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Gaudy Night (1935)

by Dorothy L. Sayers

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Peter Wimsey & Harriet Vane (3), Lord Peter Wimsey (12)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,7371291,732 (4.32)475
This full-cast audio dramatization of Gaudy Night was specially recorded for BBC Radio. 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.… (more)
  1. 50
    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. 32
    A College of Magics by Caroline Stevermer (bmlg)
    bmlg: lively and engaging depiction of the community of women scholars
  7. 00
    Death at the President's Lodging by Michael Innes (themulhern)
    themulhern: "Death at the President's Lodging" is a more fun book about people running about an English college in the 1930s in the middle of the night.
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» See also 475 mentions

English (122)  Danish (3)  German (3)  Swedish (1)  All languages (129)
Showing 1-5 of 122 (next | show all)
Neither a genuine detective story nor a true novel of ideas, it is difficult to consider Gaudy Night a success. Dorothy L. Sayers is an excellent writer with a brilliant mind, but this novel lacks the elements that would make it shine in either genre. The mystery is thin, the 'puzzle' elements sparse, the solution sudden and unprompted. The feeling of menace and malice is, however, palpable. Regarded as a 'serious' novel, the secondary characters are poorly delineated, giving the impression of a Greek chorus rather than a cast of individuals. The setting (like that of the superior The Nine Tailors) is a somewhat reclusive community, and it is teasing out ideas prompted by the setting that finds Sayers at her happiest. Worth reading for fans of Sayers, but those looking for a great story of the 'Golden Age of Crime' should try an earlier Wimsey. ( )
1 vote Lirmac | May 31, 2021 |
Fabulous! Such great lines, "Each after each, from all the towers of Oxford, clocks struck the quarter-chime, in a tumbling cascade of friendly disagreement." and "(for there is no chance assembly of people who cannot make a lively conversation about drains)" A good mystery satisfactorily solved. Love the characters, the setting, the language. What's not to like? Ian Carmichael did a good job narrating. He does not have different voices for the various characters, so it occasionally became confusing but not often enough to be annoying. I was glad to have the print edition to read along and to track down the Latin quotes. (Why doesn't Kindle have a Latin dictionary? so sad!) ( )
  njcur | May 19, 2021 |
This novel was often confusing to read as I am entirely unfamiliar with women's college life in Oxford in the 1930's, but the writing is succinct and descriptive without being written like a screen play. The mystery itself seemed only to serve s a backdrop for Sayers to muse about the role and place of women in public and private life. It was both reassuring and a little disconcerting to see the same concerns being argued and discussed by her characters in 1936 as we have today. A wonderfully intellectual, but extremely enjoyable book. ( )
  ColourfulThreads | Feb 18, 2021 |
This time through I was mostly enjoying my time with Harriet and was a bit less enthusiastic when Peter was spotted. The things he noticed immediately that Harriet should have seen and the way he is always ahead of her reasoning, as if Sayers really couldn't make Harriet really be Peter's equal, just the best he could find. At least tucked safely among the elite of Oxford the period prejudices were on the hind foot. ( )
  quondame | Dec 29, 2020 |
Harriet attends her college's homecoming/reunion called a "gaudy." Poison pen letters find their way into the hands of faculty members. They ask Harriet to investigate. With Lord Peter in Italy, she begins the case on her own, wishing for his assistance, but unable to reach him. He eventually shows up to offer his help, but will he conclude the case before being called away again? Twice as long as earlier installments, this one grew tiresome quickly. While we met Lord Peter's nephew in this installment, the absence of Lord Peter and Bunter for much of the book, while understandable at a female college, created a disconnect with series fans. Even Ian Carmichael's wonderful narration couldn't help this story's drivel. The book needed to be reduced by 50%. ( )
  thornton37814 | Dec 26, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 122 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (47 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dorothy L. Sayersprimary authorall editionscalculated
George, ElizabethIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Juva, KerstiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ledwidge, NatachaIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McDowell, JaneNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
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
Dedication
First words
Harriet Vane sat at her writing-table and stared out into Mecklenburg Square.
[Introduction] I came to the wonderful detective novels of Dorothy L. Sayers in a way that would probably make that distinguished novelist spin in her grave.
[Author's Note] It would be idle to deny that the City and University of Oxford (in aeternum floreant) do actually exist, and contain a number of colleges and other buildings, some of which are mentioned by name in this book.
Quotations
'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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This full-cast audio dramatization of Gaudy Night was specially recorded for BBC Radio. 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.

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