Yup, we’ve got that one

And more than one million more. Become a member today and read free for two weeks.

Read free for two weeks
Back at Oxford for her reunion, Harriet Vane, Lord Peter’s beloved, finds herself in mortal danger
[Description]
Since she graduated from Oxford’s Shrewsbury College, Harriet Vane has found fame by writing novels about ingenious murders. She also won infamy when she was accused of committing a murder herself. It took a timely intervention from the debonair Lord Peter Wimsey to save her from the gallows, and since then she has devoted her spare time to resisting his attempts to marry her. Putting aside her lingering shame from the trial, Harriet returns to Oxford for her college reunion with her head held high—only to find that her life is in danger once again.
 
The first poison-pen letter calls her a “dirty murderess,” and those that follow are no kinder. As the threats become more frightening, she calls on Lord Peter for help. Among the dons of Oxford lurks a killer, but it will take more than a superior education to match Lord Peter and the daring Harriet.
 
Gaudy Night is the 12th book in the Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries, but you may enjoy the series by reading the books in any order.
 
This ebook features an illustrated biography of Dorothy L. Sayers including rare images from the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College.

Topics: London, England, Women Detectives, Crime, Female Protagonist, Suicide, Blackmail, Scandal, Love, Marriage, Love Story, College, Suspenseful, Psychological, Witty, Contemplative, Series, 1930s, 20th Century, Female Author, and British Author

Published: Open Road Media an imprint of Open Road Integrated Media on
ISBN: 9781453258958
List price: $9.99
Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
Availability for Gaudy Night
With a 30 day free trial you can read online for free
  1. This book can be read on up to 6 mobile devices.
Gaudy Night took me an awfully long time to read (in comparison to, say, The Nine Tailors). It had less Peter than I'd like, although Harriet's relationship with him develops most satisfactorily, and her character in general too, and it had no on screen Bunter, or Parker, or anyone like that. Some of the female academics were worth getting a little fond of, but not so much that I was bowled over by them.

The mystery itself, I actually spoilered myself on the criminal by the time I was one hundred pages in. Beware of wikipedia! Anyway, knowing what I knew, I could see the clues that lead there, but if I didn't, I don't know if I would have figured it out.

The whole plot rather seems to serve Harriet's character development and the development of her relationship with Lord Peter. On the other hand, there's some commentary about female academics and so on (that seems awfully outdated to a female academic at the end of her second year of university in this day and age), and the setting -- Oxford -- is lovely and the atmosphere well-rendered.more
I love this novel. The mystery is well-done, but other issues take precedence. The relationship between Peter and Harriet, the role of women, the conflict between the intellectual and the emotional life are all explored with skill and passion. I have read Gaudy Night a number of times over the years and I have appreciated it more with each reading. This is the book (along with Jude the Obscure!!) which first made me want to visit Oxford and which never fails to make me wish that I had attended university there!more
This was the first book I read in the series (after, I think, watching the BBC "Have His Carcase.") It was nice to read it again in the context of everything else. And after having visited Oxford!

This book contains so much awesome - Oxford in the thirties, romance, complexly drawn characters, feminism, extremely silly slang, humor, and oh yes, a mystery.

Sayers is wonderful because she allows her characters to have their own opinions and even to be wrong. Peter is allowed to be agnostic (even though Sayers wrote Christian theology), kind-hearted Padgett is allowed to be a Fascist, Harriet is allowed to write novels with flat characterization and not get on with old schoolfriends and be wrong about what kind of person Peter is.

Dear authors of the world - let your characters be wrong about all sorts of things. You'll like them better, I promise.more
Dorothy Sayers, recommended to me by the town librarian some 40ish years ago, got me back into reading mysteries. I'd stopped because of a real life tragedy involving a murder; for a long while the thought of reading books that hinged on death seemed, well, unhinged. But Sayers got me in again, with wit, and her beguiling characters, and soon I was as corrupt and insensitive as the next person. Well...maybe not all that, but I returned to the genre I had loved as a child. Before the murder.more
This book, you guys, THIS BOOK. I finished it almost a week ago and have not been able to write my review about it until now because all I can think to say is THIS BOOK. This book is amazing.

Harriet Vane was introduced to the Lord Peter Wimsey series in Strong Poison, returned in Have His Carcase, and has her time to shine here in Gaudy Night. She’s been invited to her Oxford college’s Gaudy, a sort of reunion weekend, and when she gets there she finds (as you do) that everything is exactly the same and everything has changed. She no longer has much in common with her old best friend, but her old professors are as delightful as ever. The college is still filled with students, younger and more modern but with much the same problems. Oh, and someone is sending horrible threatening letters to students and faculty and wreaking havoc whenever possible.

This is most definitely a mystery novel, but it’s also a deeply feminist novel. The whole thing is from Harriet’s point of view, as she contemplates returning to academia, her career as a mystery novelist, her obligation to investigate the crimes at the college on behalf of a faculty who’s terrified of what the bad publicity would do to one of the few women’s colleges in existence, and her potential romance with Lord Peter Wimsey. The plot keeps the whole thing going with plenty of suspense, but it’s the depth and intelligence of Harriet that makes this one of the best books I’ve ever read.

I’m often disappointed when I read period feminist books, not because of anything to do with the book most times but because I’m disappointed that it still seems so relevant today. Surely feminism ought to have progressed since 1935? I don’t feel that way about Gaudy Night, though, and I think part of the reason is that the book is feminist because of its subject matter, but it deals with issues that everyone ought to care about, but seem to become women’s issues by default. The question of what happens when professional standards and ethics intersect with family and romantic interests is a very different one when applied to men than when it’s applied to women.

