Read gaudy night by Dorothy L. Sayers Online


“Gaudy Night stands out even among Miss Sayers’s novels. And Miss Sayers has long stood in a class by herself.”—Times Literary SupplementThe 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“Gaudy Night stands out even among Miss Sayers’s novels. And Miss Sayers has long stood in a class by herself.”—Times Literary SupplementThe 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....

Title : gaudy night
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ISBN : 17928904
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Number of Pages : 501 Pages
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gaudy night Reviews

  • Meredith Holley
    2019-05-18 14:08

    A couple of years ago I thought (as a gesture to God saying something like, “Hey, we don’t disagree about everything and anyway what do I know about life?”) that I would start going to a certain church where the pastor was an ex-football star. When I say it now it doesn’t sound like a very good idea, but I did a lot of things at that time that sound stupid now. Sometimes it’s better to go with what you know, even if it’s very little. I say all of this because the ultimate falling-out I had with the pastor of that church reflects the central conflict of the great and wonderful mystery story, Gaudy Night, so I’m going to use this review as a venue to air my grievances, which will hopefully be entertaining enough that you can bear with me. In fact, this book brings up a couple of stories I have about churches, so I should probably say as a disclaimer that Gaudy Night is not religious at all in its topic, but deals mostly with the role of women in society. That just happens to be something about which I tend to get pissed off at churches.Rather than preaching topically, this football pastor had decided that the entire church (which may not be fully of mega-church size, but is by no means small) would read through the Bible together in a year, like you do, and he would pull the sermons from our reading assignments. On Mother’s Day, we had just finished the book of Esther, so I was hopeful. There are a lot of troubling things about Esther, but also some really fascinating things. Also, it’s about a woman, so there are many good ways you can go with that. Nope. I should have known he would skip Esther entirely only to pick a random section from Judges to illustrate his spiritual message, which, as far as I could tell, was that he really liked when his mom would scratch his back before bedtime when he was in high school, so women shouldn’t work because they’re silly and it takes away time they could devote to scratching their family’s backs. As the sermon went on, I felt sure there would be some kind of uprising in the congregation. I was ready to get out my stash of pitchforks and torches and burn something down, but I didn’t want to leave because I might miss the end of his message where I hoped he would reveal that he was faking us all out to prove some point or another. His passion about the message culminated when he pulled out a quote from Some Woman, who is reputed to have said, “If all women CEOs quit their jobs, men could feed their families.” I looked around, hoping to see the scores of other women in the audience who would be equally shocked and appalled rushing for the door, when suddenly there was cheering and a woman in the back of the church yelled, “AMEN!” I don’t think I’ve ever felt so betrayed in my life.The redemptive “Psych!” never came, so I drove home in a rage, pulled my copy of Backlash off its shelf, wrote a letter of complaint to the pastor in its inside cover, drove back to the church, and slammed it on the desk in his empty office. He never acknowledged the incident.I wish, at this point, I had read the book The Madwoman in the Attic, so that I could give more scholarly opinions about Gaudy Night. From what I know of that line of analysis, Dorothy Sayers’s villain in this novel, the “poisen-pen” haunting the women of Oxford, is along the lines of the 19th century Madwoman (think Jane Eyre). She characterizes female sexuality, but also a loathing of female sexuality as castrating and destructive, so she is this horrifying repressed monster (Grendel’s Mother, maybe?). In Gaudy Night this character terrorizes the cloistered professors in the women’s college at Oxford. It really makes for a delightful read! Sayers presents the varied personalities of the dons and students of the university with a lot of color and flair. The fun and thoughtful discussion Dorothy Sayers presents in Gaudy Night on the topic of women being intelligent humans in their own right was vindicating and cathartic for me to read. She illustrates both the freedom and the shame that successful women feel, and does it in this funny, charming, British way that I adore. Harriet Vane is wonderful! Sayers doesn’t pretend that all women are in favor of having rights, nor does she pretend that we are all a bunch of catty bitches. Some characters do become savage in their hatred of independent women, and those independent women become shrill in their suspicion of one another’s virginity or sexuality. Sayers shows these aspects as momentary weaknesses, however, which are secondary to the overall trust and regard that the women show each other. They are not caricatures, but have their own flaws and charms. I’m making this sound like the whole story is purposeful critical analysis, which it may be, but it definitely comes off as natural within the overall mystery story. I don't even usually like mysteries, and I don't have a sense of suspense, so it is surprising how much I love this book, but that's probably why the social aspect was more striking to me.I’m not fully with her in her use of classical quotations, which I take as an Oxford thing. Lord Peter Whimsey makes his appearance to be useful, charming, and supplicating. He doesn’t appear to be an overly realistic character (maybe too determinedly glad that Harriet is as smart as she is?), but I am in favor of wonderful authors writing people as they wish them to be, if not as they are – especially in the area of gender relations. Also, I love the way Sayers explores how women think of themselves. It would have been an unnecessary distraction to go into what men think of us. It was much more devastating to hear the woman shout “Amen!” at the back of that church, than to hear the male pastor go on about how women are good at scratching backs - and only that. Anyway, I think I’ve decided that maybe the use of classical quotations has to do with the battle of wits between Whimsey and Harriet, showing the equality of their intelligence and education. I like that, even though it was frustrating for my more pedestrian brain. I think I needed the Norton edition.I was given this book at a “housewarming shower”, held for me by a really wonderful woman, who is the pastor of a subsequent church I attended. “Shower” because I am over 25 and unmarried, and it is presumed that I would be sad that I haven’t had any wedding/baby showers. Men were uninvited to the event, and the (humorous?) theme of the “shower” was to give me books I would hate. This made my friends who came a little stressed out because they know how much I love books, so they felt all this pressure (contrary to the theme) to get me books I would love that I hadn’t read yet. Also, to me, shower=bad. Other than stuff on my cat, I think this was the most successful book from that evening, and it actually makes all of the uncomfortable female judgment worth it. I kind of love that this book was given to me in this really awkward event that only women were allowed to come to. Even though the evening was pretty fun, and I really do love most of the women who came, the concept of the shower said so much about my “failure” in being an independent, educated woman. This book has so much to say to the contrary. I love irony.

