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Saturday 15 October 2022

‘Gaudy Night’ by Dorothy L. Sayers

First Published in 1935.
Published by Hodder Paperbacks,
22 September 2016
ISBN: 978-1-47362140-4

Although detective novelist Harriet Vane was proved innocent of the murder of her lover, she still feels soiled by the mud that was thrown at her during the trial and the way her private life had become public property through the news coverage. This has caused her to consistently refuse the overtures of Lord Peter Wimsey, who had fallen in love with her while she was in the dock, had proved her innocence and steadfastly announced his wish to marry her.

Another effect of her feeling of shame was the refusal to return to Shrewsbury College, Oxford, where she had achieved her First-Class Honours Degree. But now the Warden and Dean of Shrewsbury are begging for Harriet's help to unmask the person who is sending spiteful poison pen letters and committing acts of vandalism that seem likely to bring Shrewsbury College into disrepute. It is for this reason that the Warden and Dean do not want to involve the police.

Harriet does her best to deal with the matter but the situation escalates. Harriet decides to swallow her pride and ask Lord Peter for help, only to discover that he is out of the country on diplomatic business. Fortunately, just as the situation becomes really threatening, Wimsey returns. He warns Harriet that she could well be a target for the malevolent vandal's anger. His warning and lessons in self-defence help to save Harriet's life when she is attacked.

Harriet and Wimsey combine to investigate and reveal the identity of the dangerously disturbed perpetrator. At the same time Harriet discovers much about Wimsey that she had refused to acknowledge before and is disarmed by his intelligence and integrity. At last she allows herself to succumb to the feelings she has been keeping at bay and, on the final page, in a beautifully understated and typically intellectual love scene, Harriet agrees to marry Wimsey.

'With a gesture of submission, he bared his head and stood gravely, the square cap dangling in his hand. "Placetne, magistra?" "Placet."'

Dorothy L. Sayers intended Gaudy Night to be the final book featuring Lord Peter Wimsey, although in fact it was the penultimate one and Busman's Honeymoon was the final one. Gaudy Night is not a book of violent action but rather the gradual, corrosive effect of psychological pressure upon a community whose members begin to fear they cannot trust each other. It is also a book of ideas, with debates on women's education and, five years before the start of World War 2, an attack on the Nazi belief that a woman's place was in the home. It is Harriet Vane's book as she fights her personal demons and rediscovers a world where she was happy. Lord Peter does not appear until over halfway through Gaudy Night but, once he does arrive, he dominates the book as he dominates Harriet's thoughts. Gaudy Night is the book in which Wimsey puts foolery aside and shows himself in his true colours as a scholar, diplomat and a man to whom truth is essential and cannot be denied.

Gaudy Night is a book that can be read many times and gives pleasure every time.

Reviewer: Carol Westron

Dorothy L. Sayers is the author of novels, short stories, poetry collections, essays, reviews and translations. Although she was a noted Christian scholar, she is most known for her detective fiction. Born in 1893, she was one of the first women to be awarded a degree from Oxford University. Her first book featuring Lord Peter Wimsey, Whose Body, was published in 1923 and over the next 20 years more novels and short stories about the aristocratic amateur sleuth appeared. Dorothy L. Sayers is recognized as one of the greatest mystery writers of the 20th century.

Carol Westron is a successful author and a Creative Writing teacher.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  Her first book The Terminal Velocity of Cats was published in 2013. Since then, she has since written 6 further mysteries. Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People. To read the interview click on the link below.

To read a review of Carol latest book click on the title
The Curse of the Concrete Griffin

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