“Gaudy Night stands out even among Miss Sayers’s novels. —Times Literary Supplement The great Dorothy L. Sayers is considered by many to be the. While Peter is on a governmental mission, Harriet attends a reunion at Oxford and is recruited to find the author of a rash of vicious poison pen letters there. Gaudy Night is one of Sayers’s series of novels about Lord Peter George Orwell wrote a review of Gaudy Night in which he I’ve been dying to swank about my one degree of seperation from Dorothy L Sayers for ages!.
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Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers – a weighty novel that still thrills
Book Fox vulpes libris: Meanwhile, we leave you with this post. Bookfoxes Kate and Hilary went into synchronized ecstasies over this piece, a potent reminder of one of our favourite passages in a much-loved novel.
The three of us, being as one in the opinion that Gaudy Night is far, far more than a niight detective story, began to re-read it and compared notes on why each of us finds this book so important in our lives. Secret surveillance in the Den has uncovered the following conversation. Then I wonder, how often have I read this book so that I know the text well enough to spot a comma in the wrong place, or a missed adjective?
I quite like the detection, but I am far more interested in the societies undergoing detection, and how Dorothy L Sayers expects us to read them, and absorb their social lessons.
I am strongly drawn to the standards of good manners of the s. The thing under attack in the detective part of the plot is women working instead of being solely wives and mothers. The main reason I respond so dorotny to this novel is the valorisation of the intellectual life. The unseen but necessary jobs like laundry, cleaning, cooking, buying food, paying bills, etc, are glossed over.
Gaudy Night – Wikipedia
Someone else, if you live in a college community, is paid to do those so that the life of the intellect can be maintained and the frontiers of knowledge extended.
I do enjoy the Vane-Wimsey pursuit, as in all their books, but in this novel, when Harriet realises she has failed to think this or that about Peter, or to find out the basic facts of his life: The coming together of Harriet and Peter is all well and good, but the real business of a love story is the marriage that follows, and how it works out. Gaudy Night is the one to read for more Harriet.
So, during the interval, I left the theatre — much to the startlement of the theatre staff — and did exactly that.
It was a major theatrical occasion and the performance was critically acclaimed, but I had Dayers Wimsey in my suitcase and he was calling me …. It IS a book quite unlike almost any other.
But for his fans, the moment he finally materializes in Oxford is just magical and so understated that you almost miss it. We take it all a bit for granted sayrrs, but when Sayers wrote the book, it was still a big issue. After all, the man — initially — is gaudu carapace. I have just got to that magical portion where Harriet goes back to Oxford before the summer term starts, and writes her two thirds of a sonnet.
I know exactly what you mean. For one thing, I read it slowly and with care, absorbing it and picturing the locations, the colleges — everything. I tended to skip over the detection parts!
The social interactions were so much more interesting than the tedious door counting. I have just finished my delicious re-read. Thank you both gaudu encouraging me — it is, in fact, many years since I last read it.
However, it is a very important book for me too. I hesitate rather to face up to just how formative it was for me. My mother, whose educational ambitions were thwarted by family circumstances and the war, adored this book, and with her encouragement I read it first when I was a teenager.
It is the most wonderful prospectus for the joys of scholarship, the pursuits of the mind. What I did not enjoy was the poison pen mystery. I found the idea of a hidden malignancy very scary indeed, the thought that this was someone with a grudge not just against a person, but against an ideal, with the implication that no-one knew where and how it would strike next.
Reading the novel this time, I realised just how skillfully this idea is worked out, in a community that is at once circumscribed and dedicated to an idea of freedom, and just dorpthy brilliantly Sayegs handles the suspense. Yes — I agree. I think she handled the whole Poison Pen thing extraordinarily well. However, what the final third or so of the book gives us is the most wonderful and unique love story — one that I can never read enough, where two fiercely independent minds battle their way through to one another.
Oh, and the sex appeal of academic dress! The twist of the hood at the throat that gives one black shoulder, one scarlet. The two gowned shoulders touching while their owners listened to JS Bach. And the arousal factor of being proposed to in Latin! It is the most perfect end to a love story that is as much about the meeting of minds as of bodies. Who said the brain was his second favourite organ?
Gaudy Night Summary & Study Guide
Of course — Woody Allen. How often is it one or the other but not both, or even worse, neither?