Also, I am not ashamed to admit that I squeed like a fifteen-year-old fangirl at all of the scenes with Harriet and Peter together. Punting! Picnicking! Reading one another’s books! Discussing literature! I do believe they have one of my favorite relationships in fiction, and I cannot wait to start Busman’s Honeymoon when they will both finally agree with me.more
Dorothy Sayers's third tale which includes the mystery writer, Harriet Vane, is set at Oxford University where a series of events has everyone on edge and wondering who could be vandalizing the university and slandering the good names of those who go there. This is a good read to see how far mystery/detective books have come. It is also a good idea of how far and women have come! Thank Heavens! Admittedly, this was not my favorite, but it did interest me enough to keep reading to the end where I am very happy to say that someone finally woke up!more
I always prefer the Lord Peter Winsey mysteries when Harriet Vane is in them. The more she appears, the better I like her for savvy, intuition, self-sufficiency, and wit—as well as the attraction she and Lord Peter have towards each other, which is based on intellectualism rather than anything else. You can see perfectly why they’re drawn to each other—and why Harriet keeps pulling away.In Gaudy Night, Harriet attends her reunion—also known as the Gaudy—at the fictional Oxford college of Shrewsbury. While there, she receives a threatening note, the first of several that members of the college receive over the next few months. Harriet is asked to join the staff of the college, ostensibly to work on a study of Sheridan Le Fanu, but really to investigate the mystery of the notes—which eventually lead to vandalism, among other crimes.Dorothy Sayers’s mysteries are never just about the mystery; they focus on larger issues, such as the plight of veterans, Russian immigrants, or, in this case, women’s education. The staff of the college are old enough to remember women’s struggle to receive a university degree, and these novels were written at a time when university enrollment for women was capped at 25%. So there’s a sense of bonhomie among the staff and students of Shrewsbury that you don’t really see among college women today. That’s why the events at the college are so shocking to them; they’re unused to having their cloistered lifestyle violated.Sayers’s mysteries are also about the detective, too, and the complicated choices they make. Harriet is a complicated, unusual character; everything for her has a deeper, more symbolic significance, and so she is naturally drawn to the mysteries that fall into her lap. At the same time, she wrestles with a personal question: how will she balance her work life with a potential relationship or marriage? Sayers is skilled at drawing a nuanced character that we care to read more about. Lord Peter definitely makes an appearance—or several—but the show is definitely Harriet’s.more
This book is a romance novel of the sort that Mary Renault wrote during and immediately after WWII before she turned to writing historical novels. The two protagonists are sensitive to just about everything; so much so that this reader can't really tell what's bothering them half the time. How much better if they would just get over themselves and start doing something instead of crushing each other with a well-chosen phrase and then quoting French poets.Sayers' previous Lord Peter works, even those involving Harriet Vane, were actually mysteries or at least adventures of one sort or another. The plot is hung around a mystery of sorts; but the whole purpose of the mystery is to explore the Place of Woman in Society. It is therefore important that the investigator remain clueless for a long time while various events transpire. Consequently, Wimsey and Miss Climpson are kept entirely out of the action until Wimsey arrives at the very end of the book. Harriet Vane observes rather than detects and what she mostly observes is the behavior of the dons and the students while she ponders her true calling in nature and what she ought to do with herself.In previous books Harriet Vane seemed to deal pretty well with the fact that she was "branded an adulteress" but in this book she gets all wobbly whenever anybody alludes to "her past". There is a lot of very veiled talk about the wonderfulness of sex and how any society where the majority of the people were not engaging in regular sexual activity must be warped and twisted. There is no overt hint of lesbianism but the science tutor is strong, frequently wears tweeds, very direct, and sits in a "mannish" way.As with previous books, Sayers draws a compelling picture of a society still out of whack due to the terrible carnage of WWI. More women are working rather than married, and women are earning advanced degrees at Oxford colleges. The picture of Oxford with all its whacky customs and architecture, its quads and staircases and sported oaks and fining and segregation of the sexes is well-drawn. The proper study of all students is either History or English --- the Science tutor is away from the college for one whole term and nobody seems to notice the difference. Mathematics is not yet heard of. Peter Medawar began at Oxford in 1932 and had no real difficulty finding science stuff to do, so this picture represents Sayers' own bias rather than the actual state of affairs at Oxford itself although things may have been different at women's colleges. "Scholarship" is portrayed as some sort of holy vocation in the humanities; although its products are actually shown to be more or less useless as in the remarks on Vane's own study of LeFanu. It is unlikely that any more accurate understanding of Phoenician coinage will ever be arrived at as there are probably not enough remaining coins or documents hanging around; why should anyone care? The scholars in this book seems almost like Talmudic scholars; there is no iron test of "Does it work?" or "Does it inform the decisions we make today?" and the same old scholarly ground is relentlessly worked over until it must be completely worked out.The novel was published in 1935, just four years before the outbreak of WWII. Hitler is already a well-known name and there is some enthusiasm among some of the minor characters for various systems of eugenics. There is also the usual talk about evil being just a biological problem, easily eliminated by means of drugs or surgery. Lord Peter Wimsey, now a minor diplomat as much as a detective, does not believe that war will be avoided but continues to do his best to defer it.In this, her last true Lord Peter Wimsey novel (Busman's Honeymoon was actually the book of the play, and not an original novel), Sayers' literary vices detract most from her literary virtues.more
One of my favorite books, my well-thumbed paperback copy has been with me since my college/post college days in Eugene, OR and still bears a sticker from Smith Family Used Books (I paid $2.00 for it). Love walking around Oxford when in England and spotting locations that appear in the book. Must have been purchased in the early 80's based on the publication date.more
Where I got the book: my bookshelf. This is a 1940 Gollancz edition I picked up somewhere and I absolutely love it because no matter where you are in the story, the book lays flat and keeps its place. I get so impatient with books that won't stay open.The story: five years after being erroneously accused--and then, thanks to Lord Peter Wimsey, acquitted--of murdering her lover, Harriet Vane is getting on with her life as a writer and puzzling over what she's going to do about Lord Peter: push him out of her life or accede to his marriage proposals? She's invited back to Oxford to visit her old college, where a mysterious prankster and writer of anonymous notes seems to have a grudge against academic women in general and Shrewsbury College in particular. Called in to investigate, Harriet ponders whether an intellectual woman should allow love into her life or whether retirement into a life of learning is the answer. The appearance of Peter in Oxford to help with her investigations could be disastrous--maybe.This is my favorite Wimsey book, and probably one of my favorite love stories of all time. It is, I think, Sayers' most feminist novel, showing women trying to carve out an existence for themselves that has nothing to do with men, and yet acknowledging that love and relationships can have a place in a woman's life without totally destroying her true self. I think Sayers is arguing for give and take; it's true even today that women make a certain sacrifice, far more than men do, when they enter into a marriage (the physical and emotional effects of childbearing and the change in status are still very real, despite our so-called progress) and I think Sayers is seeking, not so much an end to such sacrifice but an acknowledgement that it is real and should not be entered into lightly.After pulling Wimsey and Vane through two novels, Sayers is faced with the challenge of getting two emotionally scarred characters to the big Yes, and she does so through Harriet's eyes, using her beloved Oxford as the catalyst. In the (disturbed) peace of academe, Harriet is able to reconcile her past with her present, explore Wimsey's own vulnerabilities and finally acknowledge her physical attraction to him. It's that attraction, it seems to me, that's the clincher; Sayers clearly believes that marriage must be a union of bodies first and foremost, and that the emotional and intellectual side of things will sort itself out if the physical bond is strong enough.It's also interesting that Harriet's new insights into her own feelings bring about a revolution in her development as a writer. It's often been said that Harriet is Sayers herself, and indeed I have always had the impression that Sayers fell in love with her own creation, Wimsey, and wrote herself into the stories so that he could fall for her; a very interesting statement about the life of the imagination! Whether that's true or not, I happen to find Harriet convincing in her own right, but what she discovers about her writing in Gaudy Night may well be a reflection of Sayers' feelings about how a detective novel should be, i.e. no mere intellectual puzzle but a true novel with psychological growth in the characters. I think we take it for granted today that the characters in a novel should have a growth arc, recognizing two-dimensional characters for what they are and scorning them; I think we tend to forget that even some of the best writers of bygone decades tended to deal far more in caricatures and "types" than we would now accept. What we still read now are the ones that survived precisely because they were a cut above the others.Gaudy Night, famously, contains no murder but there are a whole lot of motives for murder, all centered on human relationships. Sayers tackles the demons (her own, I can't help but thinking) of possessiveness and jealousy, and the kind of love that wants to absorb its object. She argues for balance; but does she entirely achieve it with her lead characters? I'm not so sure.more
