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on 2 October 2016
I have recently been converting the rest of my "whodunnit" collection to Kindle, and have just finished re-reading the Kindle version of Gaudy Night, my favourite Wimsey book. The book is superb, as ever, but oh, the misprints! Almost every page has its quota of miss-spellings and punctuation mistakes. It's a crime to do this to such a good book. The book receives 5 stars, of course, but the formatting deserves at most one. What a shame!
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on 21 July 2017
Good production values and the focus on Harriet Vane with Lord Peter taking a back seat for once is a novel way of portraying this story. Nicely done and easy on the ear.
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on 3 August 2017
good cd.
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on 18 July 2017
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on 26 August 2010
About her book "Gaudy Night," Dorothy L. Sayers had this to say:

"It would be idle to deny that the city and University of Oxford (in aeternum floreant) do actually exist...." But, "Shrewsbury College, with its dons, students and scouts, is entirely imaginary; nor are the distressing events described as taking place within its wall founded upon any events that have ever occurred anywhere. Detective-story writers are obliged by their disagreeable profession to invent startling and unpleasant incidents and people, and are (I presume) at liberty to imagine what might happen if such incidents and people were to intrude upon the life of an innocent and well-ordered community.... Certain apologies are, however, due from me: first to the University of Oxford, for having presented it ... with a college of 150 women students, in excess of the limit ordained by statute. Next, and with deep humility, to Balliol College--not only for having saddled it with so wayward an alumnus as Peter Wimsey, but also for my monstrous impertinence in having erected Shrewsbury College upon its spacious and sacred cricket-ground."

That passage will give you a feeling for Sayers' rather grand, even lofty (by detective story standards, anyway) prose style, as well as the tongue-in-cheek, in-your-eye amusement that lurks behind her formal persona.

When I first encountered Sayers and fell into a binge of reading her works, I was a teenager. With the breezy assurance of that age, I confidently ranked "Gaudy Night" as her feeblest work and "The Nine Tailors"--or maybe "Murder Must Advertise" as her best. If anyone at the time had asked me why I had done so, I would have pointed out that the mystery element was only a strand among many in "Gaudy Night," and far from the most important one. Moreover, I'd have said, it's a Lord Peter Wimsey novel and Wimsey doesn't even turn up until Chapter IV, after which he promptly disappears for a couple of hundred pages.

And yet, over the years when, for whatever reason, one of these books came to mind, I might think, "Murder Must Advertise," yes, very clever, Lord Peter writing ad copy and all that, or "The Nine Tailors," yes, very clever, those bells and all that. But for "Gaudy Night," my thoughts would more likely take this sort of turn: that Harriet Vane has some very odd ideas and notions. We certainly are beyond that sort of thing today--but I know some people who share most or all of those very some ideas and notions. They are walking anachronisms and yet, here they are, unquestionably my contemporaries. On some days, I even find myself agreeing with her and concluding that the lunatics have taken over our Twenty-first Century asylum.

Or consider Harriet Vane as a fictional character--amusing, humorless, witty, ponderous, brilliant, too often plodding Harriet. She is, of course, Dorothy L. Sayers (in every aspect that Sayers, herself, would regard as significant), pinned on the pages of the book like some strange sort of moth, a specimen preserved and displayed for the examination of the ages.

I recently encountered a 1944, wartime edition of "Gaudy Night" in a bookshop window. On its copyright page, it proudly bore the motto, "Books are weapons in the war of ideas." The book was published in an era of tight paper rationing and extreme austerity, but what a wonderfully sensuous volume it was with its thick, creamy paper, exquisite printing, wide margins and excellent commercial binding in dark blue book cloth. I snapped it up (how could I not?), and read it that evening. It was, I suppose, my fifth or sixth journey through the book.

I am no longer a teenager (alas), and I no longer consider "Gaudy Night" to be Sayers' feeblest work. It might very well be her best: better than "Murder Must Advertise," better than "The Nine Tailors" and certainly much better than the workmanlike (but no more) translation of Dante for which she abandoned her true literary vocation in her final years.

Some mystery fans downgrade "Gaudy Night" because it is a weak mystery novel. A couple of such fans are to be found right here among the Amazon reviewers of the book. They are quite right. It is a weak mystery novel. It is, in fact, just a novel, but a very good one.