So — a truly cherished novel for me — far more than a satisfying mystery novel, it was very much a pattern for life that I have mostly failed to live up to, sadly. Another passage that struck me this time was Harriet deciding to make her hero less of a moving part in a detective mystery dorothu more a rounded human being, and how that made her have to re-write the novel completely.
There is a grudge held against woman scholars, but it is not clear until very near the end whether this held by a woman scholar, or by someone who hated them. Additionally, there is a lot of class confrontation throughout the novel: And that makes me feel very uncomfortable.
And I think you have to read it with that in mind and accept that she used — or possibly over-used — the prevailing social and racial stereotypes of the era. I know what Kate means about the matter of class — it is hard not to feel squeamish about it at this remove from when the novel was written. I was also stung early on in the novel by another one-liner in which an annoying person was consigned to the Home Students, having failed to hack it in the paradise dorkthy is Shrewsbury.
That was very close to home. By the way, Moira — Gaudy Night vs. There have to be times when nigut is no contest. However, in defence of DLS, I feel that there is an added critique in the way she handles the divides in the community — for me, the message is that there is a serpent in the Eden that is Shrewsbury College, which is that the Senior Common Room take far too long to realize that both the domestics who make their life of the mind comfortable, and the students and not just those trying to hide their business from the smothering Miss Shawmay not be just automata whose inner lives are of no moment.
The sheer duration of dorotby punishment by poison pen and vandalism is by way of being just desserts. Are we to suppose that they learnt by it, I wonder?
But, would we have expected the same of scholars and masters at Balliol? Just because Shrewsbury is composed of women scholars, are we expecting that they should be nannies and district visitors as well? Or is that another carefully planted double standard by DLS, to show just how much of a struggle the women had to work at the same intellectual level, and be acceptable socially?
The young women of Shrewsbury doorthy not getting over-involved with political extremism. Why did their troubles have to be attempted suicide, bullying, social ostracism: This is a rich soup of gender and class issues and it is hard to isolate the ingredients well, hard for me — you seem to be making a much better job of it!
Evelyn Waugh in Brideshead or the Oxford bits, at any rate may be an interesting comparison, as there are certainly matters of class resulting in bullying and ostracism among the men in there too, though uncomplicated by gender. Waugh though is supremely unconcerned with the rights and wrongs of this. There dofothy parallel hierarchies relating to brains and money. Shrewsbury looks Balliol in the eye. I do take your point, Moira, about DLS writing the mores of her time. She was exploiting the situation of her day to say something, so the discomfort I feel was possibly intended as a comment on class politics of the day.
Sayers, Vol 1, ed. DLS and the Dean of Shewsbury would have loved that. Hodder and Stoughton New English Library Moira, you utter legend, did you really nigght Corin Redgrave for your book?
Have you told Jay about this? I thought I was unshockable, but apparently not. What a wonderful post Foxes! Oh woe is me Lisa. Yes, I really, really did.
Gaudy Night is a favourite of mine too. It just has such depth and so much going on in it, all those delightful little scenes, and the not-so-delightful ones where unpleasant incidents are occurring.
It was part of my growing up sauers a different way in that I was so into the TV adaptation and wanted hair like Harriet Vane played gauddy Harriet Walter. In fact I think me and my sister fashioned something along those lines — but my sister cut a fringe so short I looked like a monk whose wig had slipped.
Not good, not good. I read the book again recently and have to admit I struggled with some aspects and found it difficult to get truly immersed.
I am finding it hard to put my fingers on what — I think the actual outcome of the mystery plot itself without giving it away bothers me somewhat and there is a dorotthy of stuffy solipsism and assumed way gajdy thinking?? On another note — Moira, your excellent piece on Rochester talked of the ultimate wish fulfillment fiction of Charlotte Bronte.
What do you reckon to this one in that regard? Wimsey was her perfect mate and she gave herself a happy ending, which is really quite poignant because her personal life was a great deal less happy and more messy, with an unrequited love, an illegitimate child and what seems to have been a loveless marriage. My favourite DLS novel. I feel like reading haudy again sayerd Thank you for the wonderful discussion, lots to think about. But for all of them, I love GN just as much as ever, though I know it could have gone the other way, as it seems to have done for you.
Conclusion of the Lymond Saga a discount ticket to everywhere. Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings.