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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
4,2161081,662 (4.34)374
  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. 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 (8)

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» See also 374 mentions

English (101)  Danish (3)  German (3)  Swedish (1)  All languages (108)
Showing 1-5 of 101 (next | show all)
The very best of the Wimsey books! When a nasty, anonymous note is slipped into the sleeve of Harriet Vane's gown when she attends the Shrewsbury College Gaudy, she thinks it is a reference to her personal history. But it soon turns out that the animus is directed at the College, and Vane is asked to investigate. In the course of so doing, she begins to wonder if she should return to the scholarly life.

Sayers' great strength as a mystery writer, particularly apparent in the Wimsey-Vane books, was her ability to write about relationships. The working out of Harriet and Peter's relationship is crucial to this book. It is not that the mystery is secondary; indeed, it is in the unraveling of that mystery that Harriet is able to confront her concerns about Peter and also learns more about him than in all the time she knew him.

But the crux of this book is the importance of intellectual honesty in the face of personal considerations, of the need to do work that matters to you. It is about women's struggle for a recognized place in the public realm, as well as the private.

There are wonderful by-ways here as well. Harriet's life as a writer, both of mysteries and scholarly works, is described in fine detail, with the addition of a humorous description of the 30's London literary scene. Oxford itself, both town and gown, is a character in the book. How lovingly it is drawn!
  lilithcat | Oct 6, 2018 |
"I am reading Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers and enjoying it so much. Pleasure and pain in an agreeable mixture. That's what I feel when I think of Oxford and my days at St. Hilda's." (Diary entry, 15 November 1935.) (Pym, A very private eye. Macmillan, 1984. p. 52-3.)
1 vote Barbara_Pym | Jul 11, 2017 |
Quite a scholarly work. With the Latin and French and other literary allusions, I benefitted greatly from online annotations (the first that came up in a Google search was very helpful, although I'm sure there are more comprehensive references). I empathized with Harriet as she worked out her decision about Peter, as she certainly needed the time and space to sort out her dilemma of whether to lean towards independent scholar vs. womanly woman. I kind of resent though that after her efforts at detective work, Peter just has to swoop in, Sherlockian, and solve everything. What are you saying, author? That the right balance for a woman is to aim at independence, but when things get tough, not to feel too proud to ask for help, even if it may be from a man?

The most romantic nerdy proposal though. ( )
  mrsrobin | Jun 24, 2017 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 101 (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
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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)

When Harriet Vane attends her Oxford reunion, known as the "Gaudy." the prime academic setting is haunted by a rash of bizarre pranks: scrawled obscenities, 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 slues to challenge her powers of detection, and those of her paramour, Lord Peter Wimsey. -Back cover.… (more)

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