Tension shifts and swirls in this novel, but the language is rather above the level we here in the USA usually hear or speak, and there are many British slang words that mean nothing to me. Deep discussions of morals and ethics define the story and deep character introspection add interest.more
I love this book (but I minored in Latin as an undergrad). I have read it countless times. It seems to me if you wanted a picture of an independent, educated woman's life during the 30s, this would be a good place to start.more
Is this the finest Wimsey of them all? That’s a question that’s open to debate – as are most questions, that’s what makes them questions; it’s certainly a very fine Wimsey and, indeed, a very fine novel in its own right. Wimsey, in fact, is largely absent from the story: it’s Harriet Vane who here takes centre stage. Nor is there a murder to solve: the mystery here is a rash of poison-pen letters, graffiti and vandalism that is plaguing Harriet’s old College. The Warden, unwilling to involve the police and open the floodgates for a wave of negative publicity, asks Harriet to investigate, on the somewhat shaky grounds that Harriet writes mysteries and may therefore be in a better position than the unworldly Dons to interpret the mind of the offender. Harriet, herself unwilling, nonetheless gives it her best shot, but finds that her surroundings lead her to re-think her own way of life and seriously contemplate a return to academia.If the Bechdel test applies to literature, then 'Gaudy Night' surely passes with flying colours. Much of the story is less concerned with the mystery than with questions of female emancipation, with philosophy and with debates on religion and music. It’s unfortunate, then, that the women are unable to reveal the culprit and must depend on Wimsey to descend, deus ex machina style, and solve the mystery with one wave of his hand. On the other hand, he is Wimsey, and that’s his job, while the women are handicapped, oddly enough, by their own prejudices; they seem almost determined to blame the attacks on the cloistered mentality. Wimsey, with an outsider’s clearer view, and without these prejudices, almost immediately sees the solution. (I cannot help but feel that Miss Marple would have solved it even faster.)And finally, of course, this is the book in which Harriet at long last abandons her own prejudices and agrees to what Wimsey has promised will be his final offer of marriage. And happily ever after they both shall live, by the grace of god and World War II.We are currently watching the TV adaptation of this, and I am rather enjoying the thought of a casting director faced with the need to cast 20-odd middle-aged women. “Twenty what?” he must have asked. Mythical as the unicorn, the middle-aged woman is to the world of film and television.more
Only hopeless devotees of the intriguing pursuit of Lord Peter Wimsey for the hand of Harriet Vane would put up with almost 500 pages of reading about petty but pernicious mischief at Oxford College. Someone bears a grudge against one of the female dons and goes on a spree of making vengeful and threatening disturbances and sending mail designed to create fear and chaos on that serene campus. Harriet Vane, a writer of mysteries and graduate of Oxford is called in to help, but eventually finds that she needs the incomparable mind of Lord Peter who has been proposing marriage to her for five years. The final scene with Harriet and Peter in the moonlight under Magdalen Bridge is worth the reading of the book, although you may as I did have to look up some Latin words which Dorothy Sayers tends to throw into her stories at critical points when you want to know exactly what is being said. Beautiful and cerebral language and references in the tradition-laden setting of Oxford.more
Sayers writes an interesting book about the emergence of women into the academic field. Sayers employs extensive description of the setting and characters and events that at times halts the flow of the story. The relationship between Harriet Vane and Peter Wimsey seems unreal, but of course, the story is set in the 1930's. Slight mention is made of Hitler. The English higher education system is confusing, but Sayers patiently tries to guide the reader through the maze.more
A reread. One of my favorite love stories, even if most of the romance isn't in this book, but others. One of the things I like about romantic fiction, wherever it crops up, is that it often starts out with the main character thinking that love is on one hand, and some other important value is on the other, and that in order to really commit to being in love, you have to give up this other thing. Then, of course, the main character comes to realize that no, that wasn't what was being asked (well, in the case of a book that doesn't end tragically; tragic romances are different), that love and this other thing don't conflict.Here it is Harriet's independence and self-respect. I know that some Whimsey fans dislike her or think her a Mary-Sue character, representing the author, but I think it works well here.The mystery? Well, I'm less fond of that; one of those "the lady doth protest too much" things, where the author said that it must not be so too many times, so it wasn't so much a case of solving the mystery as looking at the writerly tricks and seeing where they must lead.more
This was the first book I ever read by Sayers. Having read it for the second time after reading previous Wimsey novels such as the first, Whose Body and another featuring Harriet Vane, Have His Carcase as well as another without her Murder Must Advertise, I only appreciate this one the more. This is the third book with Harriet Vane, Lord Peter Wimsey's romantic interest, and indeed Gaudy Night is more centered on her, with Wimsey, although often on her mind, not appearing until over half-way through the book. Vane's a mystery writer herself, and at one point in this book Wimsey challenges her to delve deeper into her characters, and that she can do better than just writing puzzle pieces. That made me smile the second time reading through, and after reading other Wimsey books, because I do think this is both what separates this book from books earlier in the series, and say even the best of Agatha Christie. Purely as a mystery, I find this the most satisfying Sayers I've read--it kept me guessing to the end, it wrapped up the strange goings on at an Oxford women's college very neatly, and it didn't feel at all contrived or too clever. But it also was a lot more than a mystery. I loved the picture of Oxford in the mid-1930s. It was fascinating to read in a book published in 1936 all the hints of the war to come in references to Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy. It was amusing to hear the dons describe the generation of students in terms reminiscent discussing students of say the 1960s or today--rowdy, undisciplined, wild. The more things change... There was a feminist theme evident in Have His Carcass, but I'd say the entire theme of men, women and their relations is even more to the fore in Gaudy Night and I loved the way Sayers played with that. The novel has a richness and complexity befitting literature, and indeed even on second read I felt I hadn't peeled all layers and certainly haven't caught all the different literary and classic allusions. Wimsey is at his most appealing here, and I'd put his conversation at the end with Harriet high up in my personal list of favorite literary romantic scenes--all the more for how it fits the themes throughout the novel. Here's one bit of it I particularly loved:"Peter--what did you mean when you said that anybody could have the harmony if they would leave us the counterpoint?""Why," said he, shaking his head, "that I like my music polyphonic. If you think I meant anything else, you know what I meant.""Polyphonic music takes a lot of playing. You've got to be more than a fiddler. It needs a musician""In this case, two fiddlers--both musicians.""I'm not much of a musician, Peter.""As they used to say in my youth: 'All girls should learn a little music--enough to play a simple accompaniment.' I admit that Bach isn't a matter of an autocratic virtuoso and a meek accompanist. But do you want to be either? Here's a gentleman coming to sing a group of ballads. Pray silence for the soloist. But let him be soon over, that we may hear the great striding fugue again."I loved that idea of a marriage of true minds--neither submitting themselves to simply accompany another life, but both playing different lines of melody that together make for complex and rich music. I finished the book wanting to cry "Bravo!"more