  • James
    2019-05-09 19:36

    Book Review 4 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's more about 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 introspective.About 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.

  • Lightreads
    2019-05-17 20:21

    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 uncorrupted . . . abolishing 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 a more painfully 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 a more fundamental 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 unwed . . . or 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’s more complex 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.

  • Susan
    2019-05-11 16:29

    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 gets more and more out 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.

  • David
    2019-05-17 20:31

    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 nothing more than 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 theBlue Bloodtrope, in response to Harriet’sAuthor 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 nothing more than 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 little more than 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:

  • Sandy *The world could end while I was reading and I would never notice*
    2019-05-02 15:14

    3.5 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.

  • Margaret
    2019-05-24 14:19

    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 until more than 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.

  • Nikki
    2019-05-08 22:35

    Over a year ago now, Lord Peter pretty much saved my life. I was hysterical and still half under anaesthesia; the nurses were unsympathetic; I have an anxiety disorder as it is, let alone when I'm in a great deal of pain with insufficient morphine. My blood oxygen levels were catastrophic, even with pure oxygen. My mother forced her way onto the ward and held my hand. When they made her go, my blood oxygenation was up a little, but not much; she didn't let them send her away until she'd put her Kindle by my pillow, playing Edward Petherbridge reading Dorothy L. Sayers. Under that influence, I lay still and quiet, and listened, and breathed.Not coincidentally, Edward Petherbridge slightly overshadows Ian Carmichael in my affections, and I don't think I'll ever be able to read Gaudy Night without sympathising wholly with Harriet's realisation of her own feelings. I could find no fault with it this time, neither in the slow build or anything else. I don't think I'll ever be rational about Lord Peter again, and I was already a fair way to in love with the character.He can be ridiculous, but he's so good; sometimes, in the other books, I think I resented Harriet a little for her treatment of him. But she's in an awful position too, and Gaudy Night makes that clear -- and my goodness, the scenes where she starts to finally realise her physical (animal?) attraction to him are a little breathtaking. Peter's too perfect, of course, especially in Gaudy Night -- but in a perfect way I find impossible to fault!Sayers' Oxford is a lovely thing, too. Once upon a time, I went to Cambridge to look round and simply felt choked by it all, but I think that when I visit Oxford, I'll be ready and willing to love it through Sayers' eyes. It's a powerfully nostalgic version of university life, especially for someone currently struggling to get any help with a PhD proposal -- oh for Shrewsbury College and the community there!

  • Jane
    2019-05-08 18:11

    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.

  • Sarah Funke Donovan
    2019-05-23 17:34

    Are you in love with dashing, fastidious, brilliant, Bach-performing, manuscript-collecting, sonnet-writing, puzzle-solving, Dickens-quoting, cricket-playing, fabulously wealthy, well-traveled, aristocratic detectives? Then this is the book for you...Although this is really the third book in the Harriet Vane/Lord Peter Wimsey series (after Strong Poison and Have His Carcase), it is my favorite. Anyone who has been to Oxford will appreciate the detailed descriptions. Anyone who has ever been a woman trying to reconcile feminist values of individuality and self-fulfillment with Christian values of sacrifice and relationality will sympathize with Harriet. Fans sometimes accuse Harriet of being less interesting than Lord Peter, but then introverted intuitive thinking types are often dismissed so unceremoniously. I, at least, find that Harriet voices what troubles my own head. So in a somewhat egoistical way, I find Harriet very interesting. :)

  • Ana Lopes
    2019-05-18 16:26

    Oh, my GOD, Dorothy L. Sayers is quite the snob! 2011 has been Mystery Year, it being when I started officially working as an attorney and having to read just to be entertained and this piece of crap made me want to swear off British whodunits forever. Luckily, Dame Agatha and Ngaio Marsh still deliver. The truth is, I like my mysteries to be about murders and this fricking bore was a crappy ¨who sent those ghastly, tastleless anonymous letters¨ affair. No murders about, and by page 20 I was ready for the main character to be murdered in the bloodiest fashion imaginable.

