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review 2020-07-10 02:04
Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers
Whose Body? - Dorothy L. Sayers,Jane McDowell

Series: Peter Wimsey #1

 

I'm really terrible at reading books in a series close enough together that I remember the characters, so when I landed on a square where I had to read a book published before 1950, I thought it might be a good time to revisit this series via audio. I did kind of remember how the mysterious body had gotten into the bath, but not all the details, so it was interesting to revisit that.

 

And I have to say that Peter's mother is a really good sport for managing to go along with the story about asking businessmen to make speeches at the church bazaar without any warning from Peter.

 

ETA: Apparently this isn't even the first time that I've reread this book via audio, although at least it was a different version this time. I really need to get better at reading series.

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text 2020-07-03 03:55
2020 Mid-Year Reading Review and Statistics
L'énigme des Blancs-Manteaux - Jean-François Parot
The Daughter Of Time - Josephine Tey
The Game of Kings - Dorothy Dunnett
Girl, Woman, Other - Bernardine Evaristo
Small Country - Gaël Faye,Sarah Ardizzone
Shakespeare's Local - Pete Brown
Love All - Dorothy L. Sayers
Green for Danger - Christianna Brand
My Beloved World - Sonia Sotomayor
Unspeakable: The Autobiography - John Bercow

What with the pandemic still very much ongoing, BL acting up again, MR's and Char's resulting posts re: BookLikes, the BL experience, and moving back to Goodreads, this feels like a somewhat odd moment to post my half-yearly reading stats.  I hope it won't be the last time on this site, but I fear that the community to which I've belonged for almost a decade -- longer than to any other online community -- and which, most recently, has played a pivotal role in making the Corona pandemic more bearable to me, is on the point of breaking up.  And frankly, this is making me incredibly sad.

 

Book-wise, too, the pandemic has had a huge impact on my reading; for three out of the past six months, I pretty much exclusively withdrew into Golden Age mystery comfort reads, because I just didn't have it in me to tackle anything else.  Though I suppose in comparison with others, who went into more or less full-fledged reading slumps, I can still color myself lucky.

 

That said, the past six months' reading highlights definitely included all of the buddy reads, both for the shared reading experience and for the books themselves -- as well as a number of books that I read either before the pandemic began or in the very recent couple of weeks ... though I'm tempted to list every single favorite Golden Age mystery that I reread during the pandemic, too; in addition to a whole number of new discoveries.  So, without further ado (and roughly in reverse chronological order):

 

Highlights:

The Buddy Reads:

Jean-François Parot: L'énigme des blancs-manteaux (The Châtelet Apprentice)

The first of Parot's Nicolas le Floch historical mysteries set in 18th century Paris.  Nicolas is a Breton by birth and, on the recommendation of his godfather, a Breton nobleman, joins the Paris police force under the command of its (real) Lieutenant General Antoine de Sartine, one of the late 18th century's most influential statesmen and administrators. --  Parot was an expert on the period and a native Parisian, both of which elements clearly show in his writing, and I'm already looking forward to reading more books from the series.

 

French-language buddy read with Tannat and onnurtilraun -- we're now also looking into the possibly of "buddy-watching" the (French) TV adaptation starring Jérôme Robart.

 


 

The pandemic buddy reads; including and in particular:

Josephine Tey: A Daughter of Time (with BT's and my individual add-on, Tey's play Dickon, written under the name Gordon Daviot, which likewise aims at setting the record straight vis-à-vis Shakespeare's Richard III) -- A Daughter of Time was a reread; Dickon was new to me.

* Georgette Heyer: No Wind of Blame (the first of the Inspector Hemingway mysteries -- also a reread);
* Agatha Christie: Towards Zero and Cat Among the Pigeons (both likewise rereads);
* Ngaio Marsh: Scales of Justice (also a reread; one of my favorite Inspector Alleyn mysteries);
* Cyril Hare: Tenant for Death (the first Inspector Mallett mystery -- new to me);
* Patricia Wentworth: The Case Is Closed (Miss Sliver book #2 -- also new to me; this isn't a series I am reading in publication order).


Dorothy Dunnett: The Game of Kings
(book 1 of the Lymond Chronicles

16th century Scotland; the adventures of a main character somewhere between Rob Roy, Robin Hood and Scaramouche (mostly Scaramouche), but it also features a range of strong and altogether amazing female characters.  Another series I'm looking forward to continuing.

