Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I recommend Gaudy Night

I've been on an "all you can eat" Dorothy Sayers binge lately (as my facebook friends have no doubt noticed) and I have to say that my favorite of her novels is still _Gaudy_Night_.

Why? Well for starters, as many of my friends know, I have a fondness for Strong Female Characters (yes, I know,some of you are shaking your heads right now-pretend you don't know me for a minute) so I naturally prefer the novels with Harriet Vane in them to the straight up Lord Peter Wimsey ones. (another aside-I've mentioned earlier on this blog that at some if my lowest points over the last month and a half I have imagined Miss Vane talking to me and saying stern but comforting things and it really has made me feel better. Does that make me crazy?)

Not only is _Gaudy_Night_ a Harriet Vane novel, but it appeals to my inner Romantic, my inner Feminist, my inner Historian and my inner Pragmatist/Enjoyer-of-Thorny-Problems. Needless to say, It is very rare for a work of literature to interest all of those aspects of my personality at the same time.

So let's start with the easy ones. This book is historically interesting because it was published in England in 1937 and is set at a woman's college (well a ladies college). This is long before all women became "sisters." there are female servants(Scouts) who are treated no better or worse than the domestic staff at any of the other locations in which Lord Peter solves crimes. The male staff have no problems discussing amongst themselves how England could use "a 'itlar." I find this comment particularly interesting because I cannot imagine any post WWII English writer including such a remark-even to give historical verisimilitude. This book is a snapshot of a rare environment. As such it is historically interesting.

My inner Pragmatist finds it interesting to watch the discussions of the "professional" women-the professors and dons about the difficulties of having staff that have to stay home to deal with sick children. They wonder what they went and hired these women for-knowing that they had children who were bound to get sick sooner or later. In fact the axis on which the book turns is Woman's Place in Society and whether one can have a life of the mind as well as a romantic life (until I meet my own Lord Peter I think the answer is still no unless you are very, very lucky.)

For the record I have some sympathy with the characters who wonder what they've gone and hired women with children for, but I was also pleased to see that some of the dons are happy to put up with the bother because one of the women in question is a widow and needs the job.

As the book is set at a ladies college in 1937 and concerns a poison pen writer, the members of the college are reluctant to involve the police for fear what people will say (celibate women, "soured virginity"--of course one of 'em went of her rocker-weren't made for the life of the mind, women.) Even our heroine Miss Vane is sure that's what's at the bottom of it all. Lord Peter is more rational. He says "It's no use saying vaguely that sex is at the bottom of these phenomena-that's about as helpful as saying that human nature is at the bottom of them. Sex isn't a separate thing functioning all by itself.it's usually found attached to a person of some sort." which statement I thought rather forward-thinking for 1937.

That's most of the interesting analysis. My inner feminist is intrigued that they *had* women's colleges in 1937 (although they were obviously not for everyone, Harriet Vane is a country doctor's daughter-not an aristocrat.) And my inner romantic finds it interesting watching the interaction of Lord Peter and Harriet Vane and seeing what she thinks of him and about him.

And for the record I don't think I'll ever use this app again. Not only did this take at least twice the time it would have taken for me to write this out on a computer with a real keyboard, but I'm sure it has way more spelling errors than it otherwise would have had.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

1 comment:

oboediva said...

First of all, if you typed all of that on an iPhone, you are a miracle worker. I love my iPhone, but can't stand the "keyboard."

Second, have you read "The Nine Tailors" yet? My very favorite. The PBS dramatization done in the mid-70s is quite good, too.