Back to the Classics, very long classic

For the very long classic, we were asked to pick a classic book that was 500 pages or longer. At 564 pages my pick was Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers.

I’ve read several books by her, non fiction, and fiction. Her mysteries and short stories feature Lord Peter. Four of those are the Harriet Vane/Lord Peter novels. They are Strong Poison, Have His Carcass, Gaudy Night, and Busman’s Holiday.

I read Strong Poison, where Lord Peter and Harriet met. Have not read the second one, and have read Gaudy Night. Out of all the fiction books by her I’ve read, this is the most impressive. The literary quality to it stands up. The book is at the crossroads between old society and new order. It has all the allure of the Oxford college life, in its feminine variation, with all the issues of the times, and with a mystery weaved for a good measure of fun and intrigue. Not to forget the peculiar relationship these two have.

Sayers gives flight to her caustic humor, her sharp pen, and injects the book with her many theories about love, decorum, education, the place of women in colleges, perks, and prowess, never forcing the plot or characters out of themselves. She asks deep questions about how one should live her life, and also presents us with diverse conflicts of all ages with the flair and distinctiveness of her own times.

The book is full of small treasures that I could by no means exhaust. It can be enjoyed even when many of those went over my head. It’s a title worth revisiting. Also, if you are that type of reader, there’s notes, podcasts, and diverse resources to mine the text and to understand all the Oxford, college life, and literary and cultural references.

It’s a favorite of this first half of 2019.

12 thoughts on “Back to the Classics, very long classic

  1. Hi Silvia! As always, enjoyed the review. I’ve been waiting (since I saw “Gaudy Night” was on your list), to see how you liked it, because I love it myself. Many, many years ago, when I “didn’t like mysteries,” a close friend told me to read “Gaudy Night” before I gave up on them. I did, and was hooked for life, for all the reasons you give in your review (the nexus between old & new, the characters’ relationship, the humor, the Oxford setting). I’ve read other Sayers’ mysteries, including “Strong Poison” and “Busman’s Holiday,” but nothing else comes close.

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  2. I’ve read quite a bit of Sayers but none of her Wimsey mysteries. They’re on my list but there is so much ahead of them sometimes I despair of ever getting to them! 🙂 I had chosen Great Expectations! Yikes! I have to focus on this challenge soon or I’ll be too behind. Thanks for the reminder about Sayers and my looooong classic! 🙂

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  3. I loved all of the Lord Peter books but especially the two that feature Harriet Vane. I read them in my 20s mostly, however and really should go back and re-visit now as an old lady. I want to see if the romance is an romantic to me now as it was then. 😀

    I suspect Sayers was a little in love with her detective herself. But Harriet is truly such a perfect match for him. And I loved her because she wasn’t perfect either.

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    • I’m 48 and the romance is well constructed, at least in Gaudy Night, it was both idyllic but credible.
      She totally projects herself in the person of Harriet, and LP is probably the result of Sayer’s men and a touch of her romantic version of a partner.
      There are 4 that feature Harriet Vane: Strong Poison, Have His Carcass, Gaudy Night and Busman’s Honeymoon.


  4. I’ve been catching up on some Sayers I didn’t get to about 10 years ago when I was reading Gaudy Night & Strong Poison. I finished reading Have His Carcase the other week & did enjoy the developing relationship between Harriet & Wimsey – not that it got very far – but I didn’t like it as much as the other two. There were some code puzzles that went on for a few pages & they just went rigt over my head. I’d like to read Busman’s Holiday next plus re-read The Nine Tailors.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I may skip Have His Carcass, and go straight for Busman. I have read The Nine Tailors and it has lots of literary quality to it, it’s one or two notches above a simple mystery. However, Gaudy Night remains a favorite.
      I’m glad we have much from her. I am interested in her short stories, I am considering reading them at tandem soon.


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