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The Nine Tailors
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Archived VBC Selections > The Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers - VBC Dec 2018

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message 1: by Erin (new)

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Pulling out a classic mystery for our December selection. It's not really a "holiday" mystery, but it does take place at New Year's.

A kickoff question while everyone is getting off to speed: Have you read Sayers before? Or will this be your first introduction to Lord Peter?


message 2: by Dayna (new)

Dayna | 204 comments As best I can recall, this is my first read of a Lord Peter story. I admit it was not easy to get through the first chapter. I found the long speeches by several characters very tedious. But it gets better in chapter two, so I will be sticking with it.


message 3: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
I've read all the Lord Peter books multiple times. It's fascinating to see how the character evolves from the earliest books to the last ones - at the beginning he's rather a "Type," the silly-ass aristocrat who solves crimes as a hobby (and is actually quite brilliant), but by the end of the series he becomes human, a character arc he suggests to his novelist love Harriet in "Gaudy Night." I love the books but they are definitely of their period, when people had more patience with for a lot of description and lengthy dialog.


message 4: by Erin (new)

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
I found a BBC Radio play version of this that I started listening to before reading some comments about how all the descriptions in this book were wonderful, which made me realize that I was getting none of that from the radio play.

So question as you're reading: does the plot/story depend more on the dialogue or the description?


message 5: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Erin wrote: "I found a BBC Radio play version of this that I started listening to before reading some comments about how all the descriptions in this book were wonderful, which made me realize that I was gettin..."

That's a good question, Erin - the dialog in these books is always wonderful (so witty, for one thing) but the atmosphere in "Nine Tailors" is so important - it would be hard to picture the book without the very vivid images of the fen country that she constructs. I'd have to say, you need the entire package.


John (jtb1951) | 549 comments Mod
"That's a good question, Erin - the dialog in these books is always wonderful (so witty, for one thing) but the atmosphere in "Nine Tailors" is so important - it would be hard to picture the book without the very vivid images of the fen country that she constructs. I'd have to say, you need the entire package."

I absolutely agree, Merrily; the descriptions of all the surroundings in which the action takes place totally complements the vintage Sayers' wit and repartee which accompanies. I have not read this book in several years, so I have to get back to it! Excuse me...


John (jtb1951) | 549 comments Mod
And a brief reminder, please refrain from spoilers for the first 10 days of the month; after that, go wild! ;-)


message 8: by Emily (new)

Emily | 341 comments Gaudy Night is my favorite book of all time. The last Lord Peter of the series I read was The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club and it almost read like a parody, Lord Peter evolves so much as a character.
That said, Nine Tailors has never been my favorite, though I know some people think it's her best. I'm not crazy about the fen atmosphere, the other fun characters aren't around, and I always found the plot a bit confusing.


C.P. Lesley (cplesley) | 132 comments Love Sayers. I've read all her books several times, including this one. Watched most of the BBC versions too, which are—not surprisingly—wonderful.

As a hopeless romantic, I like Gaudy Night and Busman's Honeymoon the best. But I know many people do consider The Nine Tailors the best because it's the tipping point between the early goofy Peter and the fully rounded Peter.

In any case, great pick! I may even read it again....


message 10: by KarenB (new)

KarenB | 352 comments I love Sayer's books, although there are occasionally things that are a bit jarring - her casual anti-semitism for instance. On my initial read of the Lord Peter books, this was not a favorite but it has grown on me. The evolution of Peter as a character, the well-developed side characters, the descriptions of the fen country and my personal fascination with old churches all helped with my growing appreciation for it.

I would recommend looking up some examples of English bell-ringing so as to have that complicated sound in your head while ringing.


message 11: by Dayna (new)

Dayna | 204 comments I’m getting into the dialogue a little more as I get to know the characters. There are some real verbal gems buried in the monologues. I did look bell-ringing and found the descriptions fascinating and the “tunes” interesting. Music is mathematical and the bell-ringing is a great example of that. Anyone find a collection of the sequences mentioned in the book? What about movies or other visual adaptations?


message 12: by John (new) - rated it 4 stars

John (jtb1951) | 549 comments Mod
Dayna, as I re-read this book I find myself compelled to do some digging into the bell ringing and hopefully find some online audio examples. Just a fascinating tradition.