 

The first buddy read of the year, together with Moonlight Reader, BrokenTune, and Lillelara.

 

My Individual Highlights:

Bernardine Evaristo: Girl, Woman, Other

Heaven knows the Booker jury doesn't always get it right IMHO, but wow, this time for once they absolutely did.  If you haven't already read this, run, don't walk to get it.  And though initially I was going to say "especially if you're a woman (and from a minority)" -- no, I'm actually going to make that, "especially if you're a white man".

 

Saša Stanišić: Herkunft (Origin) and Gaël Faye: Petit pays (Small Country)

Two autobiographical books dealing with the authors' genocide experience, in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Burundi, respectively. Stanišić's account -- an odd mix of fact on fiction, which does lean pretty strongly towards the factual, however -- asks, as the title indicates, how precisely our geographical, ethnic and cultural origin / sense of "belonging" defines our identity; and it focuses chiefly on the refugee experience and the experience of creating a new place for oneself in a new (and substantially different) country and culture.  Faye's short novel (barely longer than a novella) packs an equal amount of punch, but approaches the topic from the other end -- it's a coming of age tale looking at the way our cultural identity is first drummed into us ... and how ethnic stereotypes and hostilities, when fanned and exploited, will almost invariably lead to war and genocide.

 

   

 

Josephine Tey: The Inspector Grant series, Dickon, and Miss Pym Disposes

Having already read two books from Tey's Alan Grant series (The Daughter of Time and The Franchise Affair) as well as her nonseries novel Brat Farrar in past years, and Miss Pym Disposes at the beginning of this year, I took the combined (re)read of The Daughter of Time and the play Dickon during the pandemic buddy reads (see above) as my cue to finally also read the rest of the Inspector Grant mysteries.  And I'm glad I finally did; Tey's work as a whole is a paean to her much-beloved England -- and though she was Scottish by birth, to a somewhat lesser degree also to Scotland --; a love that would eventually cause her to bequeathe her entire estate to the National Trust. -- Though the books are ostensibly mysteries, the actual "mystery" element almost takes a back seat to the land ... and to its people, or rather to people like those who formed Tey's personal circle of friends and acquaintances.  And it is in creating characters that her writing shines as much as in the description of England's and Scotland's natural beauty.

 

Pete Brown: Shakespeare's Local

Another book that I owned way too long before I finally got around to reading it; the discursive -- in the best sense --, rollicking tale of one London (or rather, Southwark) pub from its earliest days in the Middle Ages to the 21st century, telling the history of Southwark, London, public houses, and their patrons along the way.  The title is glorious conjecture and based on little more than the fact that the pub is near the location of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre (combined with the equally demonstrable fact that Shakespeare loved a good ale and what today we'd call a pub crawl) ... so it's highly likely that, like many another celebrity over the centuries, he'd have had the occasional pint at this particular inn, the George, as well.

 

Dorothy L. Sayers: Love All

A delightful drawing room comedy that was, owing to its completion during WWII, only performed twice during Sayers's own lifetime and never again thereafter, which is utterly unfair to both the material and its author -- topically, this is the firmly tongue in cheek stage companion to such works as Gaudy Night and the two speeches republished under the title Are Women Human?  (I'd call it feminist if Sayers hadn't hated that term, but whatever label you want to stick on it, its message comes through loud and clear and with plenty of laughs.)

 

Christianna Brand: Green for Danger

One of the discoveries of my foray into the realm of Golden Age mysteries; an eerie, claustrophobic, psychological drama revolving around several suspicious deaths (and near-deaths) at a wartime hospital in Kent during WWII.  None of Brand's other mysteries that I've read so far is quite up to this level, but she excelled in closed-circle settings featuring a small group of people who all genuinely like each other (and really are, for the most part, likeable from the reader's -- and the investigating policeman's -- perspective, too), and in this particular book, the backdrop of the added danger arising from the wartime setting adds even more to the tension.  It's also fairly obvious that Brand was writing from personal experience, which greatly enhances every single aspect of the book, from the setting and the atmosphere to the individual characters.

