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Dorothy L. Sayers: Her Life and Soul

3.82  ·  Rating Details  ·  146 Ratings  ·  21 Reviews
Mystery writer Dorothy Sayers is loved and remembered, most notably, for the creation of sleuths Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. As this biography attests, Sayers was also one of the first women to be awarded a degree from Oxford, a playwright, and an essayist--but also a woman with personal joys and tragedies. Here, Reynolds, a close friend of Sayers, presents a convi ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published November 13th 2002 by St. Martins Press-3pl (first published March 18th 1993)
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Jul 23, 2011 Kim rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Dorothy L Sayers was a poet, novelist, playwright, philosopher and translator and she makes a fine subject for a biography. Barbara Reynolds knew Sayers well, edited collections of her letters and completed her translation of Dante's The Divine Comedy and she makes a most suitable biographer.

The biography relies heavily on Sayers' letters. This is a good thing, because the letters are marvellous: she wrote them from childhood till the end of her life and they are clever, witty and full of insig
Aug 13, 2015 Margaret rated it really liked it
Upon rereading all of the Lord Peter Wimsey novels, I decided that it was high time I read a biography of their author, Dorothy L. Sayers. I chose Barbara Reynolds's biography because it had gotten good reviews and because I knew that Reynolds was a friend of Sayers (whose translation of Dante's Divine Comedy Reynolds completed after Sayers died). After reading Reynolds's book, I think that Reynolds's closeness to Sayers was both a help and a hindrance to the biography.

Reynolds's narrative of Sa
Karlyne Landrum
Apr 17, 2012 Karlyne Landrum rated it it was amazing
I've had this sitting on my desk for review for several months now because I wanted to take the time to make insightful comments and justify my 5 star rating. But if I wait for that time, I'll never get the rest of my garden planted or dinner made or kids played with. So, therefore, all I'll say is that this book makes me sad that I never knew Dorothy L. Sayers in the flesh and extremely happy that I know her through her books!
Matthew Mitchell
Feb 23, 2014 Matthew Mitchell rated it really liked it
Fascinating study of a fascinating woman. This books is well-researched, carefully written and sympathetic to its subject.

I would say that it is also comprehensive, but I found myself wanting more information about Sayers' days in advertising (the background for "Murder Must Advertise") and her friendships with the Inklings C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien (not much shared here, made me wonder if there isn't much to the story or if it was laid out).

There are sections where I felt we were given too
Jul 13, 2015 Barbara rated it really liked it
What a fascinating person Dorothy L Sayers was! This book showed her as a serious thinker from childhood. She was one of the first women to graduate from Oxford (where she met Vera Brittain) In addition to her wonderful Peter Wimsey books, she wrote theological books and did translations of the Song of Roland and Dante's Divine Comedy. Of special interest to me, she was also a musician. She played violin and viola at a professional level, as well as some piano. She sang in a Bach choir that perf ...more
Feb 06, 2015 Ariel rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fic
A close friend of mystery novelist Dorothy Sayers tells her story and ties Sayers's books to autobiographical details.

Sayers was the daughter of a country clergyman, who went to Somerville College, the second woman's college permitted at Oxford, only 45 years after it was established. She worked in the nascent advertising business, taught school, and finally settled upon writing mysteries. Like her famous creation Harriet Vane, she "lived in sin" with a man who claimed to oppose marriage on phi
Lisa Dornell
A fascinating look into the life of an equally fascinating woman. If you're a fan of Miss Sayers books, I highly recommend this for insights into the real-life persons behind such characters as Lord Peter, Harriet Vane, and Bunter. Plus a more than unusually frank look at her personal life, her marriage, and her son. The author, Barbara Reynolds, was a friend of Miss Sayers and that, perhaps, explains the information that I haven't seen elsewhere.
Mar 31, 2014 Terra rated it really liked it
The author knew Dorothy Sayers for many years and this biography offers to us the inner motivations and details of Ms. Sayer's life, as much as any biographer can convey of her subject. I like the addition of many photos, and explanations of how Lord Peter Wimsey came to be. I did not know Ms. Sayers had a child out of wedlock, which was kept secret to avoid scandal and to protect her parents who were about 70, her father a clergyman and her mother who suffered from nerves. Sayers eventually mar ...more
May 05, 2016 Reds_reads rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Biography of Dorothy L Sayers, best known now for the Lord Peter Wimsey detective novels, but renowned post WWII for her religious writings too, written by her friend Barbara Reynolds.