As I have read through the first few chapters something that stood out was the author’s use of one-sided conversation/observation as a means of compressing lengthy dialogue/exposition. How does her use of that device strike you? Good/bad/indifferent?


message 13: by John (new) - rated it 4 stars

John (jtb1951) | 549 comments Mod
Sorry, my second paragraph question is directed for everyone, not just Dayna. (I probably shouldn’t do any posting until I actually wake up first ;-) )


message 14: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Dayna wrote: "I’m getting into the dialogue a little more as I get to know the characters. There are some real verbal gems buried in the monologues. I did look bell-ringing and found the descriptions fascinating..."

I had no idea that bell ringing was so complex until I read this book, and it's fascinated me ever since. However I would be a lousy ringer as I am not mathematical in the least!


message 15: by KarenB (new)

KarenB | 352 comments I just found this as a nice concise and comprehensive explanation of how bells are rung: http://www.churchbells.glosnet.com/ri...


Carole (thegoodwitchofmarytavy) | 86 comments I read and enjoyed the series many years ago after the un-named Lord Peter appeared IIRC in LETT. He was originally named but the Sayers estate threw a fit.


message 17: by John (new) - rated it 4 stars

John (jtb1951) | 549 comments Mod
Karen, thank you for the link! Very interesting and insightful.


message 18: by C.P. (new) - rated it 5 stars

C.P. Lesley (cplesley) | 132 comments Sayers' casual antisemitism is appalling, of course. It's not unique to her, though, but a relic of the times. In that sense, quite instructive.


message 19: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
C.P. wrote: "Sayers' casual antisemitism is appalling, of course. It's not unique to her, though, but a relic of the times. In that sense, quite instructive."

Yes, it was very prevalent at that period in England and many other places in Europe - you even saw it in "Downton Abbey."


message 20: by Jane (new)

Jane Garoutte | 1 comments This is the first Sayers I will read. I just started “The God of the Hive,” which I am loath to put down. We’ll see how far I can get in the next week.

For those who have read the Lord Peter books, In your opinion, should I start with “The Nine Tailors”, or at the beginning of the series ?


message 21: by Lenore (last edited Dec 04, 2018 08:13PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lenore | 1078 comments Jane wrote: "...For those who have read the Lord Peter books, In your opinion, should I start with “The Nine Tailors”, or at the beginning of the series?"

I'm not sure it matters too much, as long as you leave Gaudy Night and Busman's Honeymoon to the end.

On the subject of Sayers's antiSemitism (a sin of which Agatha Christie was also guilty), it's a little harder to brush off, despite its prevalence at the time, if one is Jewish. But something that rankles me about Sayers as much is the fact that she basically abandoned her son in order to have a husband, which I find unimaginable and bordering on monstrous. (We discussed this a few years ago, although I don't know if the archives of our previous site made it to Goodreads.) So, while I have enjoyed all her books -- she is a great plotter and a great describer, and her dialogue is undeniably witty -- reading her books always leaves me vaguely annoyed. She paints her heroine Harriet Vane as a writer who prized her freedom above marriage, but she herself cravenly throws away her own child for the privilege of being married to someone who would make her do that.

An interesting examination of Sayers' antiSemitism and her romantic relationships is here: https://www.momentmag.com/curious-cas...


message 22: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Lenore wrote: "Jane wrote: "...For those who have read the Lord Peter books, In your opinion, should I start with “The Nine Tailors”, or at the beginning of the series?"

I'm not sure it matters too much, as long..."


Lenore, as I recall she wasn't over-interested in her son to begin with - more or less parked him with relatives and never looked back. Clearly she wasn't a maternal type, married or otherwise. She may have been one of those writers (not the only one) who formed perfect romances and marriages in her books but didn't have the capacity for them in real life.


message 23: by Emily (new)

Emily | 341 comments She wasn't married when she had her son, was she? I thought parking him with relatives was a pretty standard solution for that dilemma at the time.


message 24: by KarenB (new)

KarenB | 352 comments An interesting examination of Sayers' antiSemitism and her romantic relationships is here: https://www.momentmag.com/curious-cas...