I finished Gaudy Night and would have thought it would be my favorite Dorothy Sayers due to the subject matter: feminism with a touch of anti-Nazism; but it sure wasn't. I found it severely in need of editing and overly full of exposition. Perhaps in the '30's there was a need to go into detail about why a woman would choose not to marry, but I would have expected anyone as talented as Sayer to be able to work her ideas into the story without having to state them so bluntly.more
Along with "The Nine Tailors", this has always stood out amongst Sayers' other work. The plot is, as always with Sayers, entirely satisfying; but "Gaudy Night" goes further than her other books in exploring the humanity and complexity of her characters and their motivation. One of the great features of the book is Sayers' compassionate yet clear-sighted portrayal of Oxford - the university and its people. Above all, though, "Gaudy Night" stands out for Sayers' delight in the power and majesty of the English language. A crime novel this may be, but above all it is most certainly a literary classic.more
The first Sayers novel I read, and my favourite, set at Oxford University and featuring Harriet Vane, who was a student at the university ten years earlier.Unusual for a mystery in that the crime is one of poison-pen writing – a couple of half-hearted attempted murders, but no actual bodies. The focus of the book very much on the position of women in academia, feminist issues, and the workings of an Oxford college, which I think makes it quite a remarkable book, for its time and even now it strikes quite a radical note in the overt treatment of feminist issues. Admittedly the book ends with Harriet accepting Peter’s proposal, but at this stage at least (not having read the novels in which they’re married) one feels it’s a relationship of equals and that Peter respects Harriet’s independence and intelligence. [March 2002]more
Gaudy Night, published in 1935, is billed as a Lord Peter Wimsey novel, but he barely makes an appearance in the first couple of hundred pages. His friend Harriet Vane is really the central character. In her early thirties, she returns to her old Oxford college for a celebration and ends up staying to investigate a mysterious series of events that start with poison pen-letters and become more destructive. An entertaining mystery with some interesting reflections on the academic life and whether it is of value, especially when compared with raising a family or manual labour.more
Absolutely sublime, first rate and a real treat. There is a mystery, a love story, and a picture of Oxford at a very interesting time in history. It was a delight to read, not just entertaining but an intellectual treat.more
Can't remember the book but I had a three star rating down.more
A bit too much immersion in upper-class British academe for my tastes. After slogging through all the Latin and the jargon, I was feeling some class/education based resentment and irritation, just like the guilty party in the book.more
Beautiful language, gloriously ridiculous plots, and the first to bring the emotional life of her characters into the fore of the mystery. (Even though she did insist on apologizing for it.)more
I read all of the Dorothy Sayers mysteries years ago, and recall this was one of my favorites. Wonderful portrayal of Oxford at a certain time.more
This multi-layered novel may easily disappoint the reader expecting the Lord Peter Wimsey by-line to produce a bloodied corpse. It is written in the literary style which attracted, unjustifiably in my view, some strong criticism when the book first appeared: Sayers was accused of pretentiousness. I think she is just a rather better writer than most of her contemporaries in the genre.There is a mystery, if lower key than usual in the Wimsey canon. An Oxford ladies’ college, the alma mater of Harriet Vane, is beset by a writer of poison pen letters and some nocturnal vandalism. At first the worst effects of this are the insecurity engendered in the members of the Senior Common Room (SCR), most of whom are suspects, and the risk to the outside reputation of the College. As the story progresses, things become more sinister and physically threatening, and one is glad that Peter Wimsey had arrived on the scene.Since leaving Oxford after her degree, Harriet had lived an emancipated metropolitan life but she is close enough to the pre-War (WW1) attitudes to understand the difficulties that women still faced in the academic world and particularly how professional women found it hard to reconcile their work with the demands of marriage and child-rearing. These feminist issues are much discussed but have particular relevance for Harriet in respect of her equivocal feelings for Lord Peter. He has been proposing to her regularly since they first met and she has regularly refused him, not for want of liking, affection and love, but because she fears a subservient role as his wife hampered by her gratitude to him for rescuing her from the gallows. Her intellectual life is important; not for her is the current German view of a woman’s place – “Kinde, Kuche, Kircher.”Another topic of conversation in the SCR is intellectual honesty in academic life. The idea that truth, regardless of the consequences, is of overwhelming importance in research is held by most of the Fellows (and turns out to be central to the mystery). It is also a shared principle of Harriet and Peter and both experience some of the accompanying pain as they resolve their relationship.So, a mystery, feminism, academic rigour and a love story – in fact two love stories, for Harriet is enamoured of Oxford as well as Lord Peter. The glowing descriptions of the city and of University life remained quite recognisable in the Oxford of the 1960s and, for all I know, still do, despite cleaner stone, more traffic management and far more girls.This book is near the end of the Lord Peter Wimsey canon but can perfectly well be read before the earlier volumes – necessary background is provided and there are no spoilers.more
My favourite Dorothy Sayers, one of my favourite books of all time. Each rereading I see something new. Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane resolve their differences against a backdrop of literature and learning and with the architecture and soul of Oxford University as a third major character. A treatise on love and integrity wrapped up in a mystery novel!more
From a very early age, I can remember my grandmother staying up late into the night, reading Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries. Much to my shame, it has taken me until now to read one, but once I did, I found myself reading until ungodly hours as well.Gaudy Night is the third mystery featuring Lord Peter Wimsey and his girlfriend, the mystery writer Harriet Vane, but it is entirely possible to read without knowledge of the other books. The large majority of the novel follows Harriet as she attempts to solve a mystery at her alma mater, Shrewsbury College in Oxford. Unlike most mystery novels, this one doesn't involve a murder (or, at least, a successful one). Instead, the mystery surrounds the identity of a "Poison Pen," who sends threatening letters to the female dons of the college and generally wreaks destruction around the quadrangles. Harriet takes on the case after she finds herself targeted during a reunion weekend (the titular Gaudy Night), staying in the college for the following year under the pretense of working on a piece on La Fanu. Only when things turn violent does Harriet call upon the debonair Lord Peter to help investigate the crimes.The novel is infused with a wonderfully strong sense of place, making the reader feel almost as if they know the Shrewsbury campus and its inhabitants. Set pieces with Harriet punting on the river or dining with the dons in the Hall enchant. Sayers has a wonderful eye for detail and has fully imagined this all-female college (which, in the introduction, she charmingly apologizes for constructing on the Balliol fields).To be fair, the mystery isn't the most exciting of all time, but things really perk up when Lord Peter arrives with his bon mots and sets off a more violent set of crimes. In some ways, Gaudy Night really succeeds more as a character study of the female dons and their students, who live in a world where they must decide between a intellectual career and a family. This sort of difficult choice remains familiar to career women today, and it is interesting to note how little things have changed in the last 75 years in this regard.There are many wonderful things to be discovered in Gaudy Night, from memorable characters like Lord Peter's overly privileged nephew Saint-George to the most amazingly egalitarian proposal scene of all time (it involves Harriet and Peter speaking Latin to each other).One word to the wise: Sayers uses the names of the female dons interchangeably with their titles, which can get awfully confusing. I found it helpful to make a list to keep track of who's who.more
Perhaps my favorite mystery, surpassing anything else written in her times. It takes her Sherlock Holmes-caricature hero and makes him almost human, all the while revealing, perhaps, the drives that push her to deepen her later mysteries. Plus she portrays the life of the mind [in her time] in a very penetrating way. Amazing to anyone who isn't addicted to today's preference for gore and frenetic activity in mysteries.more
Read all 51 reviews