Reynolds has written this biography with a balance over the years and between private and professional life, which I really enjoyed and found informative. The descriptions of DLS's life, family & contempories are vivid, and often in her own words, and throughout the book I felt the author gave us a full picture
Regine Haensel
Apr 30, 2014 Regine Haensel rated it really liked it
Loved this book. It gave me a greater appreciation of her life and work, and how hard it was for her to be a writer and support herself in the early days. Also, I learned things about her life that I did not know before -- that she had a son for example. Also that she worked in advertising, which explains why Murder Must Advertise is such a good book -- I worked in advertising, too and even in the present day the book was true to life in my experience (minus the murder).
Aug 19, 2015 Pgchuis rated it liked it
I read this in preparation for a course focussing mainly on the Peter Wimsey novels, so I more or less stopped reading after that section. Very interesting and very detailed, with lots of quotations from letters written to or by the author. The question of money and the lack thereof at times was surprising to me: I had somehow assumed that she moved in Wimseyesque circles (and her early childhood does sound pretty pampered) but by adulthood, she was definitely more like Harriet Vane and earning ...more
Aug 04, 2014 Mary rated it really liked it
It was so good to read this biography after enjoying Gaudy Night and The Busman's Honeymoon. Sayers was an amazing woman whose life is reflected in her novels. I fear, however, that the loves of her own life never quite measured up to Lord Peter Wimsey.
Apr 17, 2016 Tony rated it really liked it
Re-read this recently, for research purposes.
Sep 15, 2015 Teri rated it did not like it
Just couldn't get into it.
Oct 25, 2013 Yeemay rated it liked it
I adore DLS and it was about time I read more about her. It is somewhat hagriographic in tone but also refreshingly honest and analytical. I hadn't been aware of her celebrity status in the 40's following her religious plays and BBC productions. Can't wait to reread all my fav Lord Peter Whimsy stories now with knowledge that some of the characters were based on her friends and lovers.
Feb 16, 2008 Linnea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography-memoir
It is very interesting to get a much more complete picture of Sayers' amazing life and intellect from this biography written by a good friend and colleague of hers (who finished her Dante translation after Sayers' death), but I enjoyed Sayers' own letters even more (two collections edited by Reynolds as well). I preferred hearing about her life in her own words.
Although I heard somewhere that this was a good biography, I could not get into this book at all. I am not a huge fan of Dorothy Sayers, so I think that did not help me feel the urge to continue. Finally gave up after the first three chapters, but I'm sure there are more interesting bits in later parts. Ah well, sometimes things just don't suit certain people.
Dec 22, 2013 Carolyn rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
An interesting biography since I was not familiar with DLS's life at all, and Reynolds quotes extensively from Sayers' personal correspondence.
Apr 19, 2008 Patrick\ rated it really liked it
I don't think anybody can capture the depth and breadth of Sayers. An amazing Christian, apologist, philosopher, novelist.
Aug 13, 2014 R.L. rated it really liked it
I love the subject of the biography. I've read all of her books. I plan to keep this one on my shelf.
Jennifer Grosser
Jul 20, 2013 Jennifer Grosser rated it really liked it
Great book about a really fascinating woman. I feel totally enlightened.
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Barbara Reynolds (13 June 1914 – 29 April 2015) was an English scholar of Italian Studies, lexicographer and translator, wife of the philologist and translator Lewis Thorpe. She has written and edited several books concerning Dorothy Sayers and is president of the Dorothy L Sayers Society. She turned 100 in June 2014.

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