  • Nandakishore Varma
    2019-05-05 16:06

    Lord Peter Wimsey is not the quintessential sleuth. He has a beginning, middle and presumably an end – by which I mean he develops as a character throughout the novels, unlike Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot who resolutely stay as their eccentric selves from their first story to the last. Of course, there is a chronological progression of events; and Poirot actually dies; however as characters they are static. In contrast, we see Wimsey age and mature from a frivolous youth to an idiosyncratic middle-aged man – in the course of which he manages to woo and win the attractive Harriet Vane, the famous mystery author whom he manages to save from the scaffold.Wimsey and Harriet’s troubled love affair is an integral part of many of the novels. She keeps on rejecting his suit, because of her indebtedness to him; according to her, it would be like King Cophetua and the beggar-maid. However, Peter does not have such a holier-than-thou attitude, but he finds it difficult to convince Harriet, more so because of the subdued nature of his wooing. Of course, it is very clear to the reader that in her heart of hearts, she loves him.Dorothy Sayers had to put a satisfying end to this romance, while keeping her mystery stories ticking: she does a masterful job in this novel. As a mystery, I found it much below par than many of her other novels. However, the important thing here is the love story, which is adeptly handled.The novel, for much of its part, is driven by Harriet. She attends the ‘Gaudy Night’ in her old Alma Mater, the Shrewsbury College for Women in Oxford, where she gets a couple of nasty anonymous letters accusing her of getting away with murder. Since this is not all that uncommon in her life, Harriet does not pay much attention: but things take a serious turn when nasty things begin happening at Shrewsbury. A ‘Poison Pen’ is at work: worse still, the same person is behaving as a poltergeist, destroying property and writing obscene graffiti. The college’s reputation is targeted. The Dean and company do not want to call in the police, being frightened of the scandal it may create. Harriet is roped in as the investigator, later on joined by Wimsey, who as usual does an efficient job. During the course of the investigation, Harriet finally admits her feelings for Peter, and the story ends in a highly satisfying manner with the lovers locked in the traditional kiss.***The novel is overlong and rambling: and since there is no murder, tends to get repetitive with the atrocities committed by the miscreant. There are so many characters that one loses track sometimes. However, Sayers has done a fantastic job of creating the atmosphere of academe and the struggles felt by the women of early twentieth century, caught between the pleasures of the intellect and the demands of the flesh. In fact, the mystery itself centres on this dichotomy and the solution of it suddenly provides Harriet with the “Aha!” reaction with regard to her own confused feelings. The underplayed British humour is also there, very enjoyable as with any English novelist (Agatha Christie, P. G. Wodehouse) while describing love-struck youths behaving like imbeciles.I found that unlike her other mysteries, this one was best if taken at a slow pace, like a lazy Saturday afternoon on the university grounds.Review also on my BLOG.

  • Madeline
    2019-05-13 16:34

    As I've said numerous times before, I love Lord Peter Wimsey. He's funny, a brilliant detective, and he peppers his speech with Shakespearan quotations the way I pepper mine with Simpsons quotes. He can always amuse and amaze me, but up until this point, that was extent of my fascination. Before I read Gaudy Night, I had always thought of Lord Peter mainly as an amusing, almost caricature detective. I had thought of him, simply, as a character. After Gaudy Night, however, I can't think of him this way anymore. For the first time since reading Strong Poison, I see Lord Peter as a human being. For the first time, Dorothy Sayers has presented him as a man, with hopes and fears and weaknesses and emotions. For the first time, Lord Peter is off his pedestal and I'm looking him straight in the eye, and it is wonderful. I'm already a hefty paragraph into this review and I haven't even mentioned the mystery aspect of this story. It is, technically, a detective novel, but like so many other Sayers novels (but this one in particular), the mystery is really more of a subplot. In case you really care, here's my one-sentence plot encapsulation: Harriet Vane returns to her alma mater at Oxford (one of the few women's colleges at the time, btw) to help figure out who's been playing harmful pranks on the scholars there, and she enlists Lord Peter's help. That's the whole mystery: who's been leaving insulting notes around Oxford? If that's all you knew about the book, you'd probably be wondering how that could possibly take 500 pages. Simple answer: it doesn't. All together, I would estimate that the actual mystery-solving only accounts for about 200 pages of the entire book. All the rest is about Harriet and Peter. If you don't see how that could possibly be interesting, you obviously haven't read Strong Poison. If you have, and still think 300 pages about Harriet and Peter working out their complicated and fascinating relationship would be interesting, you need to read Strong Poison again and pay attention this time. In fact, I almost wish I had read more of the Harriet and Peter stories before I read this one - I know there are other novels where they interact, and I think I should read those, then read Gaudy Night again just to fully appreciate how far these two incredible characters have gone in order to reach this point. In conclusion: Harriet Vane and Peter Wimsey are the best detectives ever created, and I will fight any Holmes/Watson fanboys who say otherwise. PS: Just one thing I wondered about, and I won't give context to this so it won't count as a spoiler BUT - can someone who speaks Latin translate the last two lines of the book? I think I know what they mean, but I want to be totally 100% sure. It had goddamn better mean what I think it means.

