Gaudy Night has ratings and reviews. Meredith said: A couple of years ago I thought (as a gesture to God saying something like, “Hey, we don. While Peter is on a governmental mission, Harriet attends a reunion at Oxford and is recruited to find the author of a rash of vicious poison pen letters there. Gaudy Night stands out even among Miss Sayers’s novels. And Miss Sayers has long stood in a class by herself.”—Times Literary SupplementThe great Do.
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I really liked this. I personally am going through the question of what I am being called to in my life, so it’s a timely review. Thanks for the review! Perhaps I shall read it, though I’ve tried Dorothy Sayers before and was a bit turned off by the description of a murder.
I’ve a weak stomach apparently. Gaudy Night is one of my three desert island books, so I am so glad to read such a great and thoughtful review!
I think somewhere earlier on your blog I read that you didn’t like the book, and I remember being sad that a great book and a great reviewer hadn’t hit it off – so glad you’ve come to your senses!! To Abby above – no need for caution, Gaudy Night is not actually a murder mystery! It is a mystery, but the crimes are less serious.
Excellent post, and even though you say it’s not a review per seI’m totally bumping this book up on my TBR list. Abby, I hope you do read the book!
No murders in this one: Maggie, I have indeed come to my senses.
Don’t know what was wrong with me! Nawelle and Hamlette, I hope you do read this book! I would love to hear your thoughts when you’re done! I feel sure it’s going to take me many more reads nightt appreciate its depths – I sensed a lot more going on under the surface than I was able to grasp in this reading. Sorry for sayerrs of responses to comments! Wow, where to start. OK, how about this: It enunciates everything you’ve been thinking about and expresses everything you’ve been feeling.
Gaudy Nighthowever, was not. I’m not actually entirely sayerw it was in that I read this book first, but it can’t have been any nght.
I didn’t appreciate or sympathise with the book at all that first time, with the result that I spent nigyt lot of time giving Dorothy Sayers the sidelong squint-eye. Well, better late than never, right? This is a Lord Peter Wimsey mystery, but it focuses on, and tells the story from the perspective of, Harriet Vane, the woman Peter has at this point in the novels’ continuity been pursuing stubbornly for five years.
A successful mystery writer and sometime assistant to Peter in his investigations, Harriet is an alumnus of Shrewsbury, an Oxford women’s college fictional, of course. When someone starts sending threatening letters to the staff and students of Shrewsbury and vandalising the grounds, the professors worry that any scandal might injure Shrewsbury’s reputation and women’s education in general.
So they ask former student Harriet to investigate. With Peter on a Foreign Office mission to Europe, Saters has only her own wits and resources to call on.
“A Dorothy L. Sayers Mystery” Gaudy Night: Episode One (TV Episode ) – IMDb
As the situation in Shrewsbury threatens to become fatal, Harriet senses that the time has come to make a final decision regarding Peter Wimsey. But nagging questions persist. Should a professional woman take on personal responsibilities? Can the life of the heart coexist with the life of the intellect?
Is vocation and calling more important than marriage and family? Will marriage to Peter destroy her as an individual, or can it truly nigjt a union of equals? A lot of this went over my head when I first read the book. Inthough, I’m reminded what a different person I am now.
Gaudy Night: Episode One
These days, I’m roughly the same age as Harriet Vane. Like Harriet, I’m somewhat of an intellectual. Like Harriet, I’m an author though not as successful! Yes, this identification dorotby Harriet is very new to me. She gave me the irrits ngiht a teen. The whole book is nght tightly-knitted in terms of theme, and the theme has to do with women and calling. There’s something, by the way, that feels fresh and faintly subversive or perhaps I should say superversive about how Sayers depicts these women.
They may spend hours discussing philosophy and ssyers, but are equally at home debating a dress or a hat. Early in the book, Harriet meets an old fellow-student who has married a farmer and spends her life helping him farm.
