Since I quoted from Dorothy Sayers yesterday when I introduced Mystery Week on the Backlist, it seems best to continue with DLS. I think Gaudy Night is at the top of my Preferred Mysteries list. It might be a tie at the top with Val McDermid’s Killing the Shadows, which I will discuss here tomorrow. But on with Gaudy Night and the general wonder of DLS.
Sayers was a very interesting person. She wrote all kinds of things including essays (two are now published in a small book entitled Are Women Human?, a lovely feminist piece), plays, short stories, and detective fiction. She also translated Dante’s Divine Comedy, though she died before completing Paradiso. I worked very hard to acquire my set of the DLS translation of Dante. Of course I haven’t read it yet, but it is there, on my shelf, waiting for me to get up the courage to start.
I think Gaudy Night is one of the best Lord Peter Wimsey novels Sayers wrote. It doesn’t even have Wimsey as the main character. The key point of view character is Harriet Vane. Of course Lord Peter shows up from time to time, and even aids in the solution of the mystery, but most of the work is done by Harriet. I like Harriet’s character slightly better than Peter’s character, so this is possibly one reason I like this book. The other reason is the female academics who populate the book, as it is set in a women’s college in Oxford. Sigh. Oxford, the dream-land of academics. Sayers wrote the book in the 1930s with a contemporary setting. It is very interesting to read the book as a feminist work — which it is, I don’t think it can help being that — from the present time and see how far we’ve come. Or not in some cases.
GN has a large collection of very strong and interesting female characters, something that doesn’t often happen in fiction. I like it for the academic setting (places I wish I could live and work) as well as the interesting cast of characters. And, of course, Miss Vane. You should totally read it. If you’ve already read it, you should read it again.