  • Elizabeth
    2019-05-24 21:07

    I feel it’s not really possible for me to “review” Gaudy Night. I kind of have to give you my life’s story along with it. Also, this isn’t going to be a review. It’s just going to be a long and rambling personal account of several different readings of the same book. If you’re not already a fan of both Wein AND Sayers, look away now.I am a rare example of a Sayers-fan change ringer who wasn’t inspired to learn to ring because of The Nine Tailors. (I was inspired to learn to ring because of Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village, which was assigned to me in my European History class in my last year of school). However, my first actual panting crush on a real life actor was on Ian Carmichael as Lord Peter Wimsey in The Nine Tailors on Masterpiece Theatre. I was nine years old. This predated Mystery - that’s how long ago it was. I have been a Peter Wimsey fan for over FORTY YEARS. Truth. (Golly, that makes me feel old.)I first read Gaudy Night when I was 22. I don’t remember reading it for the first time, but I know I was 22, because I read it at five year intervals the first three times, and the next time I was 27. At 27 I was in Oxford as an independent scholar working on my PhD, falling in love with the man I would later marry, and we all spent a lot of time biking and punting and going to the pub (as well as hours in the Bodleian Library and all of Oxford’s bell towers; indeed, I joined the bell ringers for the May morning celebration at Magdalen Tower). It was gloriously summer. My friends and I actually used Gaudy Night as a punting manual. (“[I'll] Watch you bring the pole up in three." "I promise to do that” [p. 308]) . (Incidentally I am quite vain of my technique, speed and skill as a puntress.) Reading Gaudy Night in Oxford while sort of living the post-graduate Oxford experience made me feel like I own them both.Bicycle bells in a Boar’s Hill Pine,Stedman Triple from All Saints’ steeple, Tom and his hundred and one at nine,Bells of Butterfield, caught in Keble, Sally and backstroke answer “Mine!” (- John Betjeman, from “Myfanwy at Oxford”)So then I read it again when I was 32 – Harriet’s age in the book - by now married myself, and a PhD, with a book published and a writing career just opening up. And I felt rather fulfilled, even though I wasn’t really anywhere near Harriet in terms of career success at her age. But she was certainly the literary idol of my young adulthood, as Harriet M. Welsch had been the literary idol of my childhood.So it was with a bit of trepidation that I set about reading it again this year, realizing that I was now nearly twenty years older than Harriet is in the book; could I possibly still relate to her?-------------------------------Yes and no.I sat kind of agog at the insidious class prejudice and snobbery that’s at work in this book. I almost don’t know where to begin with it. And why didn’t it ever bother me before? (15 years ago, I thoughtlessly recommended this book to the woman who was housecleaning for me at the time. REALLY, E WEIN?) Partly, I’m sure, it stood out now because I have just finished writing something that focuses on class; but partly I think that in the current intellectual and political climate I’ve just become more aware of all kinds of prejudice. Anyway, it was jarring. Part of the reason I’ve never found the mystery portion of Gaudy Night very satisfying is because none of the scouts are particularly interesting or defined as characters – even Annie herself scarcely puts in an appearance (and I was watching her like a hawk this time through). So when the big whodunnit reveal comes… who really cares? Annie’s finest hour is when she locks herself in the coal cellar and then tells the Senior Common Room exactly what she thinks of them. It would have been more shocking if it HAD been the Warden, or Cattermole, after all.Also, it bugged me that the scouts and maids – the female lower class of this book – were all essentially meek and timid and dull, but the male servants – think of Bunter – are far more favourably portrayed. The porter Padgett is entertaining and loyal in addition to showing signs of rudimentary intelligence. Annie’s chief character flaw, by contrast, seems to be an aspiration to rise above her station in life. I dunno. I am profoundly disturbed by Annie as the villain.I did find myself wondering (having now delved somewhat more deeply into the mystery genre than I’ve previously explored), from a craftsman's point of view, how Sayers set the whole thing up. Did she use a calendar? Did she have notebooks full of character descriptions? (I can’t keep anyone in the Senior Common Room straight apart from Miss de Vine, Miss Lydgate, and Miss Hillyard; and of these, I only have one character handle to attach to any of them – hairpins, page proofs, and a crush on Peter). Did she make herself a map of Shrewsbury College? Did she have a chart showing everybody’s alibis – or better yet, a little dolls’ house with figurines she moved about in it? I’m really in awe of the novelist’s technique here, in the days before word processors. Incidentally, Harriet DICTATES HER NOVELS. It allows her to discuss character motivation and plot consistency with her secretary AS SHE WRITES. Why the heck am I sitting in this house alone day after day?(E Wein: "That's what I need, someone to dictate to!"Tim: "You dictate to all of us!")(I was recently very miffed by a tumblr post in which a self-styled “Millennial” suggested that those of us born in the 20th century lived in a complete vacuum without the internet. There is a scene in Gaudy Night - published in 1935 – in which Harriet receives mail THREE TIMES A DAY, in addition to telegrams and telephone calls. It’s a great scene – she is constantly jumping up from her writing to check her mail. Sound familiar?)But I said yes and no, didn’t I, about still relating to Harriet?I actually found that in the intervening twenty years my own writing career had changed into something that more closely matched Harriet’s than I ever imagined, which made me kind of laugh and cry. Sayers is so clearly indulging herself in this book, sending up critics, reviewers, the publishing world, literary circles, and of course, academia. I can so relate to Harriet’s – and by extraction, Sayers’s – love-hate relationship with academia, the feeling of “Thank God I’m not part of this” coupled with a longing to get back to it. "Once, I was a scholar" (p. 59). So there’s that.But mainly there is Peter, and the love story, and their coming together. That, for me, was always the best part of the book. And here’s the thing: all that matching of intellect and sensibility, the mutual demand for honesty, Peter giving Harriet the space to be herself, to have her career, to be his equal in their partnership: this is the heart and soul of my own relationship with my own partner. In the abstract Harriet and Peter – stripped of their education and class and the pretences imposed by gender and nationality - I see myself and my own soulmate. So indeed there is a kind of fulfilment to reading this book in middle age. Harriet and I have made the right choices.Also, we are both very lucky.-----------------[...said Miss de Vine... ] "One can't be pitiful where one's own job is concerned. You'd lie cheerfully, I expect, about anything except - what?""Oh, anything!" said Harriet, laughing. "Except saying that somebody's beastly book is good when it isn't. I can't do that. It makes me a lot of enemies, but I can't do it."

  • Lynn
    2019-04-28 16:14

    Excellent story -- I am going to read the next in the series and then maybe go back to the beginning and read them all. Lord Peter and Harriet Vane are great characters.