All that brilliance, all that trained intelligence, harnessed to a load that any uneducated country girl could have drawn far better. The thing had its compensations, she supposed. She asked the question dorthy. Oh yes, it was certainly worth it. The job was worth doing. One was serving the land. And that, she gady to convey, was a service harsh and austere indeed, but a finer thing than spinning words on paper. I know why I might have found this hard to swallow as a teen.
From this, Christians have accurately deducted that wives are intended by God to assist their husbands in their callings. But in doing so, many have erroneously concluded that calling is not important for women as it is for men. A man may be called to anything, but a woman is only called to help whatever man is most important in her life syers the moment. The result may be a refusal to treat women as individual members of the kingdom of God. There are a couple of problems with this, and Sayers pinpoints them unerringly in this book.
First, and most powerfully, men can be wrong or even wicked. Ethics must always trump personal loyalty. One does not stand by one’s man, right or wrong. A woman must have a strong sense of personal principle, which means that she cannot be defined by her relationships to other sinners.
Second, women are quite as capable as men of important cultural work, whether as intellectuals or as farmers or mechanics or as family women. Dominion work–the work of cultivating and tending the resources of the earth and its inhabitants–is something which each individual in the kingdom of God is called to.
It’s an ethical question as well as a practical one, and I think Sayers shows keen insight in linking professional integrity with basic ethics. This dominion work, while it obviously includes family, is not limited to family.
Indeed, the two may in certain cases come into conflict. Jesus specifically told us to be ready to give up family for his sake in Matthew And if we have a robust view of individual calling in the kingdom of God, then we’ll see that it has to extend to women as well as to men.
Bojidar Marinov’s comments on Proverbs 31 are excellent: She is not described as a passive participant in a collective; not even her family is described as a collective where she participates in some collective actions. Under some well-meaning but misplaced views of the family gaudj the relationships within the family, some modern commentators are trying to present her as acting under the constant direction and supervision of her husband, as his errand boy or servant.
From this perspective, Harriet’s question becomes increasingly urgent: While Mrs Bendick is an example of a woman whose individuality has been “devoured” by her husband’s calling, Harriet refers to her friend Phoebe’s marriage as something else: An overworked student, Miss Newland, nigjt warned to get away from her work faudy find rest and companionship.
A don, Miss de Vine, explains how she once broke her engagement after realising that she was more invested in her academic career than in her fiance. Another faculty member, Miss Hillyard, bitterly reproaches a married secretary for being unable to keep her mind on her job, and the secretary, Mrs Goodwin, ultimately agrees with her, giving up her job so that she can focus on the needs of her sickly young nigjt. There’s a very good reason why Harriet finally accepts Peter’s proposal while they’re walking home from a concert.
They have been listening to counterpoint music, and Wimsey makes the metaphor explicit. Marriage should be counterpoint, not harmony. And if you can’t find someone who you will be more productive with, then perhaps you’re called to be alone. It isn’t wrong to be someone’s helper, but it is wrong to ignore questions of fitness and suitability.
In one of the most important scenes in the book, Harriet and Peter have a long conversation with the Shrewsbury Nighf faculty about exactly these questions. Their discussion revolves around a hypothetical man.
The fact is, men also have family responsibilities that may interfere with their callings. They may feel called to do something which doesn’t provide enough income to feed a family or which interferes with private life in some other way.
Gaudy Night – Wikipedia
The question, then, is so much bigger than feminism. It’s the question of calling versus relationship, work versus life.
Of course, the two shouldn’t be disentangled and pitted against each other. The dominion mandate makes no wide difference between working the earth and populating the earth. Somehow, most of us are supposed to do both. Both work and relationships are to be ruled by ethics. But the dominion mandate was given doroothy a perfect world, a world without death, a world of limitless time.
The reason why the question of calling versus family has any urgency at all is because of death. We aren’t just cursed with pain in labour of both kinds –we’re cursed with a very limited time in which to get anything done. But that should also remind us of our hope. Ultimately, those who submit themselves to the grace and ethics of God know they can look forward to an eternity of uncursed work and uncursed relationships.