Thank you for the reference, Lenore. That was fascinating; I had not known of that period of Sayer's life before.


message 25: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Emily wrote: "She wasn't married when she had her son, was she? I thought parking him with relatives was a pretty standard solution for that dilemma at the time."

Emily, correct that she wasn't married, but she also never became attached to the child, either. As I recall (it's been a long time since I read the story), she didn't have much to do with him as he grew up.


message 26: by Emily (new)

Emily | 341 comments Merrily wrote: "Emily wrote: "She wasn't married when she had her son, was she? I thought parking him with relatives was a pretty standard solution for that dilemma at the time."

Emily, correct that she wasn't ma..."


I suppose under the circumstances, what would have been considered moral would have been for the man to "do the right thing" and marry her - I've forgotten why that wasn't an option. But failing that, finding a good home for the child and keeping in touch with him (albeit never in a particularly close way) would probably have been considered reasonably morally correct as well as maternal. Certainly in plenty of families these things were hushed up completely, the child spirited away, never to be told their real parents. "Monstrous" and "craven" seem a bit harsh for a line of conduct that was probably considered fairly moral at the time.

But, of course, who knows, and I'm working off a biography that I read two decades ago or something. And whether we should separate an artist's work from their life is one of those perennial questions; I lean towards yes, but I know not everyone feels that way. From that standpoint, her anti-Semitism is more problematic, since it does seep into her work now and then.


message 27: by John (last edited Dec 06, 2018 11:00AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

John (jtb1951) | 549 comments Mod
Lenore wrote: An interesting examination of Sayers' antiSemitism and her romantic relationships is here: https://www.momentmag.com/curious-cas...
"


I have to echo Karen's thanks, Lenore. That was a very interesting article, and food for thought.


message 28: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Emily wrote: "Merrily wrote: "Emily wrote: "She wasn't married when she had her son, was she? I thought parking him with relatives was a pretty standard solution for that dilemma at the time."

Emily, correct th..."


Yes, in a sense she was ahead of her in having the child without any apologies or attempted cover-up's. And I tend to think that when someone is able to create a character who lasts the way Lord Peter has, the author's individual failings become secondary. After all, Conan Doyle had his issues, too!


message 29: by Erin (new)

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Emily wrote: "And whether we should separate an artist's work from their life is one of those perennial questions; I lean towards yes, but I know not everyone feels that way. From that standpoint, her anti-Semitism is more problematic, since it does seep into her work now and then."

Agree. There are a few authors whom I've had to pointedly "forget" their background while reading their work because I really enjoyed their work. (Orson Scott Card comes to mind).

I don't know that I've read enough of Sayers work to have noticed her antisemitism coming through. Are there some books where it's more obvious?


message 30: by KarenB (last edited Dec 07, 2018 05:13AM) (new)

KarenB | 352 comments I don't know that I've read enough of Sayers work to have noticed her antisemitism coming through. Are there some books where it's more obvious?
Erin - her first, Whose Body?, had rather jarringly stereotypical descriptions of being Jewish. Perhaps not to the extent that others of her time did, but still. I do think her antisemitism is typical for her time and can be explained that way, which is why I can read past it. It isn't as if she is writing currently and embracing antisemitism now.


message 31: by Liz (new) - rated it 5 stars

Liz (libazeth) | 18 comments One of the differences between Sayers and her contemporaries is the shading the comes through in her treatments of Jews. At the beginning, she has Peter casually echo the prevailing attitudes towards them - and Scotsmen too, mind you.
Then, when he becomes personally involved in the very first book, “Whose Body”, his attitude fundamentally changes. Friend Freddie vouches for the victim, admires and eventually marries the man’s daughter - in an era when this just didn’t happen in their class - and has a family, over the next few books.
He mentions a Jewish jewel merchant in a short story, brings him back in the purchase of Harriet’s engagement ring (Busman’s Honeymoon), and generally abandons much of the anti-Semitism.
For contrast, check out any of G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown stories. I would call the a-S in those constant and virulent.