  • sharon
    2019-05-21 17:11

    I first read this book as a junior or senior in high school, shortly after I'd been introduced to Sayers' writing and was making my way through all of the Wimsey mysteries. I remember being vaguely annoyed at the time that the whodunnit aspect of the book seemed so downplayed and that I couldn't seem to keep all the characters straight, though I found the romance between Harriet and Peter fascinating and encouraging given that I was a bookish teenager wondering if there were guys who liked smart, bookish girls. The book stayed in the back of my psyche in the intervening years as just that -- decent mystery, too much academic talk between too many interchangeable female dons, hurrah for Peter Wimsey, champion of smart, bookish women. And yay for Latin puns.I recently went through a horrible reading funk where I spent each evening drifting through the house, picking up books, trying to read a paragraph or two and then tossing them aside. I wanted something meaty, but couldn't commit to the length of a Victorian novel. I wanted something with heart, but not saccharine. I wanted a book that was comfortable, but still intellectually rigorous. And then I spotted a copy of Gaudy Night at the local used bookstore and went, "Aha! I think that's exactly what I need..."I experienced the book in a completely different way this time around. I remembered the culprit, so was better able to spot all of the clues that Sayers scatters throughout the novel. (Last time I'd felt like the reveal came out of left field.) The academic bits, rather than boring me, were now the most fascinating parts and spoke so well to the struggles that female academics still go through. I could so relate to Harriet's discomfort with having a foot in both worlds -- unwilling to dedicate herself wholly to academic life, but also uncomfortably aware of how a smart woman who marries and has a family is judged by both society and her intellectual peers. Harriet's resistance to Peter, rather than just feeling like frustrating UST, now made total sense, which made her gradual realization that Peter would always consider her an intellectual equal all the more satisfying. Minor quibbles include (view spoiler)[wishing that the culprit wasn't so villainized simply because she was a domestically-oriented person (though perhaps the real condemnation is for how she allows personal feeling to overtake her moral judgement) and wishing that Harriet, rather than Peter, could have been the person who solves the case (hide spoiler)]. But overall, I answer with Harriet: "Placetne, magistra?" "Placet." (review from Sept 2013)reread Jan 2016: Good lord this book is amazing. This time, rereading with an eye toward the dissertation chapter on Sayers that I'm planning, I found so much complexity of idea and narrative form on nearly every page -- A plus Modernism there. And Sayers is really in a class by herself when it comes to unresolved sexual tension. Seriously had to fan myself a few times during scenes between Peter and Harriet.

  • Abigail Bok
    2019-05-25 16:14

    Can I give this book more than 5 stars? What a tour de force. In Gaudy Night, Dorothy Sayers follows not her usual hero, Lord Peter Wimsey, but instead his longtime love, Harriet Vane. Harriet is reluctantly persuaded to visit her old college at Oxford for its Gaudy Night celebrations. There she finds two vicious anonymous notes, one of them pushed into the sleeve of her academic gown! She returns to London, only to be called back a few months later by the administration; the college is being plagued by a series of pranks and anonymous messages just like the one she had received. She agrees to go live at the college for a few weeks and see if she can solve the mystery.The few weeks are drawn out into months, and the mystery draws her deeper and deeper into its coils. The obsessions of the prankster echo events from Harriet’s life, and the whole experience forces her to turn her assumptions and beliefs inside-out and upside-down. The book becomes at least as much an unraveling of her life as it is an unraveling of the mystery. Through it we get a vivid portrait of British academic life, for the tutors and the students alike. (Insert a number of memorable and delightful characters here.) Toward the end, Lord Peter comes on the scene, and his presence both complicates and de-complicates Harriet’s various dilemmas.I have always enjoyed Sayers’s detective fiction—well crafted, just the right level of intellectual, full of puzzles. But this novel is something much greater: it’s a Hero’s Journey with a bit of mystery attached. In her previous novels Sayers always viewed Lord Peter at arm’s length; we are allowed into some of his thoughts but mostly follow his actions. In Gaudy Night, we are deep inside Harriet Vane’s mind from the very start, and the result is a far more intense and personal experience. Many women will resonate with Harriet’s central dilemma, making the process of reading this book gripping and memorable.It seems that Sayers threw everything of herself into Gaudy Night—her heart and soul and every inch of her mind. She doesn’t hold back or coddle the reader. For me, it all adds up to a breathtaking reading experience. And the ending brought me, like many other readers, to tears.

  • Shobhit Sharad
    2019-04-26 19:36

    This is my second Peter Wimsey book, and though this is considered the best by Dorothy L. Sayers, after reading the book I realised that I should have read a few preceding books as to get a clearer understanding of what's happening in his life. Fortunately enough, the book had very less of him and the protagonist was Harriet Vane, in the setting of Oxford. I loved Harriet Vane. After a point in the book, I wanted the mystery to be solved by her and was quite ready to forsake the protagonist of the series. She had the brains to do it, also she was interesting enough to not require anyone else's contribution to make the book good. For a change, this wasn't a murder mystery and it was a refreshing change. Let's leave it at that. As compared to the previous Wimsey book which I read (Whose Body?), I loved the writing in this one. I had many of the dialogues copied, because of the brilliance with which they were written. Though the philosophical parts became a tad too much.

  • Katie
    2019-05-17 19:29

    Like I said in a status update, this is a great book that I'm going to have to re-read to fully appreciate. So this probably won't be a very in depth review.Of course, (view spoiler)[I spent a long time waiting for Peter to show up!, but I'm very, very glad this was really Harriet's book. That needed to happen for the love story to work. (hide spoiler)]Also, (view spoiler)[ I JUST KNEW THE CHESS SET WOULD BE DESTROYED. *cries* (hide spoiler)]The ending was great and I AM SO EXCITED FOR THE NEXT ONE.

