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Does anyone want to chat about Dorothy L Sayers' books with me?

(173 Posts)
LRDtheFeministDragon Sun 02-Jun-13 16:45:40

From a feministy perspective, I mean. I've just recently got into them so haven't read that many, but things keep striking me. Not just Sayers herself having a feminist perspective (though she obviously does), but also details about the time period I wouldn't have known about.

The thing that made me smile most recently was in Gaudy Night, she has a conversation between Harriet Vane and one of the dons at her fictional Oxford college, who observe that the women undergraduates have a bad habit of sunbathing in their underwear and really, this is unfair ('not on the [male] undergraduates - they're used to it') on the male dons who might wander through the quad and see them.

It just struck me that it's such a different image from the rather buttoned-up idea of attitudes towards women's bodies I'd expect from that time.

What does anyone else think?

And what do you think of Jill Paton Walsh finishing of Sayers' last unfinished draft and writing continuations? Is it a travesty, or is this the kind of collaboration that feminism ought to be supporting? There being that argument that the 'lone genius author' is a concept that's always associated more with men than with women.

UptoapointLordCopper Wed 14-Aug-13 16:43:56

I've read a few Ellis Peters Brother Cadfael books in my time. grin I like Brother Cadfael. Is he a feminist? Can't remember but I remember thinking he's a really nice person.

MooncupGoddess Wed 14-Aug-13 16:46:53

I had never noticed that, LRD! Sayers was v. enlightened and open to 'alternative lifestyles' (as other people have said, much more so than JPW).

There are some good strong women in Cadfael, aren't there - I remember a feisty prioress in particular.

UptoapointLordCopper Wed 14-Aug-13 17:21:12

One Peters reminds me of another Peters - Elizabeth Peters - I only read her Vicky Bliss books. They are quite fun. But I don't think I thought too much about how feminist they are ... Must do better. grin Sara Paretsky's VI Warshawshki books are pretty good too.

The first word that pops into my head when Cadfael is mention is "kind". Those books make me want to go to Shrewsbury. grin Anyone been?

LRDYaDumayuShtoTiKrasiviy Wed 14-Aug-13 17:26:02

Ahhh, so much I need to read. smile

TeiTetua Wed 14-Aug-13 17:55:34

Just coincidentally, I read The Confession of Brother Haluin when I found it on the bookshelf in a place I was staying last month. I'd forgotten how good those books could be! Of course there's a lot of fantasy to it, but there's a lot of detail that's at least plausible if you don't know too much about the middle ages (if a historian read the books she'd probably never stop muttering, "No, that wouldn't have happened, no the society of that day would never have tolerated that kind of thing, etc etc)

And yes, Cadfael does seem to radiate goodwill. Of course he's religious (being a monk, and all) but I think he'd say that the best way to serve God is to do what you can to help other people. I liked Hugh Beringar too--he's not so likeable in the TV series IIRC--the sheriff who did what his job required him to do, but who tried to make Shrewsbury a reasonable place to live.

TheDoctrineOfJetlag Wed 14-Aug-13 18:18:36

I don't remember that bit about the school, Isabel - wasn't Bredon already at Eton along with PB?

What pee'd me off about the fire was HV's reaction to something that was on the cards for years - didn't make sense.

Alas, poor Winifred - the invisible girl-child! (now there's something unfeminist - if you ain't the son and heir, you ain't nothing!)

TheDoctrineOfJetlag Wed 14-Aug-13 18:25:43

Me neither, Mooncup. Though Unnatural Death is alternative, for sure!

At the end of Murder Must Advertise, I didn't like that two characters were getting married as it seemed to be a win for the Doctrine (grin) of Persistence trope - ie man pursues woman, crowds her and pisses her off, but ends up winning her hand in marriage, blah blah,

TeiTetua Wed 14-Aug-13 18:42:09

In the Cadfael books, Winifred is a saint. A dead one, however.

FairPhyllis Thu 15-Aug-13 03:30:35

Elizabeth Peters died last week, actually. Here is her obit in the Post. I nodded with recognition at the bit about her being unable to find employment in academia

The only novel I've read of hers is the first one in the Amelia Peabody series (Crocodile on the Sandbank). Amelia is very much a Victorian feminist of the redoubtable lady adventurer type. I found her a bit of a Mary Sue tbh but if you are looking for a historical romp then you could do a lot worse.

