship between Lord Peter and Harriet Vane, the mystery writer first introduced in Strong Poison and seen again in Have His Carcase If you ve read no Sayers, please read at least those two books before reading Gaudy Night, as otherwise you ll be missing a lot Gaudy Night is told almost wholly from Harriet s point of view, and in fact Lord Peter doesn t even appear untilthan halfway through the book When Harriet attends a reunion at Shrewsbury, her Oxford college, she receives a nasty anonymous note Later, when the poison pen returns and starts to play other pranks, the Dean and the Warden invite Harriet to return to Shrewsbury to investigate the incidents eventually, Harriet calls in Lord Peter as well.
The mystery is certainly intriguing, but what really speaks to me about Gaudy Night is its investigation into different ideas of marriage and of woman s place in the world The vicious anonymous letters are directed against the female dons who are necessarily unmarried, a requirement at the time , and cause great debates among them As Harriet struggles to discover who the anonymous letter writer is, she also struggles to figure out how to maintain her sense of independence and of self in the face of her growing love for Peter It s a fascinating debate, as relevant now as it was when Gaudy Night was published almost seventy years ago.
This review is for the Ian Carmichael audio version which is excellent I am also reading it at a seperate time in print for our podcast The Literary Life Podcast is a delightful reading of a thoughtful, masterful book Perhaps the best Lord Peter Wimsey novel of Dorothy L Sayers, although from here on out they are all wonderful, even the short stories.
Book Review4 of 5 stars to Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers, a strong and talented writer of detective mysteries in their Golden Age of publication This was truly an excellent book Upon finishing my third year at college, I d taken all the required courses and a variety of electives to complete my double majors My advisors and professors, knowing I had an affinity for reading and writing mystery stories, encouraged me to do an independent study on this era of literature but they also told me I wouldn t be allowed to select any of the books I had to read She would pick two per month for me to read and discuss And this was one of the very first ones she was a big Dorothy Sayers fan and thought this was the author s most popular book Despite it being in the middle of a series, which I severely dislike, I read it without enjoying the prior installments And it turned out OK.
Though it s hailed as a Lord Peter Wimsey book, it s really about Harriet Vane young wife accused and jailed for murdering her husband but she s been released when Wimsey proves her innocence And they begin their own little flirtation and romance Harriet goes on to be a writer and plans to visit her alma mater, a women s college in the 1930s what an intriguing concept Full of some feminism, some mystery, some romance, some education I loved it, even tho at times it was a little too eyes slanted down one s nose for my taste.
The writing is fantastic The mystery is complex And it sabout proving false clues, sometimes revisiting them, but always applying sound logic Sayers helped pave the way for many future female authors of detective stories Christie is still my preference, but I thoroughly enjoyed Sayers approach and character creation If you enjoy 75 year old stories, give this one a chance It s really quite psychological and introspectiveAbout MeFor those new to me or my reviews here s the scoop I read A LOT I write A LOT And now I blog A LOT First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at where you ll also find TV Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I ve visited all over the world And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who what when where and my pictures Leave a comment and let me know what you think Vote in the poll and ratings Thanks for stopping by Note All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them Many thanks to their original creators.
Published in 1936, this 12th novel in the Lord Peter Wimsey Series is a big story Dorothy L Sayers created an entire women s college called Shrewsbury in the large complex known as Oxford University It is near an associate college called Queen s and also near Balliol College, which is where Lord Peter Wimsey attended his university years With Oxford University composed of 38 colleges and 6 Permanent Private Halls, it is not difficult to imagine Ms Sayers invention taking its place easily among the others.
Harriet Vane is invited to her class reunion, known as a Gaudy She has not gone before but decides to do so this time in answer to pleas from some of her former classmates She surprises herself by enjoying the time away from home and renewing relations with various dons, Fellows, and classmates At the end of Gaudy Night, she finds an offensive drawing on the grounds of the Quad She also finds an ominous note in the rolled up sleeve of her gown.
When she returns home, she dives back in to writing her most recent novel, which has been giving her trouble Then, she receives a letter from the Dean of Shrewsbury, Miss Martin, who tells her about some ominous incidents that have been occurring since Gaudy Night Poison Pen notes, things set on fire, random vandalism, and so forth The Dean asks if Harriet Vane has any idea what it might be about.
Harriet responds that she will return to the College and see if she can do anything to help.
This is where we receive a taste of academic life that would be nostalgic for those who had gone to University, and like entering a new and fascinating world for those who had not gone to University The discussions cover the gamut from literary topics to history to philosophy and science I was obliged to search out many topics and references on the computer and had some great adventures.
Both a reminiscence and reminder for some people as much as it is a new adventure for others yet underlying the academia, we have this mystery who is causing all the turmoil and terrors and why The focus seems to be the Seniors Common Room, so even the Dean, Treasurer, Warden, Bursar, and other dons and Fellows in the group are under suspicion Gradually, as further incidents occur, Harriet is able to start eliminating suspects based on cast iron alibis, but it is a slow and laborious process Lord Peter is away on the continent Rome and Warsaw and as Harriet Vane progresses in her investigations, she documents the details in a notebook However, a couple of attempts to hurt or kill people are causing her to wonder if she is equal to the task of finding this person before it s too late After a fewfrightening incidents, Harriet decides she can t do this alone and persuades the Dean to allow her to contact her detecting friend for help.
I love it when these books include both Lord Peter and Harriet Vane Their chemistry is fascinating and over the five years of their acquaintance, their individual personal growth is most closely observed when they are working on a mystery together.
This book is not a fluff piece or even close to being a cozy mystery or classic mystery for that matter This book stretched and expanded my mind Dorothy L Sayers is in a class of her own intellectually, she doesn t hold back Psychologically and even scientifically, she is well ahead of the pack in both what she knows and how she writes Until I lost my bookmarks and annotations, I was going to end this review with a brilliant quote about women that made me question how far have we travelled really with feminism Keeping in mind that this book was written 83 years ago, the answer is not very far Or maybe Dorothy L Sayers and her own set of classmates were simply decades ahead of the rest of the world.