Saturday, October 29, 2016

Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane

Strong Poison (Lord Peter Wimsey, #6)Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This review will actually cover the following books: Strong Poison, Have His Carcase, Gaudy Night, Busman's Honeymoon and Thrones, Dominations.

I am late to the stories of Lord Peter Wimsey and his love interest, Harriet Vane. I'm going to confess right now that I did not read them in the correct order at all.

I started with Gaudy Night. I'm not sure how I had this book on my kindle. I suspect that it was because I was interested in Dorothy Sayers, and was able to purchase the novel for $2 or less. What particularly intrigued me about this book was the underlying feminist theme. Harriet, in her own words, is
Scholar; Master of Arts; Domina; Senior Member of this University.
She, and her counterparts at the university, professors all, are women, exceeding at a profession that was long denied to them. Most of them are single. There is an underlying tension between their thoughts of marriage, being successful women, and whether or not you can be both. This theme captured my attention and interest over and above the mystery theme of the book. Harriet herself, struggles with her feelings for a man (Lord Peter), and her independence, career (mystery writer) and her womanhood. The book was written in 1935, so these issues would have been prominent at that time. Harriet and Peter met when Harriet was accused of murdering her former lover--this is mentioned in Gaudy Night. Harriet and Peter's relationships grows, and so I was curious to find out what happened next.

So, on to the next book in the series, which was Busman's Honeymoon. Here, there is, of course, another murder to investigate. Again, I am a bit more intrigued by the relationship between Harriet and Peter and how Harriet is struggling with being a wife, and being a writer. Interestingly enough, Peter encourages her in her writing, and it is she herself who is trying to reconcile those roles.

Now, of course, I am beginning to wonder about the back story. I begin Strong Poison. Strong Poison was written in 1930. Here we learn of Harriet in prison for murdering her lover by poisoning him. I'm thinking that in 1930 it was pretty fast of a young woman to live with a man, so here again we have an underlying theme of feminism, womanhood, woman's independence and belief in herself at a time when it was not the norm. Lord Peter instantly believes in her innocence, and is instantly attracted to her intellect, instinctively knowing this is a woman who could be his equal in a relationship. Harriet though, is having none of it.

Well, now I've read everything except for Have His Carcase, so I might as well read that too, right? Harriet and Lord Peter collaborate on another mysterious murder, and their interactions with each other become more complex.

The last book in the series is Thrones, Dominations. This book was actually finished by another author, and shows us a glimpse of Harriet and Peter as a married couple.

So, although I read these all helter skelter, I did enjoy the series. As you can probably tell, I enjoyed them more for the story of Lord Peter and Harriet, than for the actual mysteries. Overall, the series charmed me. One other thing I noticed about these books - the language in them is higher than the language that authors use in writing now. We had a higher expectation of our readers than we do in our present time.

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