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Gaudy Night

by Dorothy Sayers

In times of trouble, through endless exams and resits, when relationships came to an end, when despair was close. Always I reached for Lord Peter Wimsey and he never failed to console even when I knew all his lines.

It may seem surprising in the 21st Century to recommend fiction from before the Second World War and furthermore fiction which depends on the all the nuances of class distinction which would have been important then but are surely not now. So what is the attraction First of all Dorothy L Sayers is a great writer. Her stories are clever but are also full of pace. Her characters are believable. They have weaknesses and vanities as well as good qualities. Harriet Vane, the heroine is likely to appeal to modern educated women because that's what she was and furthermore she was highly principled. She refuses to marry Lord Peter for years because he saved her life and she cannot see how they will have a relationship on an equal footing. Furthermore he is awash with inherited wealth and Harriet has to earn a living.

Gaudy Night is the book which resolves the Harriet and Peter question. However it is also a great murder mystery set in an Oxford Women's College. Issues of womanliness are one of the themes of the book. Harriet tries to solve it all by herself but realises she is out of her depth and eventually calls on Peter to help. The rest I leave you to guess.

Suggested by Caroline Shiach, England

Tagged with: classic comforting compelling crime engrossing interesting intrigue; love; mystery mystery; oxford; period; romantic university warm,

People who liked this book also enjoyed:
House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie
Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
The Tyranny of the Blood by Jo Reed
The Beach Beneath the Pavement by Roland Denning
Will You Love Me Tomorrow? by Danny Gillan



This is a book both my mother and I return to again and again and again. I have no idea how many times I have read it but it must be well into double figures. As a teenager, I reckon I formed a lot of my ideas about how relationships should work based on Harriet and Peter - a high standard to set myself! For a long time, I couldn't reread the sequel (Busman's Honeymoon) in the same way because I thought the ending was so desperately sad. But now Jill Paton Walsh's two H&P books (Thrones and Dominations and a Presumption of Death, based on notes left by DLS) have liberated me from that. So when I'm feeling down I now have a whole host of books to go back to.
I too adore this book - I think Peter Wimsey is my favourite fictional detective (tough call though!) and I love how sensitively Sayers handles the dynamics of the relationship between these two slight prickly, highly independent individuals. I also particularly enjoyed how affectionate Sayers is towards the traditions and quirks of the university. I'm lucky enough to have moved to Oxford recently and am endlessly fascinated by any books set here - though I haven't managed to warm to Veronica Stallwood yet ;).
I love this book too! The scene in the boat on the river when Harriet watches Peter sleeping and realises she loves him... so beautiful. I couldn't agree with you about the rest of the book- the mystery is kind of dull and wretched at the same time. Love it all the same!
I love this book. Apart from being a good mystery story and a love story ( DLS was so in love with Wimsey!) It deals with issues like women's education, equality within relationships, and so on. Incidentally, although it's a mystery, no murder is committed in the book - just as well. it would have spoiled the happy ending. Peter Wimsey always suffered a breakdown each time he caused someone to be hanged. He was sooooo sensitive.
Janet Fisher
I agree completely, Caroline.I love Dorothy L. Sayers, and Gaudy Night is my favourite.Must read it again soon. A very thoughtful review.
Pam Audsley, England

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