  • Andrea
    2019-05-14 19:23

    I hereby dub this review: "In need of a good stupping".This is the second mystery that Harriet and Peter investigate 'together' – and by together I mean that Harriet spends quite a time collecting facts, and Peter does all the analysis and deduction. Indeed, he spots the culprit almost immediate on reading the evidence, quickly takes steps to verify it, and does what he can to obtain what little proof is possible.The primary question of the book is women – intellectual women particularly – and their need, or not, for sex and marriage. Something at the forefront of Harriet's mind because the wounds of her disastrous first love have more or less healed over, and she now is beginning to face up to the question of an extremely suitable man who for the last five years has been asking her to marry him. She likes Peter, but has not quite connected to him as an attractive male, and considers herself weighed down and burdened by her debt to him – while also strongly and powerfully believing that she herself is "spoiled" – publicly known to not be a virgin and thus not suitable marriage material.Gaudy Night opens with Harriet Vane returning to Oxford, giving us the equivalent of a high school reunion, as Harriet looks back with rose coloured eyes on happy student days, and offers up a romanticised picture of Oxford scholars as unworldly and devoted to nothing but the highest of intellectual ideals. Most of the female scholars are representative of types – the woman who has married and let her mind decay while she devotes herself to children. The virgin spinster who hates men. The woman passionately devoted to a cause. The pure intellectual. The rare successful marriage where intellectual pursuit and family devotion have been melded in a complementary match.Harriet's opinions of the other female scholars are a trifle off-putting, particularly her immediate cringing away from the friend she has gone there to meet, who has allowed her intellect to stagnate in the favour of children, and of another who is "not smart enough" on two levels. Female scholars without fine minds and who are not fine clothes horses are definitely depicted as lesser in this book. Harriet is also of the opinion (commonly held at the time) that lady-bits denied a thorough stupping are prone to spoil, and the vinegar of their decay is liable to rise up to sour and distort their owner's thought processes.This particular thesis is played out in the character of Miss Hillyard, the "man-hating" character. Frankly, I have little issue with ladies living in the 1930s who think men receive great privileges that women do not, and so are inclined to be resentful and sarcastic about it. Harriet, however, thinks Miss Hillyard is 'potty', that there's definitely something gone wrong with her, and puts it down to a lack of stupping. [Note: Harriet doesn't use quite the same terms.] I was amused when Peter told Harriet she's suffering from a bias because of her own preoccupations about sex. I was less amused at the inevitable fate of man-hating spinsters who meet god-like beings such as Peter Wimsey.Although Peter and Harriet are clearly well-suited to each other, and it's obvious to the reader that they'll be happy if they manage to get together, it's only in the final pages of the book that I can manage to bring myself to fully enjoy the romance – because Peter apologises for the rush of his pursuit, so tactlessly commenced while she's still on trial for the murder of her lover. In these final speeches it's clear that Peter has had to face up to the wrongness – indeed, the cruelty – of that action, just as Harriet has had to both heal, and regain her courage. And during the book Peter has proved that he is capable of not "annexing" her – that theirs is to be a marriage of love and mutual support, with space given for their different interests and no expectation that Harriet become merely an obedient extension of him.It is most certainly not a marriage of equals. Peter is superior to Harriet in every single way. Socially, financially, physically, intellectually, emotionally, morally. He unravels in a day the problem she has worked on for months. He tells her how to fix the novel she's writing. He completes the poem she's writing – but does it better. He faces his emotions and deliberately changes himself to better himself. The setting of Oxford, where they can both be just two scholars together, making it possible for them to be on equal footing and reach an accord, is somewhat undercut for me because Wimsey has just proved himself utterly superior to every single female scholar present – again both intellectually and morally, as well as on the social level of an extremely eligible bachelor in the spinster house.All of this sounds like I hate the book, which is not quite correct. It's an engrossing mystery, and as much as any reader I want Harriet to work through her issues and find a way to be happy. And it is a writer in the 1930s trying to wrestle with the major question of being an intellectual woman.I just prefer a little more equality in my romances, and hope for female scholar-mystery writers to occasionally be the one who makes the deductions.

  • Andree
    2019-05-26 18:18

    2017 RereadApparently this book is something I feel the urge to reread sometime around Christmas/New Year's. Not traditional holiday reading to be sure, but whatever.I still love this. I really like Harriet's narrative voice, and how she can forget about Peter for a while when she's engrossed in something else, but not completely. I also really enjoy how the discussion of her work features in this, how she's clearly transitioning from a more jigsaw puzzle sort of mystery novel, to one where her characters are humanized. (view spoiler)[Peter's reaction to learning that she's let him into her work is fairly excellent. (hide spoiler)]I suppose I just enjoy my romance of the heart and the mind. Along with a mystery set in Oxford.Also, the Dean entertains me.(And the chess set is still the most upsetting part.)2016 RereadFinally got around to rereading this book this week.I think I might have loved it more the second time around. And I loved it a lot the first time around.I really love everything about this. I love the setting. I love the character work. I love the introduction Saint George Wimsey. I adore the relationship development.I love the dialogue re: heart v. mind.I love how clearly the whole thing is set up as a choice.Also, "A marriage of two independent and equally irritable intelligences seems to me reckless to the point of insanity. You can hurt one another so dreadfully."And I'm still upset about the chess set.xxxSo after a period of absence of three years or so, I'm finally getting back to Lord Peter (and Harriet) (Also, I recognize that this was a ridiculous place to vaguely drift away from this series for whatever reason. I know no one stops right before Gaudy Night). The thing is, I really enjoyed this book a lot, but I don't know how to review it. I almost thing I'd need to read it again to really get it, or rather for it to really sink under my skin. It's a book for rereading, I think. And I can see why they're such a classic couple. There are moments in the middle that are so very well done, so very well done. And the more I sit with the ending, the more I like it. Something about the way they both value their independence and their principles, and I don't know. It's still just out of reach. It just felt like such a well crafted book, right from the start. The kind of book that you pick up and read a page and think, "Oh, this is a good book."On the other hand, it has also reinforced my conclusion that if I ever actually met Lord Peter, I would have a constant urge to punch him in the face.You know, I think that's why this worked for me. (view spoiler)[I understood so very clearly why Harriet wouldn't marry him. So clearly. And in many ways she's such a non-traditional female heroine... And I was more upset by the smashed chess set than anything in a long time. Not the kind of sad that makes me want to rant or gripe about it, but just quietly sad. (hide spoiler)]Oh, this book...I really don't think I can talk about it anymore.2015 Reading Challenge - A Mystery or Thriller (no, I wasn't saving that category for this...)