Reviews

Gaudy Night took me an awfully long time to read (in comparison to, say, The Nine Tailors). It had less Peter than I'd like, although Harriet's relationship with him develops most satisfactorily, and her character in general too, and it had no on screen Bunter, or Parker, or anyone like that. Some of the female academics were worth getting a little fond of, but not so much that I was bowled over by them.

The mystery itself, I actually spoilered myself on the criminal by the time I was one hundred pages in. Beware of wikipedia! Anyway, knowing what I knew, I could see the clues that lead there, but if I didn't, I don't know if I would have figured it out.

The whole plot rather seems to serve Harriet's character development and the development of her relationship with Lord Peter. On the other hand, there's some commentary about female academics and so on (that seems awfully outdated to a female academic at the end of her second year of university in this day and age), and the setting -- Oxford -- is lovely and the atmosphere well-rendered.more
I love this novel. The mystery is well-done, but other issues take precedence. The relationship between Peter and Harriet, the role of women, the conflict between the intellectual and the emotional life are all explored with skill and passion. I have read Gaudy Night a number of times over the years and I have appreciated it more with each reading. This is the book (along with Jude the Obscure!!) which first made me want to visit Oxford and which never fails to make me wish that I had attended university there!more
This was the first book I read in the series (after, I think, watching the BBC "Have His Carcase.") It was nice to read it again in the context of everything else. And after having visited Oxford!

This book contains so much awesome - Oxford in the thirties, romance, complexly drawn characters, feminism, extremely silly slang, humor, and oh yes, a mystery.

Sayers is wonderful because she allows her characters to have their own opinions and even to be wrong. Peter is allowed to be agnostic (even though Sayers wrote Christian theology), kind-hearted Padgett is allowed to be a Fascist, Harriet is allowed to write novels with flat characterization and not get on with old schoolfriends and be wrong about what kind of person Peter is.

Dear authors of the world - let your characters be wrong about all sorts of things. You'll like them better, I promise.more
Dorothy Sayers, recommended to me by the town librarian some 40ish years ago, got me back into reading mysteries. I'd stopped because of a real life tragedy involving a murder; for a long while the thought of reading books that hinged on death seemed, well, unhinged. But Sayers got me in again, with wit, and her beguiling characters, and soon I was as corrupt and insensitive as the next person. Well...maybe not all that, but I returned to the genre I had loved as a child. Before the murder.more
This book, you guys, THIS BOOK. I finished it almost a week ago and have not been able to write my review about it until now because all I can think to say is THIS BOOK. This book is amazing.

Harriet Vane was introduced to the Lord Peter Wimsey series in Strong Poison, returned in Have His Carcase, and has her time to shine here in Gaudy Night. She’s been invited to her Oxford college’s Gaudy, a sort of reunion weekend, and when she gets there she finds (as you do) that everything is exactly the same and everything has changed. She no longer has much in common with her old best friend, but her old professors are as delightful as ever. The college is still filled with students, younger and more modern but with much the same problems. Oh, and someone is sending horrible threatening letters to students and faculty and wreaking havoc whenever possible.

This is most definitely a mystery novel, but it’s also a deeply feminist novel. The whole thing is from Harriet’s point of view, as she contemplates returning to academia, her career as a mystery novelist, her obligation to investigate the crimes at the college on behalf of a faculty who’s terrified of what the bad publicity would do to one of the few women’s colleges in existence, and her potential romance with Lord Peter Wimsey. The plot keeps the whole thing going with plenty of suspense, but it’s the depth and intelligence of Harriet that makes this one of the best books I’ve ever read.

I’m often disappointed when I read period feminist books, not because of anything to do with the book most times but because I’m disappointed that it still seems so relevant today. Surely feminism ought to have progressed since 1935? I don’t feel that way about Gaudy Night, though, and I think part of the reason is that the book is feminist because of its subject matter, but it deals with issues that everyone ought to care about, but seem to become women’s issues by default. The question of what happens when professional standards and ethics intersect with family and romantic interests is a very different one when applied to men than when it’s applied to women.