 

Sonia Sotomayor: My Beloved World

Sotomayor's memoirs up to her first appointment to the Federal Bench.  What a courageous woman!  A trailblazer in every sense of the word -- a passionate advocate for women, Latinos/-as (not just Puerto Ricans), those hindered in their career path by a pre-existing medical condition (in her case: diabetes), and more generally, everybody up against unequal odds.  Fiercely intelligent and never satisfied with second best (for herself and others alike), she nevertheless comes across as eminently likeable and open-minded -- on the list of people I'd like to meet one day (however unlikely), she shot right up to a top spot after I'd read this book; in close vicinity with Michelle Obama.

 

John Bercow: Unspeakable

Bercow's time as Speaker of the House of Commons was doubtlessly among the more remarkable periods in the history of the British Parliament, both on account of his personality and of the momentous decisions taken during those years; and his unmistakeable style jumps out from every page of his memoir -- as well as every minute of the audio edition, which he narrates himself.  The last chapter (his attempt at outlining the odds for Britain post-Brexit) was already obsolete before the Corona pandemic hit; this is even more true now.  However, the vast majority of the book makes for a fascinating read, not least of course because of his insight into the politics -- and politicians -- of his time (he is neither sparing with the carrot nor with the stick, and some of his reflections, e.g., on the qualities of a "good" politician / member of parliament, would constitute ample food for thought for politicians anywhere).

 

Statistics:

As I said above, the one thing that definitely had the biggest impact on my reading in the first six months of 2020 was my three-month long "comfort reading" retreat into the world of Golden Age mysteries.  So guess what:

 

Of the 129 books I read in the first six months of 2020, a whopping 63% were Golden Age and contemporary mysteries -- add in the 10 historical mysteries that also form the single biggest chunk of my historical fiction reading, you even get to 91 books or 70.5%.

 

I am rather pleased, though, that -- comfort and escape reading aside and largely thanks to a number of truly interesting memoirs and biographies -- the number of nonfiction books is roughly equivalent to the sum of "high brow" fiction (classics and litfic).

 

Another thing that makes me happy is that my extended foray into Golden Age mysteries was not overwhelmingly limited to rereads; these accounted for only 28% of all books read (36 in absolute figures), a percentage which is not substantially higher than my average in the last two years.  At the same time, as a comparatively large number of Golden Age mysteries are not (yet?) available as audiobooks -- not even all of those that have been republished in print in recent years --, and as I have spent considerably less time driving to and from meetings and conferences than in the past two years, the share of print books consumed is higher than it was in 2018 and 2019.

 

 

 

Given the high percentage of comfort reading, it's no surprise that my star ratings are on the high side for the first half of 2020 -- the vast majority of the books were decent, if not good or even great reads.

 

Overall average: 3.7 stars 

 

However, my Golden Age mystery binge also had a noticeable effect on the two statistics I'm tracking particularly: gender and ethnicity.

 

As far as gender is concerned things still look very good if you just focus on the authors: 88 books by women (plus 5 mixed anthologies / author teams) vs. 36 books by male authors; hooray!  However, inspired by onnurtilraun, I decided to add another layer this time and also track protagonists ... and of course, if there is one genre where women authors have created a plethora of iconic male protagonists, it is Golden Age mystery fiction; and all the Miss Marples, Miss Silvers, Mrs. Bradleys and other female sleuths out there can't totally wipe out the number of books starring the likes of Hercule Poirot, Lord Peter Wimsey, Roderick Alleyn, and other male detectives of note.  Then again, the Golden Age mystery novelists actually were ahead of their time in not only creating women sleuths acting independently but also in endowing their male detectives with equally strong female partners and friends, so the likes of Ariadne Oliver, Agatha "Troy" Alleyn, and of course the inimitable Harriet Vane, also make for a significantly higher number of books with both male and female protagonists.  Still, the gender shift is impossible to miss.

 

  

(For those wondering about the "N / A" protagonist, that's Martha Wells's Murderbot, who of course is an AI and deliberately created as gender-neutral.)

 

And of course, since there isn't a non-white author to be found among the Golden Age mystery writers (or at least, none that I'm aware of and whose books figured as part of my reading during the past couple of months), the ethnicity chart goes completely out of the window.  Again, as long as you just look at the number of countries visited as part of my Around the World reading challenge (and if you ignore the number of books written by authors from / set in the UK and the U.S.), the figures actually still look pretty good -- and yes, the relatively high number of European countries is deliberate; I mostly focused on authors from / settings in the Southern Hemisphere last year, so I figured since tracking ethnicity was substantially impacted by the mystery binge this year anyway, I might as well make a bit of headway with the European countries, too.

