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The Mutual Admiration Society: How Dorothy L. Sayers and her Oxford Circle Remade the World for Women

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  63 ratings  ·  25 reviews
A group biography of renowned crime novelist Dorothy L. Sayers and the Oxford women who stood at the vanguard of equal rights.

Dorothy L. Sayers is now famous for her Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane detective series, but she was equally well known during her life for an essay asking "Are Women Human?" Women's rights were expanding rapidly during Sayers's lifetime; she
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published November 5th 2019 by Basic Books
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Nenia ⚡ Aspiring Evil Overlord ⚡ Campbell

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I hate writing reviews for books that bored me. On the one hand, I (usually) go into a book expecting to like it, and on the other hand, it kind of sucks to have to revisit something you didn't like and tell everyone why you didn't like it. Sometimes I don't even bother to review, but I feel obligated to with this one as others may share my expectations and feel similar disappointment.

I know we are only six days in, but I think I found my favorite read of 2020. This book was truly fantastic. Mo Moulton does a wonderful job making history interesting and engaging while also painting recognizable portraits of humanity with each woman described. I was smitten from page 1.
The Mutual Admiration Society follows the lives of four female friends at Oxford pre-WW1: Dorothy L. Sayers, Dorothy Rowe, Charis Frankenburg, and Muriel St. Clare Byrne. Among the first women to receive their
Elizabeth A
Nov 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
I was drawn to this book as a fan of Dorothy L Sayers, wanting to read a history of her life that spotlighted the influence of her friends rather than her ~stormy~ love affairs, but this really is a biography of a group of women. I hardly even thought how it would feel especially significant to me, a queer graduate of a women's college, who has her own group of college friends she's trying to hold on to as we scatter across the globe trying to survive a very turbulent global era, as humans as ...more
Nov 11, 2019 rated it liked it
I don't read a great deal of non-fiction, but every so often I need some as a bit of a palate cleanser between books - usually I turn to something historical at this kind of time, then this caught my eye because of its subtitle. I've been a massive Dorothy L Sayers fan for many year and didn't really know much about her other than the Wimsey books, so it seemed like a good opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.

DLS, as she is called all the way through The Mutual Admiration Society, is the
Feb 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
I filed this under mysteries as well as non-fiction, as I came to this book because of Dorothy L. Sayers and her clever Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries. Mo Moulton has done amazing research on Sayers' circle of friends beginning with their time in college as some of the first women to attend, but originally unable to get degrees from, Oxford. She follows them through their lives and the various directions they each travel in--high school teachers, dramatics, women's health, publishing, translation, ...more
Patrick Barry
Jan 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
I initially wanted to read this book because of it being about a group of friends that included Dorothy Sayers, the author of Gaudy Nights, a book I much admired. This book is a good, well researched and very readable work. I ended up being somewhat appalled by Sayers' early romantic missteps before she caught her stride in life. I was pleasantly surprised by her woman friends and the satellites in their orbit. I had not heard of these people, but their diverse ways of moving forward and out in ...more
Jan 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I began this book not knowing much about Dorothy Sayers or British history. Not only did I leave the book knowing a lot more than I started with, I really enjoyed reading the history of a friendship. It made me reflect on my own friendships. It is very readable, even to someone who hasn't read any biographies or much history for a while.
Briallen Hopper
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A moving & heartening collective biography about women loving and supporting each other through youth, midlife, age, work, war, triumph, loss. Recommended for fans of Dorothy L. Sayers as well as for anyone interested in friendship, chosen family, spinsters, gender nonconformists, and queer history.
Dec 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The central premise of this book, that the achievements and relationships of a set of brilliant twentieth-century women can be best understood through their abiding friendship with one another, both moves and inspires me. Moulton's execution of this project shows narrative flair, interpretive and ideological nuance, historical precision about shifting understandings of gender and sexuality, sly wit, archival immersion, and structural logic. In short, Moulton is a superlative biographer. Her ...more
Oct 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Mutual Admiration Society chronicles the lives of the key members of the Oxford club that lends the book its title, persuasively demonstrating how the set's unconventional friendships informed their influential (and often unconventional) lives. Moulton does a fantastic job of diving deep into the archives of these various women, tracing the networks between them, and linking their work and concerns to the historical and societal forces around them.

