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Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers

Gaudy Night

by Dorothy L. Sayers

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Lord Peter Wimsey (12)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,9641061,293 (4.33)348
  1. 60
    A Civil Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold (PhoenixFalls)
    PhoenixFalls: A Civil Campaign is Lois McMaster Bujold's attempt to replicate Gaudy Night -- with an infusion of Georgette Heyer -- in her long-running Vorkosigan Saga.
  2. 30
    The Late Scholar by Jill Paton Walsh (merry10)
    merry10: The Late Scholar is Jill Paton Walsh's further exploration of Dorothy L. Sayers' themes in Gaudy Night.
  3. 20
    Death Among the Dons by Janet Neel (littlegreycloud)
    littlegreycloud: A murder mystery, an academic setting, an unusual heroine, a knight in shining armour (although John McLeish is more believable than Lord Peter;): check, check, check and check. But most importantly: really good writing.
  4. 20
    A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King (zembla)
    zembla: Both feature good banter, a mystery set in a mostly-female environment, and a tentative romance between the sleuth protagonists.
  5. 20
    Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis (kraaivrouw)
  6. 10
    The Theban Mysteries by Amanda Cross (BookGirlVL)
    BookGirlVL: Amanda Cross's Kate Fansler is an English professor and an amateur sleuth like Harriet Vane. The university and private school settings, as well as the witty, literate dialogue may appeal to readers who loved Dorothy L. Sayer's novels.
  7. 23
    A College of Magics by Caroline Stevermer (bmlg)
    bmlg: lively and engaging depiction of the community of women scholars
1930s (7)

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Showing 1-5 of 99 (next | show all)
Wimsey makes an appearance, but this is definitely Harriet Vane's story. She's gone to see some old classmates and attend the opening of a new building in her college at Oxford, fully prepared to have a difficult time as the graduate-who-was-on-trial-for-murder, and a notoriously "fallen" woman who's lover was murdered. Almost a hundred years later I find it hard to imagine what Vane would have been up against, thankfully, Sayers takes pains to tell the reader. The whole book is an examination as to whether it is worthwhile to educate women, whether they should remain celibate, whether it is possible for them to have careers and husbands (let alone children) without slighting either, whether there can be such a thing as a marriage of equals. There's rather too much of Freudian interpretation on personal repression, and the harm of a college full of women with pent-up passion, but only because the pendulum has swung the other way. There's also a fair amount on the business of writing and publishing, both for the bestseller and the academic markets, which hasn't changed much, really.

If I were grading just on the mystery I wouldn't give it more than a three, but Sayers, among the first woman to receive an Oxford degree, really knows what she's writing about, and as a bit of social history this earns a 10 out of 5.

personal copy ( )
  Kaethe | Oct 17, 2016 |
When Harriet Vane attends a reunion Shrewsbury College, an event known in Oxford as a Gaudy, she is the recipient of a minor but malicious anonymous letter, one of several offences that have been occurring. It is understandable that the college scholars would ask Vane to investigate the series of nefarious happenings on the strength of her being a mystery writer - I think Sayers must have had a chuckle about that. However, it meant they would avoid the possibility of having the college discredited by a police inquiry.

Among the many serious topics brought up by Sayers, there is some lighthearted humour: the discussion about the type of shirt fronts men wore and how each man has his own style was an example of a private joke among women. Funnier still when Miss Pike, that lover of facts, disconcertingly asked Wimsey for the reason for the "popping" sounds that may be made by stiff shirt fronts. His serious reply was as clever as it was hilarious.

Sayers is genius at re-creating Oxford of the 1930s, the literary discussions, the feminism, the strong value placed on education. And well she might, this was her world. But Sayers gives us so much more, the characters are rich in not only detail, but also with those quirky qualities that academics are often endowed. Lord Peter Wimsey abandons the silly act he's been known to adopt in other books. The result is an intriguing mystery, much intellectual conversation and the pleasing relationships between Harriet, Wimsey, and undergraduates, one of whom is Wimsey's nephew who refers to Vane as Aunt Harriet. A foreshadowing?

This is my favourite of Sayers' books, one that I recommend highly. ( )
4 vote VivienneR | Aug 25, 2016 |
More of a novel than a mystery and my first Sayers so not sure if that is usual or not. I really loved the characters and the setting but found the mystery itself not all that suspenseful- which was fine, just not what I was expecting. ( )
  ltfitch1 | Jun 5, 2016 |
Gaudy Night – Dorothy Sayers

Unabridged audio performance by Ian Carmichael
4 stars (for the audio performance)

(5 stars and a favorite for the novel)

I’ve read this novel many times. It’s a top favorite with me. I love it for the Oxford setting that Sayers depicts with such affection. I’m in constant sympathy with Harriet Vane as she struggles with her past, her conscience, her need for independence and her confused affection for Peter Wimsey. In 1935, Sayers created a forum, within a mystery, for Harriet and her colleagues to tackle the difficult personal and professional questions faced by intelligent working women. Each and every time I read this book, I’m ready to participate in the completely relevant, ongoing discussion of women’s roles. Peter Whimsy is a delightful character, but this book really belongs to Harriet Vane.