The true peers of "Gaudy Night" are not such classic mysteries as Christie's "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd" or Marsh's "A Man Lay Dying," but English academic novels, the likes of Amis' "Lucky Jim" or Snow's "The Masters." If the literary arena is widened to include plays, then "Gaudy Night" shares space with "The Browning Version" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"

Here is Dorothy L. Sayers again, this time as Sayers the novelist:

"Harriet Vane sat at her writing-table and stared out into Mecklenburg Square.... A letter lay open on the blotting-pad before her, but its image had faded from her mind to make way for another picture. She saw a stone quadrangle, built by a modern architect in a style neither new or old, stretching out reconciling hands to past and present. Folded within its walls lay a trim grass plot, with flower-beds splashed at the angles, and surrounded by a stone plinth. Behind the level roofs of Cotswold slate rose the brick chimneys of an older and less formal pile of buildings--a quadrangle also of a kind, but still keeping a domestic remembrance of the original Victorian dwelling-houses that had sheltered the first shy students of Shrewsbury College....

"Memory peopled the quad with moving figures. Students sauntering in pairs. Students dashing to lectures, their gowns hitched hurriedly over light summer frocks, the wind jerking their flat caps into the absurd likeness of so many jesters' coxcombs. Bicycles stacked in the porters' lodge, their carriers piled with books and gowns twisted about their handle-bars. A grizzled woman don crossing the turf with vague eyes.... Tall spikes of delphiniums against the grey, quiveringly blue like flames. The college cat, preoccupied and remote, stalking with tail erect in the direction of the buttery."

Five stars (with flower-beds splashed at the angles, of course.)
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on 20 June 2016
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on 29 May 2017
Filled the gap in my Lord Peter Wimsey audio collection.
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on 17 May 2017
Not typical Sayers - long and low to get going but by the end the mystery and the romance are wrapped up with the author's usual skill
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I first read `Gaudy Night' about 40 years ago and I have re-read it many times since. It's a book which can be read on many levels. First for the mystery of who is writing the poison pen letters; second for the growing relationship between Harriet Vane and Peter Wimsey; thirdly for the position of women in 1930s society; and fourth for the consequences of a crime on those connected with both criminal and victim.

Set in a fictitious Oxford College - Shrewsbury - the story features an outbreak of graffiti and poison pen letters sent to students and staff at the college. Shrewsbury is Harriet Vane's alma mater and she is asked to try and help the dons unravel the mystery. Harriet returns to Oxford to attend the college Gaudy (reunion) and finds no one pays attention to her own chequered past (see `Strong Poison'). When she receives an unpleasant anonymous letter the thing becomes personal and she feel compelled to get involved.

There is tension around the issue of married women not putting their jobs before their families and much ill feeling between certain members of the college on this issue. Should women have careers or should they have families? Can they have both and do both well? There are examples, good and bad, of all situations in the novel. Truth and honesty are also philosophical questions which are involved in the story. Should people be punished for suppressing facts which interfere with their theories especially if the punishment adversely affects their dependents?

Relationships between men and women and the proper basis for these are also explored. Harriet values honesty in herself and others and does not see her role in society as looking after a man and bringing up his children. Should women always put their husband and children first? This is a novel way ahead of its time as it foreshadows the questions posed by the second wave of feminism in the 1960s and 1970s.

If you read this novel solely for the crime element you may be disappointed as there is no murder and the crimes involved are relatively minor. The book needs to be read in the context of the mores and morals of the 1930s rather than applying the standards of the 21st century to the behaviour of the characters. That said, there is much in this complex novel which is still of relevance in today's world and it is well worth reading several times in order to appreciate its structure and the way the clues and red herrings are placed. It is a masterpiece of plotting and its sheer craftsmanship far outweighs the odd jarring note which may be apparent to modern readers.
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on 12 January 2001
well, I simply loved this book. But the ones out there who need corpses and action, turn back now. This is a character-piece. Also, if you haven't read "Strong Poison" and "Have His Carcase", I recommend you read them first. You don't need it to understand the story, but it is necessary to understand both Harriet and Peter Wimsey, and more importantly, their relationship. And if you don't like Harriet Vane, don't bother either. I, for one, liked Harriet a lot, and it was great to see her develop from love-interest in "Strong Poison" to an independant, strongly-built character in "Have his Carcase" and this book. The fascination of this novel is not driven by the crimes committed, but by the atmosphere of the place and Harriet's state of mind. Psychology, philosophy and an entire world-view are examined and presented. One really would like to be part of this community, as it is depicted. But what clinches it for me is again, the romance, if you can call it that. Harriet's relationship with Peter Wimsey at it's best and worst. The developement of Peter is also quite clear,he is given a depth he never had before So, conclusion: a great book, lots of atmosphere, lots of romance, lots of character. I hated it when this book ended...
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