 

Yet, there is one interesting wrinkle even in the comparison of author vs. protagonist ethnicity; namely, where it comes to the non-Caucasian part of the table: It turns out that the number of non-white protagonists is slightly higher than that of non-white authors, because I managed to pick a few books at least which, though written by white authors, did feature non-white protagonists.  Make of that one what you will ... 

 

   

 

Nevertheless, for the rest of the year, the aim is clear ... catch up on my Around the World reading challenge and build in as many books by non-Caucasian authors as possible!

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text 2020-05-31 23:04
Antidote
Clouds of Witness - Dorothy L. Sayers

I need a great book to make up for my last reading experience. I also feel like re-reading the Wimsey stories in order, this time including the short stories, which I've so far neglected or rather saved up for special circumstances. I guess, a pandemic should qualify as "special circumstances".

 

In any case, a visit to Duke's Denver is on the cards.

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review 2020-05-16 20:07
Love All, aka Cat's Cradle: Sayers Does Drawing Room Comedy
Love All and Busman's Honeymoon: Two Plays by Dorothy L. Sayers - Dorothy L. Sayers,Alzina Stone Dale

When I bought this joint edition of Busman’s Honeymoon and Love All, the obvious pièce de résistance, for me, and the reason why I spent some time hunting down an affordable copy at all, was the stage version of Busman’s Honeymoon – the final full-length outing of Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane (later transformed into a novel of the same name) and just about the last published bit from Dorothy L. Sayers’s own pen still lacking in my collection, at least as far as Lord Peter and Harriet are concerned. Love All, in comparison, looked like an also-ran – interesting, certainly, but surely no dice on the star turn of Sayers’s recently-married supersleuths?

 

Oh, ye of little faith.

 

Ostensibly, Love All (which Sayers co-wrote with her Somerville College friend Marjorie Barber, and which in an unpublished manuscript version bears the alternative title Cat’s Cradle) is a drawing room comedy, set first in Venice and later in London – but Sayers wouldn’t be Sayers if a drawing room comedy was all she had given us here. In fact, this is the theatrical expression of the thoughts also expressed in the two addresses jointly reproduced under the title Are Women Human? – that it is women’s given right as human beings to live a fully realized life, which most definitely includes the right to choose their own professional path, and the freedom not to have to place a man’s needs and demands over their own (as, however, so many of her female contemporaries had to do).

 

The play was never published in printing during Sayers’s lifetime and only had a limited stage exposure outside of London (and none at all in London itself); possibly as a result of clashing – as Sayers herself put it – on its opening night “with Mr. Hitler’s gala performance in Norway and Denmark” (i.e., the Nazis’ 1940 invasion of Norway). Another reason may have been the strictures imposed by Sayers’s son Anthony Fleming, who – jealously protective of his mother’s standing as a writer – even in this 1980s’ “resurrection” prohibited any editorial reference to Sayers’s private life or to himself, even though the play features a young boy brought up by relatives in the country while his mother is pursuing a literary career in London. And according to the play itself, he definitely had a point; the boy's mother, a successful dramatist, is observed rebutting a journalist (on the phone): “Oh, no, Mr. Mackenzie – Not the personal angle, please. No, really, what has one’s private life to do with one’s work? Well, I daresay that is the question, but I don’t want to discuss it.”

 

Whatever the reasons for the play’s having been allowed to slip into oblivion, it is a pity that this should have happened, as Love All compares favorably with other plays in a similar vein that actually have survived until today. – As the alternative title suggests, to even try and sum up the plot would be giving away major plot points, so I’m just going to end with a few of my favorite quotes: 

   “LYDIA: I thought it would be nice to marry Godfrey […] his books were so thrilling. They made me go all soppy, only he isn’t really a bit like his books.

   JANET: Authors never are. They write themselves out into their books, and the real person is just the odds-and-ends left over.”

 

   “LYDIA: And after dinner he’d read me what he’d done.

   JANET: Just so. And ask for your opinion and advice.

   […]

   LYDIA: Sometimes I tried disagreeing with something for a change.

   JANET: How did that work?

   LYDIA: Then he explained why he was right. I found that took rather too long.

   JANET: It does, rather. Has he done much scrapping and rewriting?

   LYDIA: He’s always scrapping and rewriting bits. Except the bits I disagreed with. He always kept those.”

 

   “LYDIA: Every great man has had a woman behind him.