message 32: by Dayna (new)

Dayna | 204 comments John wrote: "Sorry, my second paragraph question is directed for everyone, not just Dayna. (I probably shouldn’t do any posting until I actually wake up first ;-)

John—I had not thought of the long one-sided convos as a replacement for an even longer section of back-and-forth dialogue, but as a plot device I see the value. Indeed, people do that in real life. It *does* sometimes annoy me, however. I want to pose a question or comment on something that is said, but the speaker doesn’t pause long enough. By the time the speaker is done, I’ve forgotten one or more comments or questions. In acutal conversations, people pause to take a breath, which offers a chance for the other locutor to “jump in.” I find that I sometimes have to read those longer passages a couple of times to find the nugget of useful information.



message 33: by John (new) - rated it 4 stars

John (jtb1951) | 549 comments Mod
Dayna wrote: "John—I had not thought of the lon..."

Dayna, it also struck me that using the device of one-sided conversation relieves the writer of a lot of the 'he said...she said...' type of dialogue as well as obviating the need to come up with inventive (read: non-repetitious) ways of saying 'he said...she said...' .
You are absolutely correct that it can take a careful read not to get lost in that quasi-dialogue however.


message 34: by Linda (new)

Linda | 44 comments Read them all several times, have traveled to places referenced, spent time listening to change ringing, and for a while was a member of the Sayers Society and went to the UK for a few gatherings of the group, which covered her religious and scholarly interests as well. What was most remarkable was that as an American, knowing no one there, I found myself in a superb place to observe a rather rarified slice of British society . I found myself appreciating more keenly the role of class in the UK in general and in many books by British authors.

I did appreciate the Ian Carmichael Lord Peter series, shown on PBS for the way it brought the settings alive for me before I actually had a chance to go to the UK. I did feel him to be too old for the role. By the time the next version came along, I had been without a TV for ages. However, I would love to see Benedict Cumberbatch take a shot at the role, especially the later books.

I have even read the follow up books, which are nothing like Sayers, but keep the characters alive. Looking forward to the discussions.


message 35: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Linda wrote: "Read them all several times, have traveled to places referenced, spent time listening to change ringing, and for a while was a member of the Sayers Society and went to the UK for a few gatherings o..."

Linda, sounds like you and I have had very similar reactions to Sayers, although I never took up bellringing! I wanted to say (you probably already know this) that the Edward Petherbridge version is superb and is available on DVD - and for all I know may be streamable by now so that you could watch it on your computer. I enjoyed both series but the second is much best cast in terms of Lord Peter. And wouldn't it be interesting to see Benedict Cumberbatch as Peter? He has the right kind of slightly quirky handsomeness, although he may be a little too tall.
I have enjoyed the "new" follow-up books, too, my favorite being "The Attenbury Emeralds" which I've both read and listened to as an audio book (more than once).


message 36: by Linda (new)

Linda | 44 comments When I first read them in the late 60's, they were part of my personal reward for completing my grad school assignments (library science) . Very old copies, rebound in buckram, which I found at the Denver Public Library. I discovered that some of my Mother's friends had also read and loved them, too, though soon after they were first published. It gave us something more interesting to talk about than their children and our daily lives. Sayers has been so steadily popular that I find enthusiasts of all ages eager to discuss them, sometimes in unexpected places. Having Lord Peter show up in LRK's books was just another sign of her erudition and good taste! ;)


message 37: by John (new) - rated it 4 stars

John (jtb1951) | 549 comments Mod
It is the 10th of the month so please feel free to discuss anything in the book. For those still reading, just be aware that the discussion could be spoilerish!


Camilla | 68 comments I love DS, and The Nine Tailors is one of my favourites. I'm looking forward to a re-read and joining in with the VBC for the first time in years.


message 39: by John (new) - rated it 4 stars

John (jtb1951) | 549 comments Mod
Great to see you in the comments, Millie! Have a good re-read!


message 40: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Linda wrote: "When I first read them in the late 60's, they were part of my personal reward for completing my grad school assignments (library science) . Very old copies, rebound in buckram, which I found at the..."