Of particular note is how Moulton weaves
Dec 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
A group biography is tricky to handle, and more so when one of the group, Sayers, has a kind of celebrity the others lacked. But Moulton handles this well, giving more or less equal attention to each. It rather overstates their impact - remaking the world doesn't happen so easily - but constructs a good case for the different contributions made to society by this section of the first generation of Oxford women to take degrees. Charis Frankenberg, married into a wealthy Jewish family and mother ...more
Jan 17, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019, library
I will be honest, in that the reason I read The Mutual Admiration Society was to learn more about Dorothy L. Sayers. While the book spends quite a lot of time on Sayers (certainly more than the others), it is still about four different women, so something to note.

I enjoyed The Mutual Admiration Society, and found it interesting to learn more about Sayers' life, as well as how her friendships influenced her work. My only real complaint is that often Moulton seemed to have theories about
Daniel Kukwa
Feb 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
It's a bit of a slow burn, but it makes for fascinating reading. I'm a sucker for both early 20th century history & the highlighting of forgotten/obscure people and events, and this book delivers on both in spades. A story of friendship, breaking barriers, and a moment in time when extraordinary women were at the crux of so many political, social and cultural changes. There were brilliant & imperfect, both breaking barriers and still defined by old conventions; they all deserve much more ...more
A lovely accounting of the lives of women in another age and time. Not that we should go back, because the world was not as innocent as it appeared, obviously. How unfair not to earn a degree immediately after you actually earned it! I loved the GK Chesterton chair. i want one! I loved the MAS and feel like i should have belonged had i lived's remarkable that their friendships lasted into their nineties, at least for several of them. What a grand statement on the friendships of women.
Dec 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I am not even a reader of Dorothy L Sayers. I selected it as an ARC out of curiosity. It was a fabulous read. I'm not an Anglophile at all, but the presentation of these women was well done. It may end up being one of my favorite reads of the year.
Amanda Patchin
Nov 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Richly informative but occasionally a bit dull as it drags through decades of not entirely interesting people's lives. Loved the Sayers sections and learning about Charis Frankenburg. Less interested in Muriel Byrne and the rest.
Jan 29, 2020 rated it liked it
I thought that I would enjoy this but I found it too long and detailed, unfortunately. The only one who I was really interested in reading about was Dorothy L. Sayers.

I received this free ebook from NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Dec 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The book is well-researched and written in an intelligent manner. Recommended to readers of historic nonfiction.
Jan 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
5 star book
Note: I accessed a digital review copy of this book through Edelweiss.
Feb 06, 2020 rated it liked it
This is a very interesting book. It certainly emphasized to me that there's nothing new under the sun.
Jan 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was so good! A fascinating scholarly look at the lives of one of my favorite authors and some of her friends.
Dec 17, 2019 rated it it was ok
Could have been very interesting but it is bogged down in the minutiae of their lives - the telling of conversations and detail of letters, as well as the ‘obviously’ second hand recounting of the the group’s every movement through life.
I feel the author became too involved, too close to the subjects, preventing her from delivering a readable, and engaging account, if not celebration, of the subjects’ lives.
I did not finish the book - 120 pages in.....just got bored, sadly. It was dull and dry.
An in-depth visit with a group of friends at Somerville College at Oxford in the early twentieth century. The book focuses on their self-conceptions. Their awareness of social restrictions on their sexuality and gender affected their personal drives to commit themselves to artistic and idealistic pursuits. The backdrop of two World Wars certainly influenced them, too. I was particularly interested in Dorothy L. Sayers' shift from writing detective novels to religiously inspired themes.
Bonnye Reed
Sep 23, 2019 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
pub date November 5, 2019
Perseus Books - Basic Books
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Mimi Epstein
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Nov 24, 2019
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Nov 30, 2019
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