Also, I am not ashamed to admit that I squeed like a fifteen-year-old fangirl at all of the scenes with Harriet and Peter together. Punting! Picnicking! Reading one another’s books! Discussing literature! I do believe they have one of my favorite relationships in fiction, and I cannot wait to start Busman’s Honeymoon when they will both finally agree with me.more
Dorothy Sayers's third tale which includes the mystery writer, Harriet Vane, is set at Oxford University where a series of events has everyone on edge and wondering who could be vandalizing the university and slandering the good names of those who go there. This is a good read to see how far mystery/detective books have come. It is also a good idea of how far and women have come! Thank Heavens! Admittedly, this was not my favorite, but it did interest me enough to keep reading to the end where I am very happy to say that someone finally woke up!more
I always prefer the Lord Peter Winsey mysteries when Harriet Vane is in them. The more she appears, the better I like her for savvy, intuition, self-sufficiency, and wit—as well as the attraction she and Lord Peter have towards each other, which is based on intellectualism rather than anything else. You can see perfectly why they’re drawn to each other—and why Harriet keeps pulling away.In Gaudy Night, Harriet attends her reunion—also known as the Gaudy—at the fictional Oxford college of Shrewsbury. While there, she receives a threatening note, the first of several that members of the college receive over the next few months. Harriet is asked to join the staff of the college, ostensibly to work on a study of Sheridan Le Fanu, but really to investigate the mystery of the notes—which eventually lead to vandalism, among other crimes.Dorothy Sayers’s mysteries are never just about the mystery; they focus on larger issues, such as the plight of veterans, Russian immigrants, or, in this case, women’s education. The staff of the college are old enough to remember women’s struggle to receive a university degree, and these novels were written at a time when university enrollment for women was capped at 25%. So there’s a sense of bonhomie among the staff and students of Shrewsbury that you don’t really see among college women today. That’s why the events at the college are so shocking to them; they’re unused to having their cloistered lifestyle violated.Sayers’s mysteries are also about the detective, too, and the complicated choices they make. Harriet is a complicated, unusual character; everything for her has a deeper, more symbolic significance, and so she is naturally drawn to the mysteries that fall into her lap. At the same time, she wrestles with a personal question: how will she balance her work life with a potential relationship or marriage? Sayers is skilled at drawing a nuanced character that we care to read more about. Lord Peter definitely makes an appearance—or several—but the show is definitely Harriet’s.more
This book is a romance novel of the sort that Mary Renault wrote during and immediately after WWII before she turned to writing historical novels. The two protagonists are sensitive to just about everything; so much so that this reader can't really tell what's bothering them half the time. How much better if they would just get over themselves and start doing something instead of crushing each other with a well-chosen phrase and then quoting French poets.Sayers' previous Lord Peter works, even those involving Harriet Vane, were actually mysteries or at least adventures of one sort or another. The plot is hung around a mystery of sorts; but the whole purpose of the mystery is to explore the Place of Woman in Society. It is therefore important that the investigator remain clueless for a long time while various events transpire. Consequently, Wimsey and Miss Climpson are kept entirely out of the action until Wimsey arrives at the very end of the book. Harriet Vane observes rather than detects and what she mostly observes is the behavior of the dons and the students while she ponders her true calling in nature and what she ought to do with herself.In previous books Harriet Vane seemed to deal pretty well with the fact that she was "branded an adulteress" but in this book she gets all wobbly whenever anybody alludes to "her past". There is a lot of very veiled talk about the wonderfulness of sex and how any society where the majority of the people were not engaging in regular sexual activity must be warped and twisted. There is no overt hint of lesbianism but the science tutor is strong, frequently wears tweeds, very direct, and sits in a "mannish" way.As with previous books, Sayers draws a compelling picture of a society still out of whack due to the terrible carnage of WWI. More women are working rather than married, and women are earning advanced degrees at Oxford colleges. The picture of Oxford with all its whacky customs and architecture, its quads and staircases and sported oaks and fining and segregation of the sexes is well-drawn. The proper study of all students is either History or English --- the Science tutor is away from the college for one whole term and nobody seems to notice the difference. Mathematics is not yet heard of. Peter Medawar began at Oxford in 1932 and had no real difficulty finding science stuff to do, so this picture represents Sayers' own bias rather than the actual state of affairs at Oxford itself although things may have been different at women's colleges. "Scholarship" is portrayed as some sort of holy vocation in the humanities; although its products are actually shown to be more or less useless as in the remarks on Vane's own study of LeFanu. It is unlikely that any more accurate understanding of Phoenician coinage will ever be arrived at as there are probably not enough remaining coins or documents hanging around; why should anyone care? The scholars in this book seems almost like Talmudic scholars; there is no iron test of "Does it work?" or "Does it inform the decisions we make today?" and the same old scholarly ground is relentlessly worked over until it must be completely worked out.The novel was published in 1935, just four years before the outbreak of WWII. Hitler is already a well-known name and there is some enthusiasm among some of the minor characters for various systems of eugenics. There is also the usual talk about evil being just a biological problem, easily eliminated by means of drugs or surgery. Lord Peter Wimsey, now a minor diplomat as much as a detective, does not believe that war will be avoided but continues to do his best to defer it.In this, her last true Lord Peter Wimsey novel (Busman's Honeymoon was actually the book of the play, and not an original novel), Sayers' literary vices detract most from her literary virtues.more
One of my favorite books, my well-thumbed paperback copy has been with me since my college/post college days in Eugene, OR and still bears a sticker from Smith Family Used Books (I paid $2.00 for it). Love walking around Oxford when in England and spotting locations that appear in the book. Must have been purchased in the early 80's based on the publication date.more
Where I got the book: my bookshelf. This is a 1940 Gollancz edition I picked up somewhere and I absolutely love it because no matter where you are in the story, the book lays flat and keeps its place. I get so impatient with books that won't stay open.The story: five years after being erroneously accused--and then, thanks to Lord Peter Wimsey, acquitted--of murdering her lover, Harriet Vane is getting on with her life as a writer and puzzling over what she's going to do about Lord Peter: push him out of her life or accede to his marriage proposals? She's invited back to Oxford to visit her old college, where a mysterious prankster and writer of anonymous notes seems to have a grudge against academic women in general and Shrewsbury College in particular. Called in to investigate, Harriet ponders whether an intellectual woman should allow love into her life or whether retirement into a life of learning is the answer. The appearance of Peter in Oxford to help with her investigations could be disastrous--maybe.This is my favorite Wimsey book, and probably one of my favorite love stories of all time. It is, I think, Sayers' most feminist novel, showing women trying to carve out an existence for themselves that has nothing to do with men, and yet acknowledging that love and relationships can have a place in a woman's life without totally destroying her true self. I think Sayers is arguing for give and take; it's true even today that women make a certain sacrifice, far more than men do, when they enter into a marriage (the physical and emotional effects of childbearing and the change in status are still very real, despite our so-called progress) and I think Sayers is seeking, not so much an end to such sacrifice but an acknowledgement that it is real and should not be entered into lightly.After pulling Wimsey and Vane through two novels, Sayers is faced with the challenge of getting two emotionally scarred characters to the big Yes, and she does so through Harriet's eyes, using her beloved Oxford as the catalyst. In the (disturbed) peace of academe, Harriet is able to reconcile her past with her present, explore Wimsey's own vulnerabilities and finally acknowledge her physical attraction to him. It's that attraction, it seems to me, that's the clincher; Sayers clearly believes that marriage must be a union of bodies first and foremost, and that the emotional and intellectual side of things will sort itself out if the physical bond is strong enough.It's also interesting that Harriet's new insights into her own feelings bring about a revolution in her development as a writer. It's often been said that Harriet is Sayers herself, and indeed I have always had the impression that Sayers fell in love with her own creation, Wimsey, and wrote herself into the stories so that he could fall for her; a very interesting statement about the life of the imagination! Whether that's true or not, I happen to find Harriet convincing in her own right, but what she discovers about her writing in Gaudy Night may well be a reflection of Sayers' feelings about how a detective novel should be, i.e. no mere intellectual puzzle but a true novel with psychological growth in the characters. I think we take it for granted today that the characters in a novel should have a growth arc, recognizing two-dimensional characters for what they are and scorning them; I think we tend to forget that even some of the best writers of bygone decades tended to deal far more in caricatures and "types" than we would now accept. What we still read now are the ones that survived precisely because they were a cut above the others.Gaudy Night, famously, contains no murder but there are a whole lot of motives for murder, all centered on human relationships. Sayers tackles the demons (her own, I can't help but thinking) of possessiveness and jealousy, and the kind of love that wants to absorb its object. She argues for balance; but does she entirely achieve it with her lead characters? I'm not so sure.more