That's funny, I too am a librarian and I discovered Sayers when I was shelf-reading! There was a brand-new set of her Lord Peter books on the shelf and I thought "Hmm, those look interesting." Checked them out multiple times over the years I worked at that library, and eventually bought them all in paperback. Now I have them on my Kindle, too.


Antoinette | 186 comments DS, Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh were my introduction to the mystery genre some 40 years ago and I still enjoy reading them.


message 42: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Antoinette wrote: "DS, Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh were my introduction to the mystery genre some 40 years ago and I still enjoy reading them."

I love Ngaio Marsh, too!


message 43: by Linda (new)

Linda | 44 comments My DS paperbacks were mainly second hand to begin with and are now held together with rubber bands, the paper turning darker every year as it threatens to crumble with each turn of the page.

Perhaps the Kindle versions are the answer, it's just I'm trying to limit my dealings with Amazon. Hate the way they treat their workers. All my Laurie King books are on my digital devices.
Sigh, so hard to follow the moral dictates of a UU conscience at times, when it doesn't seem such a huge sin, to buy an e-book (Am I channeling Miss Climpson?). Is it better to buy a digital book which no one will have to pack or move around? Which uses up no trees? Incurs almost no carbon footprint as it moves to my device via fiberoptics?


message 44: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Linda wrote: "My DS paperbacks were mainly second hand to begin with and are now held together with rubber bands, the paper turning darker every year as it threatens to crumble with each turn of the page.

Perh..."


Where I live, I couldn't survive without Amazon, and that's not even taking into account my Kindle purchases. I'm hoping pressure from various places, including customers, may force them to improve their working conditions, although I can also see how our collective desire for highly efficient service and shipping must create incredible pressure in those fulfillment centers. Especially at this season.
Since the "real" books that I already own are driving me out of house and home even with my much-restricted purchasing of them, I just have to turn to the Kindle for space reasons if nothing else (but I have to say, I now prefer reading that way. I just finished the latest Sansom book, "Tombland," and at over 800 pages it was no picture to read in hardcopy form!).


message 45: by Erin (new)

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Linda wrote: "UU conscience."

?? What is a UU conscience?

And if you aren't an Amazon fan you can always go with a different ebook provider. Kobo links up with local indie bookstores so they get a percentage of ebook sales. Amazon does have the market cornered on ease of use for library ebook borrows, though.


message 46: by John (new) - rated it 4 stars

John (jtb1951) | 549 comments Mod
My question as well, Erin. Linda, what is a UU conscience? That is not anything I have come across before. Thanks!


message 47: by John (new) - rated it 4 stars

John (jtb1951) | 549 comments Mod
I enjoy strong and interesting characters in a novel, and I look forward to seeing how a writer develops her characters in a book, or series of books. To my eye, Lord Peter seems to make some significant personal change in this story as he experiences frustration and disappointment and self-doubt during his investigation and dealings with the locals. He seems to become somewhat empathetic and identifying with the folks he ends up sharing experiences, not normally a trait found in the gentry. What do you think?


Antoinette | 186 comments Linda wrote: "My DS paperbacks were mainly second hand to begin with and are now held together with rubber bands, the paper turning darker every year as it threatens to crumble with each turn of the page.

Perh..."


Books are biodegradable. They can go in your compost pile.


message 49: by Dayna (new)

Dayna | 204 comments John—We don’t really see how Lord Peter is with his peers, and he’s the only character in this book that is titled, so it’s hard to compare. On the surface, he seems to be very down-to-earth and not the stuffy high and mighty sort that I perceive titled people to be. The lines of the Kipling poem, “If” come to mind: “If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, ' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch.”


Antoinette | 186 comments John wrote: "My question as well, Erin. Linda, what is a UU conscience? That is not anything I have come across before. Thanks!"

I think that's Unitarian Universalist.


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