  • Dfordoom
    2019-05-22 16:27

    Oxford has provided the background to many detective stories, and it’s a great setting for a crime novel. What interesting about Gaudy Night is that Sayers doesn’t just use it as background - the human and professional dramas afflicting the women of Shrewsbury College are the real meat of the book. You could argue that the detective story in this case is merely the background detail! Sayers is attempting something quite ambitious for 1936 - this is a detective story, a love story, and a serious analysis of the problems facing women who choose to pursue careers. It’s very definitely a feminist novel. It’s also ambitious in that Sayers is trying to create characters with a genuine inner life, rather than mere cogs in the machine of the plot.Although Lord Peter Wimsey certainly figures in the book the central character is very much Harriet Vane. Like Sayers, Harriet is a Oxford graduate and a writer of detective fiction who has led a somewhat scandalous personal life (although Sayers managed to avoid public scandal). She was undoubtedly using this character to work through some personal issues. She also uses both Harriet (a fictional writer of detective stories) and Lord Peter (a fictional detective) to playfully send up the crime fiction genre. A very impressive piece of work. I like Sayers more and more.

  • Althea Ann
    2019-05-14 22:11

    Only the second I've read in this series (the other was 'Strong Poison') and it's a very, very different book. Where 'Strong Poison' is a pretty standard, classic mystery, 'Gaudy Night' is (it seems) almost an autobiographical novel, with a mystery shoehorned in.I loved, loved, loved every detail of what it was like to be a female student at Oxford back in the day (Sayers attended from 1912-1915). It's a vivid, realistic, and very human depiction of the academics and their day-to-day lifestyle, their lofty intellectual concerns and their petty foibles - all come together to make this book an invaluable and amazing historical document.However, the mystery, such as it is, didn't grab me. I couldn't bring myself to really care too much about who the 'poison pen' tormenting these women was. I've never cared for mysteries which end in an overlong expository explanation of why all the villainy occurred.The romance aspect was also aggravatingly frustrating. I found Peter Wimsey to be a self-important twit, and, I'm sorry, but although, yes, one should be certain that a potential romantic partner respects you as a person, I don't find Harriet Vane stringing him along for FIVE YEARS to be romantic or feminist - at that stretch of time, it's just being an inconsiderate, indecisive jerk.Definitely worth reading, however. I'll read more of the series.

  • Kim
    2019-04-27 17:07

    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!

  • Jan C
    2019-05-12 18:11

    This is probably the fourth I have read this. But I can't remember it taking me this long before. I still enjoyed it.It must have been quite a while since I didn't remember who the suspect was. Love her rant! (All of the suspects are women.)This one takes place at Oxford. Harriet is working on one of her books. Suddenly there are poison pen letters, mischievous goings on, etc. Finally she suggests that perhaps her friend Lord Peter can help resolve the problem.