Tension shifts and swirls in this novel, but the language is rather above the level we here in the USA usually hear or speak, and there are many British slang words that mean nothing to me. Deep discussions of morals and ethics define the story and deep character introspection add interest.more
I love this book (but I minored in Latin as an undergrad). I have read it countless times. It seems to me if you wanted a picture of an independent, educated woman's life during the 30s, this would be a good place to start.more
Is this the finest Wimsey of them all? That’s a question that’s open to debate – as are most questions, that’s what makes them questions; it’s certainly a very fine Wimsey and, indeed, a very fine novel in its own right. Wimsey, in fact, is largely absent from the story: it’s Harriet Vane who here takes centre stage. Nor is there a murder to solve: the mystery here is a rash of poison-pen letters, graffiti and vandalism that is plaguing Harriet’s old College. The Warden, unwilling to involve the police and open the floodgates for a wave of negative publicity, asks Harriet to investigate, on the somewhat shaky grounds that Harriet writes mysteries and may therefore be in a better position than the unworldly Dons to interpret the mind of the offender. Harriet, herself unwilling, nonetheless gives it her best shot, but finds that her surroundings lead her to re-think her own way of life and seriously contemplate a return to academia.If the Bechdel test applies to literature, then 'Gaudy Night' surely passes with flying colours. Much of the story is less concerned with the mystery than with questions of female emancipation, with philosophy and with debates on religion and music. It’s unfortunate, then, that the women are unable to reveal the culprit and must depend on Wimsey to descend, deus ex machina style, and solve the mystery with one wave of his hand. On the other hand, he is Wimsey, and that’s his job, while the women are handicapped, oddly enough, by their own prejudices; they seem almost determined to blame the attacks on the cloistered mentality. Wimsey, with an outsider’s clearer view, and without these prejudices, almost immediately sees the solution. (I cannot help but feel that Miss Marple would have solved it even faster.)And finally, of course, this is the book in which Harriet at long last abandons her own prejudices and agrees to what Wimsey has promised will be his final offer of marriage. And happily ever after they both shall live, by the grace of god and World War II.We are currently watching the TV adaptation of this, and I am rather enjoying the thought of a casting director faced with the need to cast 20-odd middle-aged women. “Twenty what?” he must have asked. Mythical as the unicorn, the middle-aged woman is to the world of film and television.more
Only hopeless devotees of the intriguing pursuit of Lord Peter Wimsey for the hand of Harriet Vane would put up with almost 500 pages of reading about petty but pernicious mischief at Oxford College. Someone bears a grudge against one of the female dons and goes on a spree of making vengeful and threatening disturbances and sending mail designed to create fear and chaos on that serene campus. Harriet Vane, a writer of mysteries and graduate of Oxford is called in to help, but eventually finds that she needs the incomparable mind of Lord Peter who has been proposing marriage to her for five years. The final scene with Harriet and Peter in the moonlight under Magdalen Bridge is worth the reading of the book, although you may as I did have to look up some Latin words which Dorothy Sayers tends to throw into her stories at critical points when you want to know exactly what is being said. Beautiful and cerebral language and references in the tradition-laden setting of Oxford.more
Sayers writes an interesting book about the emergence of women into the academic field. Sayers employs extensive description of the setting and characters and events that at times halts the flow of the story. The relationship between Harriet Vane and Peter Wimsey seems unreal, but of course, the story is set in the 1930's. Slight mention is made of Hitler. The English higher education system is confusing, but Sayers patiently tries to guide the reader through the maze.more
A reread. One of my favorite love stories, even if most of the romance isn't in this book, but others. One of the things I like about romantic fiction, wherever it crops up, is that it often starts out with the main character thinking that love is on one hand, and some other important value is on the other, and that in order to really commit to being in love, you have to give up this other thing. Then, of course, the main character comes to realize that no, that wasn't what was being asked (well, in the case of a book that doesn't end tragically; tragic romances are different), that love and this other thing don't conflict.Here it is Harriet's independence and self-respect. I know that some Whimsey fans dislike her or think her a Mary-Sue character, representing the author, but I think it works well here.The mystery? Well, I'm less fond of that; one of those "the lady doth protest too much" things, where the author said that it must not be so too many times, so it wasn't so much a case of solving the mystery as looking at the writerly tricks and seeing where they must lead.more
This was the first book I ever read by Sayers. Having read it for the second time after reading previous Wimsey novels such as the first, Whose Body and another featuring Harriet Vane, Have His Carcase as well as another without her Murder Must Advertise, I only appreciate this one the more. This is the third book with Harriet Vane, Lord Peter Wimsey's romantic interest, and indeed Gaudy Night is more centered on her, with Wimsey, although often on her mind, not appearing until over half-way through the book. Vane's a mystery writer herself, and at one point in this book Wimsey challenges her to delve deeper into her characters, and that she can do better than just writing puzzle pieces. That made me smile the second time reading through, and after reading other Wimsey books, because I do think this is both what separates this book from books earlier in the series, and say even the best of Agatha Christie. Purely as a mystery, I find this the most satisfying Sayers I've read--it kept me guessing to the end, it wrapped up the strange goings on at an Oxford women's college very neatly, and it didn't feel at all contrived or too clever. But it also was a lot more than a mystery. I loved the picture of Oxford in the mid-1930s. It was fascinating to read in a book published in 1936 all the hints of the war to come in references to Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy. It was amusing to hear the dons describe the generation of students in terms reminiscent discussing students of say the 1960s or today--rowdy, undisciplined, wild. The more things change... There was a feminist theme evident in Have His Carcass, but I'd say the entire theme of men, women and their relations is even more to the fore in Gaudy Night and I loved the way Sayers played with that. The novel has a richness and complexity befitting literature, and indeed even on second read I felt I hadn't peeled all layers and certainly haven't caught all the different literary and classic allusions. Wimsey is at his most appealing here, and I'd put his conversation at the end with Harriet high up in my personal list of favorite literary romantic scenes--all the more for how it fits the themes throughout the novel. Here's one bit of it I particularly loved:"Peter--what did you mean when you said that anybody could have the harmony if they would leave us the counterpoint?""Why," said he, shaking his head, "that I like my music polyphonic. If you think I meant anything else, you know what I meant.""Polyphonic music takes a lot of playing. You've got to be more than a fiddler. It needs a musician""In this case, two fiddlers--both musicians.""I'm not much of a musician, Peter.""As they used to say in my youth: 'All girls should learn a little music--enough to play a simple accompaniment.' I admit that Bach isn't a matter of an autocratic virtuoso and a meek accompanist. But do you want to be either? Here's a gentleman coming to sing a group of ballads. Pray silence for the soloist. But let him be soon over, that we may hear the great striding fugue again."I loved that idea of a marriage of true minds--neither submitting themselves to simply accompany another life, but both playing different lines of melody that together make for complex and rich music. I finished the book wanting to cry "Bravo!"more
