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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
3,633951,451 (4.33)280
  1. 40
    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
    Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis (kraaivrouw)
  3. 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.
  4. 20
    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.
  5. 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.
  6. 23
    A College of Magics by Caroline Stevermer (bmlg)
    bmlg: lively and engaging depiction of the community of women scholars

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» See also 280 mentions

English (88)  Danish (3)  German (3)  Swedish (1)  All languages (95)
Showing 1-5 of 88 (next | show all)
I expected to like this book. I'd never read Dorothy Sayers, but can't think of why, I've read dozens of Agathas and other English mystery writers. And this book is always on favorites lists. The style of something written in Britain in the 30s is going to take a little bit of getting used to, so I blamed that for awhile until I realized that I was beginning to doze. It was awfully wordy and overlong for a typical mystery and I had trouble keeping the characters straight. Several scenes were nicely creepy and atmospheric, but I did feel like I was plodding by the time I finished it. ( )
  SusanListon | Nov 30, 2014 |
I am rereading this right now for the millionth time. Always get something new from it --- right now, inspiration for a novel. ( )
  lucypick | Sep 23, 2014 |
Published in 1935, Gaudy Night is a later novel in the Peter Wimsey series. Sayers has Harriet Vane investigate a series of nasty prank letters in her old college at Oxford and so the book investigates the role of women in society, work and academic life. Lots of fun reading her musings on the nature of academic pursuits, the writing of novels and fame. ( )
  merry10 | Feb 24, 2014 |
Mystery writer Harriet Vane returns to her college at Oxford and is drawn into an investigation of a spate of poison pen letters, vandalism, and other pranks; she must call on Lord Peter Wimsey to help her solve the mystery.

I am sure I first read this, along with most of the Lord Peter Wimsey series, during my mystery-reading phase as a pre-teen and teenager, and I am amazed at myself. Fully 90% of the text must have gone right over my head at that point. Conversations about the purpose of women, detailed descriptions of college life in the 1930s (mingled with a bit of history), literary allusions, and quotes in French, Latin, even Greek (I think)--I must have cheerfully ignored it all and concentrated on the mystery. Even rereading it again so many years later, a lot of it still goes over my head, and my admiration of Dorothy L. Sayers as an educated woman, a gifted writer, and someone who was clearly much smarter than me grows. (I try not to resent her for it.) Perhaps I'll read the annotated version next time.

During this read, I kept looking for things to criticize, but then I realized that I was only searching for nitpicks in what is almost a perfect novel. Yes, the women who are the senior dons do tend to blend together, but the important ones are fully realized, and each one has her moment, her purpose for being there that comes clear at the appropriate time. Yes, there is no murder, but it is an insidious (and probably more interesting) crime nonetheless, and becomes more so at the final reveal. Yes, there are a lot of allusions, quotes, etc., but this is a book about academia and about educated people, particularly educated women; all the quoting is there for a reason.

And there are so many things to love about this book. First and foremost is Harriet and her constant internal (and sometimes external) monologues. Harriet's process as she writes a detective novel inside a detective novel, working out her own feelings through her character. All the conversations, the wonderful dialogue, the rich discussion that ranges over the purpose of women, whether women can have both an intellectual life and an emotional life, the ethics of the academic, the role of women in academia--and isn't it distressing that we are still arguing these things today, 80 years later? The exquisite, loving portrayal of Oxford, and along with that, capturing that sense of nostalgia for our college years that many of us have also felt, and the concurrent recognition that academia can be a retreat from the challenges of the "real world."

And of course, the romance. A review wouldn't be complete without mentioning that. Harriet and Peter's developing relationship is thrilling, maddening, and ultimately so rewarding. That final scene, with the final proposal--even though it's in Latin, who wouldn't feel their heart melt?

The title refers to a meeting, or reunion, of a college's former members. The book opens with Harriet attending such a reunion. It also is an allusion to Shakespeare: "Let's have one other gaudy night: call to me / All my sad captains; fill our bowls once more / Let's mock the midnight bell." (Antony and Cleopatra)

Rereading the classics I read in childhood. Also read for the 2014 Mystery Category Challenge (January 2014). ( )
4 vote sturlington | Jan 26, 2014 |
Entertaining mystery. I enjoyed the audio read by the actor who plays Lord Peter Wimsey in the BBC series. This is the 12th book in the series. The dons of Harriet Vane's alma mater, Shrewsbury College have invited her back to attend the much anticipated annual 'Gaudy' celebrations. The mood soon turns when a malicious person sending notes to several people and writing obscene graffiti, destroying important manuscripts, and crafting vile effigies. Desperate to avoid a possible murder on campus, Harriet asks her old friend Wimsey to investigate. While it is a mystery, it is also a love story. ( )
  Kristelh | Nov 16, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 88 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dorothy L Sayersprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
George, ElizabethIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Juva, KerstiTranslatorsecondary 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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:54:16 -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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