Madeline's Reviews > Gaudy Night

Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
111921
's review
Sep 29, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: all-time-favorites, detective-fiction
Read from September 29 to October 01, 2010

As I've said numerous times before, I love Lord Peter Wimsey. He's funny, a brilliant detective, and he peppers his speech with Shakespearan quotations the way I pepper mine with Simpsons quotes. He can always amuse and amaze me, but up until this point, that was extent of my fascination. Before I read Gaudy Night, I had always thought of Lord Peter mainly as an amusing, almost caricature detective. I had thought of him, simply, as a character. After Gaudy Night, however, I can't think of him this way anymore. For the first time since reading Strong Poison, I see Lord Peter as a human being. For the first time, Dorothy Sayers has presented him as a man, with hopes and fears and weaknesses and emotions. For the first time, Lord Peter is off his pedestal and I'm looking him straight in the eye, and it is wonderful.

I'm already a hefty paragraph into this review and I haven't even mentioned the mystery aspect of this story. It is, technically, a detective novel, but like so many other Sayers novels (but this one in particular), the mystery is really more of a subplot. In case you really care, here's my one-sentence plot encapsulation: Harriet Vane returns to her alma mater at Oxford (one of the few women's colleges at the time, btw) to help figure out who's been playing harmful pranks on the scholars there, and she enlists Lord Peter's help.

That's the whole mystery: who's been leaving insulting notes around Oxford? If that's all you knew about the book, you'd probably be wondering how that could possibly take 500 pages. Simple answer: it doesn't. All together, I would estimate that the actual mystery-solving only accounts for about 200 pages of the entire book. All the rest is about Harriet and Peter. If you don't see how that could possibly be interesting, you obviously haven't read Strong Poison. If you have, and still think 300 pages about Harriet and Peter working out their complicated and fascinating relationship would be interesting, you need to read Strong Poison again and pay attention this time.

In fact, I almost wish I had read more of the Harriet and Peter stories before I read this one - I know there are other novels where they interact, and I think I should read those, then read Gaudy Night again just to fully appreciate how far these two incredible characters have gone in order to reach this point.

In conclusion: Harriet Vane and Peter Wimsey are the best detectives ever created, and I will fight any Holmes/Watson fanboys who say otherwise.

PS: Just one thing I wondered about, and I won't give context to this so it won't count as a spoiler BUT - can someone who speaks Latin translate the last two lines of the book? I think I know what they mean, but I want to be totally 100% sure. It had goddamn better mean what I think it means.
9 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Gaudy Night.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

09/29/2010 page 300
59.0%
02/05/2016 marked as: read
show 1 hidden update…

Comments (showing 1-12 of 12) (12 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by ✿ Deni (new)

✿ Deni If you like Lord Peter Wimsey, you can hear some of the stories in the BBC iplayer site (I think the radio would work out of the UK, but I'm not sure)


message 2: by Leslie (new)

Leslie "Does it please you, Professor?"

"It pleases."

I never took Latin, and I read Gaudy Night long ago, back before the internet, children, and was frustrated beyond belief with the not knowing. I looked the thing up online a few years back, to get more precise flavors.

Apparently, it's a part of the degree-granting ceremony at Oxford (or was, once upon a time). The Officiator asks the assembled professors if it pleases them that the graduates be presented their degrees. He/She then answers his own question: "It pleases."

Which is why it is the perfect go-to line for Peter in the context of the book's final scene.


Madeline Goodreads failed to inform me of your comment when it was posted, so this is a little late, but:

SWOON.


message 4: by Ken (new) - added it

Ken Moten I have often heard of this series, as well as Ms. Sayers herself, and I have heard a lot about this book in particular. I wanted to know if you felt this would be a good place to introduce myself to Dorthy L. Sayers (and Lord Peter Wimsey)?


Madeline It's certainly her most famous book, but if you go into it knowing nothing about Harriet and Peter's history, you won't appreciate it as much as Sayers intended. For the entire Harriet and Peter saga, start with Strong Poison, then Have His Carcase, and then read this one.


message 6: by Ken (new) - added it

Ken Moten Ken wrote: "I have often heard of this series, as well as Ms. Sayers herself, and I have heard a lot about this book in particular. I wanted to know if you felt this would be a good place to introduce myself t..."

alright, thank you. Now for a totally different question. I am trying to decide the order for my next Shakespeare reading. My choices now are Richard the III, Henry V, and the Merchant Of Venice (I had previously considered The Taming Of The Shrew but changed my mind).


message 7: by James (new) - added it

James I've got a way to go *sigh*, I opted to start at the beginning of the Wimsey saga and let my anticipation build before I got to the Harriet Vane stories (having loved the TV productions all those years ago).


Madeline Richard III is my go-to answer, because I don't like Taming of the Shrew and have never seen Henry V. But I would say find a performance of the play, or at least a movie version, instead of reading it. Shakespeare's plays were made to be seen, not read, and if you just read the scripts you miss so much of what he intended.


message 9: by Ken (new) - added it

Ken Moten Madeline wrote: "Richard III is my go-to answer, because I don't like Taming of the Shrew and have never seen Henry V. But I would say find a performance of the play, or at least a movie version, instead of reading it. Shakespeare's plays were made to be seen, not read, and if you just read the scripts you miss so much of what he intended. "

I agree, see my review of The Merchant of Venice, which I replaced 'Shrew' with. I am definitely doing Richard III and Henry V, but I don't know in which order.


message 10: by Stephanie (last edited Feb 11, 2013 05:59PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Stephanie Sun Leslie wrote: ""Does it please you, Professor?"

"It pleases."

I never took Latin, and I read Gaudy Night long ago, back before the internet, children, and was frustrated beyond belief with the not knowing. I lo..."


There is also the assumption that the answer will be "yes" according to this person on the internet:

http://greekgeek.hubpages.com/hub/lat...

"The -ne at the end of Peter's question is the sweet part, and the most significant part... Remember that odd Latin word num used to prefix questions when you expect a 'no' answer? -ne is its opposite number, a question which confidently expects the answer will be 'yes.'"

Although if -num is never used in the degree-granting ceremony, that may just be incidental. I would think Lord Peter capable of a three-way play on words at least, though!


Madeline Once more, with feeling: SWOON.


message 12: by Ken (new) - added it

Ken Moten I've started back up on "Bellona Club" have just been to conflicted on if I should move it back on my currently reading list. I have to say that I am enjoying it more now. I'm still getting use to reading mystery novels.


back to top