I finished Gaudy Night and would have thought it would be my favorite Dorothy Sayers due to the subject matter: feminism with a touch of anti-Nazism; but it sure wasn't. I found it severely in need of editing and overly full of exposition. Perhaps in the '30's there was a need to go into detail about why a woman would choose not to marry, but I would have expected anyone as talented as Sayer to be able to work her ideas into the story without having to state them so bluntly.more
Along with "The Nine Tailors", this has always stood out amongst Sayers' other work. The plot is, as always with Sayers, entirely satisfying; but "Gaudy Night" goes further than her other books in exploring the humanity and complexity of her characters and their motivation. One of the great features of the book is Sayers' compassionate yet clear-sighted portrayal of Oxford - the university and its people. Above all, though, "Gaudy Night" stands out for Sayers' delight in the power and majesty of the English language. A crime novel this may be, but above all it is most certainly a literary classic.more
The first Sayers novel I read, and my favourite, set at Oxford University and featuring Harriet Vane, who was a student at the university ten years earlier.Unusual for a mystery in that the crime is one of poison-pen writing – a couple of half-hearted attempted murders, but no actual bodies. The focus of the book very much on the position of women in academia, feminist issues, and the workings of an Oxford college, which I think makes it quite a remarkable book, for its time and even now it strikes quite a radical note in the overt treatment of feminist issues. Admittedly the book ends with Harriet accepting Peter’s proposal, but at this stage at least (not having read the novels in which they’re married) one feels it’s a relationship of equals and that Peter respects Harriet’s independence and intelligence. [March 2002]more
Gaudy Night, published in 1935, is billed as a Lord Peter Wimsey novel, but he barely makes an appearance in the first couple of hundred pages. His friend Harriet Vane is really the central character. In her early thirties, she returns to her old Oxford college for a celebration and ends up staying to investigate a mysterious series of events that start with poison pen-letters and become more destructive. An entertaining mystery with some interesting reflections on the academic life and whether it is of value, especially when compared with raising a family or manual labour.more
Absolutely sublime, first rate and a real treat. There is a mystery, a love story, and a picture of Oxford at a very interesting time in history. It was a delight to read, not just entertaining but an intellectual treat.more
Can't remember the book but I had a three star rating down.more
A bit too much immersion in upper-class British academe for my tastes. After slogging through all the Latin and the jargon, I was feeling some class/education based resentment and irritation, just like the guilty party in the book.more
Beautiful language, gloriously ridiculous plots, and the first to bring the emotional life of her characters into the fore of the mystery. (Even though she did insist on apologizing for it.)more
I read all of the Dorothy Sayers mysteries years ago, and recall this was one of my favorites. Wonderful portrayal of Oxford at a certain time.more
This multi-layered novel may easily disappoint the reader expecting the Lord Peter Wimsey by-line to produce a bloodied corpse. It is written in the literary style which attracted, unjustifiably in my view, some strong criticism when the book first appeared: Sayers was accused of pretentiousness. I think she is just a rather better writer than most of her contemporaries in the genre.There is a mystery, if lower key than usual in the Wimsey canon. An Oxford ladies’ college, the alma mater of Harriet Vane, is beset by a writer of poison pen letters and some nocturnal vandalism. At first the worst effects of this are the insecurity engendered in the members of the Senior Common Room (SCR), most of whom are suspects, and the risk to the outside reputation of the College. As the story progresses, things become more sinister and physically threatening, and one is glad that Peter Wimsey had arrived on the scene.Since leaving Oxford after her degree, Harriet had lived an emancipated metropolitan life but she is close enough to the pre-War (WW1) attitudes to understand the difficulties that women still faced in the academic world and particularly how professional women found it hard to reconcile their work with the demands of marriage and child-rearing. These feminist issues are much discussed but have particular relevance for Harriet in respect of her equivocal feelings for Lord Peter. He has been proposing to her regularly since they first met and she has regularly refused him, not for want of liking, affection and love, but because she fears a subservient role as his wife hampered by her gratitude to him for rescuing her from the gallows. Her intellectual life is important; not for her is the current German view of a woman’s place – “Kinde, Kuche, Kircher.”Another topic of conversation in the SCR is intellectual honesty in academic life. The idea that truth, regardless of the consequences, is of overwhelming importance in research is held by most of the Fellows (and turns out to be central to the mystery). It is also a shared principle of Harriet and Peter and both experience some of the accompanying pain as they resolve their relationship.So, a mystery, feminism, academic rigour and a love story – in fact two love stories, for Harriet is enamoured of Oxford as well as Lord Peter. The glowing descriptions of the city and of University life remained quite recognisable in the Oxford of the 1960s and, for all I know, still do, despite cleaner stone, more traffic management and far more girls.This book is near the end of the Lord Peter Wimsey canon but can perfectly well be read before the earlier volumes – necessary background is provided and there are no spoilers.more
My favourite Dorothy Sayers, one of my favourite books of all time. Each rereading I see something new. Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane resolve their differences against a backdrop of literature and learning and with the architecture and soul of Oxford University as a third major character. A treatise on love and integrity wrapped up in a mystery novel!more
From a very early age, I can remember my grandmother staying up late into the night, reading Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries. Much to my shame, it has taken me until now to read one, but once I did, I found myself reading until ungodly hours as well.Gaudy Night is the third mystery featuring Lord Peter Wimsey and his girlfriend, the mystery writer Harriet Vane, but it is entirely possible to read without knowledge of the other books. The large majority of the novel follows Harriet as she attempts to solve a mystery at her alma mater, Shrewsbury College in Oxford. Unlike most mystery novels, this one doesn't involve a murder (or, at least, a successful one). Instead, the mystery surrounds the identity of a "Poison Pen," who sends threatening letters to the female dons of the college and generally wreaks destruction around the quadrangles. Harriet takes on the case after she finds herself targeted during a reunion weekend (the titular Gaudy Night), staying in the college for the following year under the pretense of working on a piece on La Fanu. Only when things turn violent does Harriet call upon the debonair Lord Peter to help investigate the crimes.The novel is infused with a wonderfully strong sense of place, making the reader feel almost as if they know the Shrewsbury campus and its inhabitants. Set pieces with Harriet punting on the river or dining with the dons in the Hall enchant. Sayers has a wonderful eye for detail and has fully imagined this all-female college (which, in the introduction, she charmingly apologizes for constructing on the Balliol fields).To be fair, the mystery isn't the most exciting of all time, but things really perk up when Lord Peter arrives with his bon mots and sets off a more violent set of crimes. In some ways, Gaudy Night really succeeds more as a character study of the female dons and their students, who live in a world where they must decide between a intellectual career and a family. This sort of difficult choice remains familiar to career women today, and it is interesting to note how little things have changed in the last 75 years in this regard.There are many wonderful things to be discovered in Gaudy Night, from memorable characters like Lord Peter's overly privileged nephew Saint-George to the most amazingly egalitarian proposal scene of all time (it involves Harriet and Peter speaking Latin to each other).One word to the wise: Sayers uses the names of the female dons interchangeably with their titles, which can get awfully confusing. I found it helpful to make a list to keep track of who's who.more
Perhaps my favorite mystery, surpassing anything else written in her times. It takes her Sherlock Holmes-caricature hero and makes him almost human, all the while revealing, perhaps, the drives that push her to deepen her later mysteries. Plus she portrays the life of the mind [in her time] in a very penetrating way. Amazing to anyone who isn't addicted to today's preference for gore and frenetic activity in mysteries.more
Load more
scribd