UptoapointLordCopper Thu 15-Aug-13 20:23:10

I read about Elizabeth Peters. sad I've not read the Peabody books, but will give it a go. I like historical novels - that's how I learn my history. grin

Wiki said St Winifred was killed by a suitor. shock

TeiTetua Thu 15-Aug-13 22:40:29

Yes yes, St Winifred suffered male violence against women. Her suitor Caradoc did cut her head off, but then her uncle St Beuno put her together again, and "invoked the chastisement of heaven, and Caradoc fell dead on the spot, the popular belief being that the ground opened and swallowed him". So that was all right, wasn't it.

And we're thinking detective stories can be a little far-fetched.

UptoapointLordCopper Fri 16-Aug-13 08:18:52

Detective story plots have nothing on stories of saints. wink Even the Michael Innes ones which I consider pretty far-fetched. I can't remember what Cadfael thought about Winifred.

TheDoctrineOfPositivityYes Thu 22-Aug-13 21:23:34


George's treatment of Sheila is pretty sexist in Bellona Club.

MooncupGoddess Thu 22-Aug-13 22:25:53

Yes, but the authorial voice (and Wimsey) are very much on Sheila's side, as I recall; she's the breadwinner and shown desperately keeping everything together while George falls apart.

There is a Cadfael novel about a saint being buried and dug up again miraculously intact, isn't there? Or something like that... it's a long time since I read them.

TheDoctrineOfPositivityYes Fri 23-Aug-13 14:45:48

True, Mooncup.

UptoapointLordCopper Sat 24-Aug-13 18:41:55

Hello all! Nothing useful to say except that I've been to Wales and back and somehow managed not to see a single abbey or castle ruins. Have seen LOTS of beaches though. smile

And I'm reading Rebus - Standing in another man's grave. So nice to see Rebus again. (Yes yes I know he's fictional.) Haven't thought about how he stacks up though. But plenty to think about in the Rebus books.

ModeratelyObvious Thu 19-Sep-13 23:52:04

Rebus, haven't read any. That's probably really bad, right?

EmpressOfTheSevenOceans Fri 20-Sep-13 00:10:28

The Amelia Peabody books are great at first but about halfway through the series they turn more into parodies or caricatures of themselves, I thought.

UptoapointLordCopper Fri 20-Sep-13 13:35:15

Rebus: there's only really Siobhan in most of the books. Standing in another man's grave has another high ranking female police officer. Rebus was told about this police officer, he said something about "him" and was told the police officer was female, he apologised for his mistake. The assumption was not OK, the reply was. Yes? As to the relationship between Siobhan and Rebus ... I like it that when he was warned not to be a "bad influence" he said that she was her own person and not to be thought of as a lackey. Hmm. I don't really know what to think about the Rebus books. But I love them.

Rebus is a lot like V I Washawski. Has anyone read the Sara Paretsky books?

TheDoctrineOfWho Sat 23-Nov-13 21:04:25

Just finished 'Conundrums for the Long Weekend' which is about the genesis of LPW and has a timeline of him/DLS/Britain at the end. Really interesting! Apparently the first third of 'Thrones, Dominations' was pretty much verbatim from DLS's manuscript, apart from excluding a discussion of LPW's sexuality (!) but the rest was JPW, including the murder itself. Looks like DLS started it as a musing on two different kinds of marriage, the Wimseys' one and the Harwells' one.

And they think that the car incident at the start of 'The Nine Tailors' was concurrent with Miss Climpson's seance work in 'Strong Poison'.

Lord Copper, I haven't read any Paretsky. Do you recommend them?

UptoapointLordCopper Sun 24-Nov-13 21:36:06

Hello doctrine! Haven't looked here for a while!

Sara Paretsky is REALLY REALLY good. I've read Hard Time, and Hardball and Killing Orders. And will read more.

UptoapointLordCopper Sun 24-Nov-13 21:37:23

They are SO good.

TheDoctrineOfSanta Sun 29-Dec-13 20:08:22

New JPW Wimsey book out!

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