  • Loederkoningin
    2019-05-10 20:10

    Reading Gaudy Night felt a bit like driving on a crowded snail-speed bus, with all these fancy looking cars with number plates as Howl's Moving Castle, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and The Shadow of the Wind passing me by. I could not resist asking for rides, only to reluctantly hop back onto the bus at the next intersection.Yet in theory there is so much to like about this book. Starting with the fact that it was highly recommended by someone who mentioned that Waking the Moon (a personal all time favorite), The Secret History (also pretty intriguing) and Gaudy Night were in a quirky way very similar. I was impressed by Dorothy Sayers biography as well. Born in 1893 she was one of the first women to be awarded with a degree from Oxford University and a feminist in her own right. And last but not least, I read a few beautiful reviews here on Goodreads.Greedily I started reading. I enjoyed the refreshing politeness of the conversations, the formal etiquette, the Oxford ambience, the references to women's rights. But after a while I couldn't help but wonder: what's the point of introducing all these women if they are never to play a role in the story? What's the point of making a point of numerous chitchat conversations when they do not contain any clues? Why include a - confusing - dozen main characters and allow them to ask for attention and have their say throughout the book, but never properly identify and describe them? I swear I'm not THAT indoctrinated by today's zap culture. I'm a sucker for authors taking their sweet time to create a lush and detailed story. But for my reading pleasure, I would have liked to filter out a good hundred pages or so. All these one-dimensional women (either bursar, warden, dean or everything in between), some suspects, some irrelevant to the story... are apparently not my cup of tea.Luckily, every now and then the so called 'poison pen' decided to stir things up by stalking the University at night and sending out a few hateful letters. But his/her actions became repetitive, the letters started turning up on a daily basis and I found myself thinking: Is this really the nastiest thing you can come up with? Except for some speculation on how time was "maybe" running out and someone "might" actually die because of the culprit, I never once got that impression. In fact, I caught myself not giving a damn about his/her identity anymore after a while, which I admit is a bit killing when you're reading a detective.Now Harriet Vane added interesting points to several discussions about women's position in society, but in the meantime did not get any closer to solving the mystery. Not entirely her fault, she wasn't provided with brilliant brain cracker hints (although there may have been a good deal of too brilliant hints for me to detect, ha!). She also went to great lengths to be independent from Lord Peter Wimsey - he apparently saved her life in an earlier book, which made her feel ashamed - but of course, she eventually desperately needed his help on the case. My problem with Harriet was that she, besides playing a detective and occasionally fussing about whether or not to accept Wimsey's marriage proposal and the possible consequences for her career and independence - she did not bring any interesting traits to the table. And while Wimsey did, he came across as a bit of a goofball. A caricature even, invented by Sayers to portray her idea of an ideal man: charmingly well behaved, upper class, handsome, rich and intelligent, an exciting James Bond-ish career (unfortunately not his persistence) and politely waiting for the one woman he thought worth marrying. (I later found out that Sayers' own marriage was not exactly a match made in heaven. This piece of information gave me a better understanding of why she - possibly - felt the urge to create Wimsey). However, his quarterly formal requests for marriage, the pompous dinner conversations and his romantic interest in Harriet: it felt like a farce. I'm afraid Sayers books are not for me, but I do hope that in the series Peter will eventually be able to live happily ever after. I put my money on Bunter. ^^

  • Genia Lukin
    2019-05-21 19:29

    After wading through what seemed like heaps of dubiously feminist Victoriana literature it was refreshing and liberating to find a book that tackled some issues of women's equality directly.At its root, of course, Gaudy Night is a mystery novel; but somehow the mystery manages to shuffle off, first taking second stage, then third, to other, more pertinent, issues. Initially, it is overshadowed by the discussion of women's rights for education, their belonging in the world of academia, their relevance and the work they do. Then - without neglecting the issues at hand - it is also neatly taken over by a love story.As far as Wimsey stories go, this one is least about the 'mystery'. More so than even its prequels, Murder, Must Advertise and the Nine Tailors, what it's principally interested in is not 'who did this?" but "why did they do it?" and "what sort of issues can we deal with, and how?"The gist of the plot is that someone unknown attempts to frighten, harass, victimise and otherwise make life unpleasant for the residents - students and dons - of one of Oxford's female colleges. Shrewsbury (a fictional college, by the way) is disinclined to seek publicity, due to the sensitivity of their position and the shambles this affair would put to their name, and ask Harriet vane, a graduate of the college, to investigate the matter by herself.While undertaking this mission, Harriet settles to academic life among the women-scholars - all, by necessity and societally imposed rules, unmarried - as well as the undergraduate female students. While she bumbles (let's be frank here) with moderate competency through the mystery, she attempts to sort her feelings towards her life, her profession, and, most especially, Wimsey.I have to admit that towards the end of the book I was already screaming 'make up your mind!' at her, but I can see how, throughout the story, she establishes her relationship with Wimsey on a more equal footing. I still feel that her waffling and wobbling are a bit too extensive, her scruples a bit too pronounced, and her decision a bit too sudden.That said, what really interested me in the book is the issue of women's education; Sayers, as one of the first women to get an Oxford degree, by the way, could not just let the problem slide under the carpet. Her take on it is somewhat dated, of course, and perhaps ambiguous at times, but at no point in the book does she present her women - all concerned with looks, clothes and female things - as shoddy scholars or a subpar academics. The same goes for the students. Perhaps consciously she mulls over the matter of females in academia, but in her mind, when looking at particulars, she makes a firm and unequivocal claim that they belong there.On the whole, though this is not the best book to begin one's acquaintance with Wimsey on, this is the one most likely to appeal to readers of generic literary fiction as opposed to readers of mysteries or detective novels. It possesses the widest scope, socially and psychologically, and is comprised of the most believable characters Sayers wrote so far.

  • Nikki
    2019-05-04 17:30

    I was looking forward to getting to this radioplay. It wasn't one of my favourite books when reading it, I don't think, but I'm already very attached to Peter and Harriet, while listening to the radioplays, and I knew that this would be a crux of both characters' development. I believe this was recorded a long time after the others: certainly, Ian Carmichael remains wonderful but you can hear age and tiredness in his voice. He's not quite so jolly and smooth as he used to be. Not enough bounce to still be the perfect Peter Wimsey, I'm afraid. Still, it would've sounded wrong to have anyone else do it.I'll confess that I was mostly hanging on for the bits about Peter and Harriet. I wasn't so fond of the way this was narrated, by Harriet, instead of being a radioplay in the same style as the others. That made some of the transitions feel a little clunky to me -- but the ending made up for it all. Oh, Peter.

  • Adrienne Furness
    2019-05-25 17:32

    "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. I mean, here we all are, you know, and what are we to do about it?"Loved this one. It was a decent mystery, but it was an even better story about human beings and our crazy ways.

  • Robin Stevens
    2019-05-18 16:32

    Sayers is eerily smart about human nature - this is something more than the average whodunit. It's not just a clever crime, it's a wonderful love story and a thoughtful response to the question of what makes a good romantic partnership. Gorgeous.