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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 ratingConversations / Mentions
5,4851501,917 (4.3)1 / 528
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.
  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
    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.
  3. 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.
  4. 20
    Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis (kraaivrouw)
  5. 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.
  6. 32
    A College of Magics by Caroline Stevermer (bmlg)
    bmlg: lively and engaging depiction of the community of women scholars
  7. 10
    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.
1930s (94)

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» See also 528 mentions

English (141)  German (3)  Danish (3)  Spanish (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (149)
Showing 1-5 of 141 (next | show all)
Dorothy L. Sayers was a snob of the highest order, and not at all my cup of tea. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing wrong with authors who are antiquated in style (Proust, one of my homeboys) or problematic (Woody Allen's comedy) or indeed high-and-mighty, antiquated, and problematic (my bookshelf is a shrine to Lawrence Durrell) but something about Sayers puts me off.

Is it her half-page epigraphs at the commencement of each chapter? Her rambling style? Her characters' proclivity to burst into Latin without a footnote, even in a modern edition (not necessarily a problem for a classicist such as myself, but still annoying)? Or the sheer audacity of a 520-page mystery novel? I mean, even at their best, these things - whether by Christie, Marsh, Tey, or Innes - were designed to be amusements to pass the time, not Tolstoy. Perhaps it's Harriet Vane's unwillingness to really get involved in solving the mystery, and leaving it up to her bf.

Either way, I didn't enjoy Sayers in highschool and I still don't care for Gaudy Night but I appreciate that - much like my willingness to get lost in Pym or Zola - for some, Sayers fits their heart and soul specifically. I'll stick to the other Golden Age crime writers, thanks. (Delectable speech by the non-murderer at the end, though!) ( )
  therebelprince | Apr 21, 2024 |
A beautifully crafted story, weaving together Sayers trademark mystery writing with the love story of Peter and Harriet, a deep understanding of Oxford, and insights into the role of women in society. It feels like it was the book Sayers was waiting to write, more personal than her earlier mystery novels. ( )
  atreic | Apr 15, 2024 |
A very intellectually dense mystery. The author includes many references to Latin, Greek and British literature within the witty banter regarding a "poison pen" at Oxford.
While interesting, it made for slow reading. The references did not move the story along, rather the opposite. It did prove that a) The author was an intellectual snob, b) so were her characters.
That being said, it did make a case for early feminism, via the "Life of the Mind".....a brilliant mind is worth developing, even if it resides in a female (or other less respected human being).
Although it was considered very progressive for the time,it hasn't aged well. ( )
  Chrissylou62 | Apr 11, 2024 |
This was my first Dorothy Sayers novel, and I have to say I am a bit in love with Lord Peter Whimsey. What I found very interesting about this novel was its treatment of men and women, and the insightful ways that Sayers explores their thoughts and actions. Peter Whimsey is one of a few token males in this book, and the rest of the characters are mostly women of academic standing at a college in Oxford. They are all developed very well, as is the heroine Harriet Vane. I don't know that I have ever met another character who is as clear headed, emotionally aware, and downright savage as Harriet Vane. If you're going to read it, I recommend starting with Strong Poison and Have His Carcase. ( )
  pianistpalm91 | Apr 7, 2024 |
If I had picked the books for the 1001 Books lists, I would have chosen this book first from this series, I think.
This is a story about a woman very much like the marginally educated Conservatives who vote for and blindly support political men like Donald Trump, and the lengths she would go to to destroy the modern world that she sees as responsible for her husband's poor choices and unfortunate end. This book takes on the issue of women's education and the role of women in society. The story is set in the 1930's as tensions are building on the Continent, and with the effects of Great Depression and WW1 launching more women into roles seen for generations as suitable only for men. Harriet gets to do most of the sleuthing herself in this book, too, while Peter is away dealing with international relations in France and Poland.

In this book, too, it is mentioned that Peter is 45yrs old. He always seems older to me, but he's not actually all that old after all. ( )
  JBarringer | Dec 15, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 141 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (68 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dorothy L. Sayersprimary authorall editionscalculated
Carmichael, IanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
George, ElizabethIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Juva, KerstiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ledwidge, NatachaIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ludwidge, NatachaIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McDowell, JaneNarratorsecondary 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.
[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.
'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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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.

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