Mystery Net Community Mystery Greats Dorothy L. Sayers
A classic author from the golden era of mysteries, Dorothy L. Sayers is best known for her series featuring nobleman-detective Lord Peter Wimsey.
For more about Dorothy Sayers, read the profile in Dorothy L. Sayers Profile at the Mystery Time Line.
(104 previous messages)
Hey, this is cool!
At last someone who actually writes something controversial! Thanks Magnus.
Of course, the reader of a Sayers novel must always bear in mind that she wrote it before WW II when political correctness was as unheard of as space rockets.
I admit that she is a little show-off. I don't deny it, even though I realised it only lately.
Actually I would like Magnus to give some examples of Dorothy Sayers' racism and fascism. As he suffered so much reading her novels, I'm sure he'll be able to give us some interesting quotations.
I'd be looking forward to them.
Bettina, I remember that there are a lot of passages in "Whose Body" about the 'character' of Jews, and the Jewish protagonist in this novel, the banker, is a good example for an antisemitist caricature. Besides, I believe that in "Unnatural Death", for example, there is a discussion with Whimsey about the habits of the "lower" races. But I don't think just about certain statements in her book, I think it could be shown that her portraits of women, for example, are really misogynist. The intelligent women in Sayers have always sexual comlexes and they are regarded as boring and unattractive (for example the painter in "Bellona", a typical "Blaustrumpf"). This is not only a question of time of publication. The novels of JD Carr or Ellery Queen during these years are much less narrow-minded. I believe it is more a question of 'class attitude'. Besides, you have to admit that her novels are really POOR as detective stories. The puzzle plots are almost non-existent (in "Bellona", for example, the main 'trick' with the dead body is explained in the middle of the book, and the rest is an irrelevancy). I think she wrote some clever short stories, but compared to Queen or Christie, she is no good whodunit author. I think she wanted to much, she tried to be a 'high-brow', intellectual author (which Christie never wanted to be), and that's why I don't like her books.
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I think Sayers' mysteries are becoming fascinating "period pieces". By this, I mean that they, sort of like Dickens, will not sound as modern to new readers. Footnotes already are needed sometimes to explain some references. (For instance, in my favorite mystery of hers, "the Documents in the Case" there is an online guide explaining the quotes, backgrounds of the late 1920's early 1930's era.Popular novelists, current political figures, obscure literature references are explained.)
This transition to "period piece" in my mind does not mean Sayers books are any less good. But they are best when read with some understanding of the era she came from.
Her view of women is quite complex, and one senses, most particularly in Gaudy Night, that she is struggling with how to best define womens' roles. Her own life, and her great mysteries, and still- admired theological / philosophical books belie the claim she is anti-woman, tho. Understand she was born at the end of the Victorian era. Women were still getting basic rights such as the vote...and the right to education.
Note that it is good to read books 50 years or more older. Maybe they are a little offensive to us on some points, but they may enlighten us on other points our current culture misses...
Hello: Has anyone picked up "A Presumption of Death," the new Wimsey novel by Jill Paton Walsh? I was underwhelmed by "Thrones, Dominations," but have read better reviews this time around ... yet would like another opinion before dropping my $25 on a dud. Thanks!
Good evening- I am a Dorothy L. Sayers fan, having read everything I could find. I read "Thrones, Dominations" and was very disappointed. I was given "A Presumption of Death" by a friend who know of my devotion to Sayers. Just as with "Thrones..." it is a disapointment. Sayers books may be period pieces, however, she has excellent character development and the young lady who is takeup the mantel lacks that skill. In short-don't waste the $24.
it has to be hard to write period pieces when one didn't live in that period. that's one of the reasons i don't read the "new" holmes stories. i didn't even realize there was a new wimsey novel. wasn't the whole point of "thrones, dominations" to finish an incomplete novel? what is the excuse for a new one? i found ya'lls conversation about the racism and pseudo-intellectualism interesting. the latin does get dense. i thought is was just me not understanding it lol. otherwise i really like the wimsey novels. christie seems to have the same problems with race, or nationalism anyway. heaven knows, the majority of characters despise americans. but calling these writers racist without taking into account the era they were written in stikes me as the same argument for banning huck finn etc. from school libraries. (watch it stikeforce, your southern, liberal tendancies are showing :) try being a southern liberal, talk about HARD going... rotflmao
Mystery Net Community Mystery Greats Dorothy L. Sayers