I was thrilled to finally find an unabridged audio version of this book in my library catalog. Ian Carmichael played Peter Wimsey in the BBC productions of the mid-70’s. ( I personally prefer the Edward Petherbridge/ Harriet Walter productions of the late 80’s.)
Carmichael is a wonderful Peter Wimsey and there was nothing at all wrong with his reading of this novel… except that this is Harriet’s book. I think it needs to be read by a woman.
( )
  msjudy | May 30, 2016 |
Fantastic, fantastic novel. It’s worth reading the entire Wimsey series just to get to this book. Harriet Vane returns to Oxford for a class reunion, only to be caught up in the deranged anger of an ever-escalating vandal. The mystery itself is not terribly mysterious—most people will have the criminal figured out by a third through the book—but the way in which the characters deal with the mystery is refreshingly believable. A chance encounter brings Wimsey to Vane’s aid, and their five-year courtship finally draws to a climax. I saved a bunch of quotes from this book. They’re all good—the continuity of ducks!—but my favorite bits are between Vane and Wimsey. I rarely care about the romantic subplot, but in this case I grudged the mystery every moment it took away from the couple. I actually squealed gleefully at the end. Sayers’s writing has never felt so truthful and evocative. The only bad part of Gaudy Night is knowing that I only have one more Wimsey novel to go. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 99 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dorothy L. Sayersprimary authorall editionscalculated
George, ElizabethIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Juva, KerstiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ledwidge, NatachaIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The University is a Paradise. Rivers of Knowledge are there. Arts and Sciences flow from thence. Counsell Tables are Horti conclusi, (as it is said in the Canticles) Gardens that are walled in, and they are Fontes signati. Wells that are sealed up; bottomless depths of unsearchable Counsels there.

John Donne
First words
Harriet Vane sat at her writing-table and stared out into Mecklenburg Square.
'The social principle seems to be,' suggested Miss Pyke, 'that we should die for our own fun and not other people's.' 'Of course I admit,' said Miss Barton, rather angrily, 'that murder must be prevented and murderers kept from doing further harm. But they ought not to be punished and they certainly ought not to be killed.' 'I suppose they ought to be kept in hospitals at vast expense, along with other unfit specimens,' said Miss Edwards. 'Speaking as a biologist, I must say I think public money might be better employed. What with the number of imbeciles and physical wrecks we allow to go about and propagate their species, we shall end by devitalising whole nations.' 'Miss Schuster-Slatt would advocate sterilisation,' said the Dean. 'They're trying it in Germany, I believe,' said Miss Edwards. 'Together,' said Miss Hillyard, 'with the relegation of woman to her proper place in the home.' 'But they execute people there quite a lot,' said Wimsey, 'so Miss Barton can't take over their organisation lock, stock and barrel.'
`Were you really being as cautious and exacting about it as you would be about writing a passage of fine prose?’
‘That’s rather a difficult sort of comparison. One can’t, surely, deal with emotional excitements in that detached spirit’.
‘Isn’t the writing of good prose an emotional excitement?’
‘Yes, of course it is. At least, when you get the thing dead right and know it’s dead right, there’s no excitement like it. It’s marvellous. It makes you feel like God on the Seventh Day – for a bit, anyhow.’
‘Well, that’s what I mean. You expend the trouble and you don’t make any mistake – and then you experience the ecstasy. But if there’s any subject in which you’re content with the second-rate, then it isn’t really your subject.’
All the children seem to be coming out quite intelligent, thank goodness. It would have been such a bore to be the mother of morons, and it's an absolute toss-up, isn't it? If one could only invent them, like characters in books, it would be much more satisfactory to a well-regulated mind.
Detachment is a rare virtue, and very few people find it lovable, either in themselves or in others. If you ever find a person who likes you in spite of it--still more, because of it--that liking has very great value, because it is perfectly sincere, and because, with that person, you will never need to be anything but sincere yourself.
...never again would she mistake the will to feel for the feeling itself.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061043494, Mass Market Paperback)

When Harriet Vane attends her Oxford reunion, known as the "Gaudy," the prim academic setting is haunted by a rash of bizarre pranks: scrawled obsentities, burnt effigies and poison-pen letters -- including one that says, "Ask your boyfriend with the title if he likes arsenic in his soup."Some of the notes threaten murder; all are perfectly ghastly; yet in spite of their scurrilous nature, all are perfectly worded. And Harriet finds herself ensnared in a nightmare of romance and terror, with only the tiniest shreds of clues to challenge her powers of detection, and those of her paramour, Lord Peter Wimsey.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:47 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Harriet Vane's Oxford reunion is shadowed by a rash of bizarre pranks and malicious mischief that include beautifully worded death threats, burnt effigies and vicious poison-pen letters, and Harriet finds herself and Lord Peter Wimsey challenged by an elusive set of clues.… (more)

» see all 6 descriptions

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