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The Travelling Rug by Dorothy L. Sayers

The Travelling Rug

by Dorothy L. Sayers

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The short story at the centre of this volume was not published until 2005. The Marion E Wade Center purchased the manuscript and other papers from Sayers' son Anthony Fleming after Sayers' death. The story is the first person narrative of Jane Eurydice Judkins, a former housemaid and now boarding house proprietor, who tells an anonymous interlocateur ("Madam") about her investigation into what appeared to be the activities of a poltergeist in a house in which she worked some years previously. The manuscript suggests that Sayers had intended to write a series of short stories featuring Judkins. However, she stopped writing detective fiction during WWII and turned to other interests, so the possible series did not eventuate.

The volume contains an annotated version of the short story, with an introduction, a bibliography, an article summarising Sayers' short fiction and a facsimile of the manuscript. The introduction is interesting enough although it contains little which would not already be known to readers familiar with Sayers' life and work. The article about Sayers' short fiction is a reasonable reference piece and the manuscript is inherently interesting to Sayers' fans.

However, although I have no difficulty with the concept of annotations, I found the footnotes distracting (it's very difficult for me to ignore footnotes, even if I want to) and I would have much preferred endnotes. The annotations are squarely aimed at American readers and seem to assume no prior knowledge of British English. Do Americans really need to be told that a "torch" is a flashlight or that a "clerical gentleman" is a clergyman? They also include information which even those readers unfamiliar with British English would know. For example, does any reader who is likely to read this story really need to be told that Rudolf Valentino was "the archetypal hot-tempered Latin lover, on screen and off"? Suffice to say, there are way too many annotations and most of them are unnecessary to an appreciation of the work.

As for the story itself, it's entertaining and clever, although far from Sayers's best work. While her short stories were good, her novels were (at least in my opinion) much better. That said, the work will be of interest to Sayers completists, even if they are the readers most likely to be seriously irritated by the annotations. These are so annoying that I can't rate the work as a whole (as opposed to Sayers' story) at more than 3 stars.

I purchased this book with the intention that it would be passed on to those of my GR friends who have an interest in reading it. It's somehow appropriate for a book entitled "The Travelling Rug" to embark on some travel of its own. Sayers fans, let me know if you're interested in having this book come your way and in then passing it on to someone else. ( )
  KimMR | Apr 2, 2013 |
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