   JANET: And every great woman has had some man or other in front of her, tripping her up.”

 

   “LYDIA: Is the next book going to be about a devoted woman who sacrificed her career for her lover?

   JANET: No, darling; that was the one he wrote just before he met you.”

 

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review 2020-05-16 20:06
Busman's Honeymoon: A Lethal Play, or, Sayers's Last Word on Peter and Harriet
Love All and Busman's Honeymoon: Two Plays by Dorothy L. Sayers - Dorothy L. Sayers,Alzina Stone Dale

   “PETER (frowns): You know, Harriet, this is one of those exasperatingly simple cases. I mean, it’s not like those ones where the great financier is stabbed in the library –

   HARRIET: I know! And thousands of people stampede in and out of the French window all night, armed with motives and sharp instruments –

   PETER: And the corpse turns out to be his own twin bother returned from the Fiji Islands and disguised as himself. That sort of thing is comparatively easy. But here’s a dead man in a locked house and a perfectly plain suspect, with means, motive, and opportunity, and all the evidence pat – with the trifling exception of the proof.”

Lord Peter Wimsey’s final full-length murder investigation first saw the light of day as a play – like the subsequent novel, titled Busman’s Honeymoon – co-written with Dorothy L. Sayers’s friend from her Somerville College, Muriel St. Clare Byrne. Although it enjoyed a successful run after its November 1936 Birmingham and December London 1936 premieres, the play’s success was transferred entirely onto the novel of the same name published the following year, and the playscript was never reprinted after its initial 1937 Gollancz first edition. It took another half century, the acquisition of the original manuscript and a wealth of associated papers by the Marion E. Wade Collection at Kent State University’s Wheaton College, and the express (and narrowly limited) consent by Sayers’s son Anthony Fleming for the play to be republished, along with the drawing room comedy Love All (in manuscript, alternatively titled Cat’s Cradle), which Sayers wrote together with another Somerville College friend, Marjorie Barber.

 

In the novel Busman’s Honeymoon, Sayers elaborates on the plot and the themes addressed in the play, but she remains faithful to the stage version in every respect, entire lines of dialogue are taken from there, and the play of course distills down the basic structure of the action, merging the demands of dramatic sequencing and those of a detective story scrupulously based on the fair play rule according to which, in the authors’ words, “every clue must be shown at the same time to the public and to the detective”. The detective is not to have any secret knowledge or other advantage over the audience (nor vice versa), and comparing their play’s structure to that of “a Three-part Fugue, moving contrapuntually to an ordered resolution”, the playwrights continue to explain in the authors’ note:

“It was necessary to invent a technique to express this formula, since the novelist’s approach by argument and explanation is clearly unsuited to the stage. For the First Act, in which most of the major clues are introduced, the method chosen is that of visual presentation. The clues as to Means are displayed, silently but conspicuously, down-stage, while at the same time the animated discussion of trivialities up-stage holds the ear and divides the attention of the audience. The producer’s task is thus to play, as it were, two independent tunes concurrently, concentrating upon inessentials in order to disguise, without concealing, the essentials of the plot-structure.

 

In the Second Act, the method, while still contrapuntal, is slightly varied. While the inquiry is ostensibly directed to Motive, the information actually conveyed to the audience chiefly concerns Opportunity, or the lack of it. Here, Superintendent Kirk’s unwavering canto fermo is contrasted with the freely moving descant played by Peter, who hovers continually above the action, sometimes in concord and sometimes in passing discord with the set theme. The producer may note the visual symbolism, whereby Kirk remains throughout firmly planted in his chair, while Peter wanders about the stage, darting in upon the problem from all angles.

 

In Act III, Scene 1, which for the purposes of the plot establishes Motive, the attention is held by yet another theme. This, introduced in the First Act and kept moving by occasional passages in Act II, here emerges into prominence. The human and emotional aspects of the situation, as it affects the private lives of the characters concerned, become the main source of interest. An effort is here made to do for the detective play what has already been achieved for the detective novel – that is, to combine it with the comedy of manners, and so bring it back into the main line of English dramatic tradition. In this scene, the masks are dropped all round: [along farcical-comedy and tragi-comedy lines by others and] along romantic-comedy lines by Peter and Harriet, the complete sincerity of whose emotion is the touchstone by which all the rest of the action must be tested.

 

In the final scene, both the disguised and the ostensible clues extracted from the previous scenes are presented and a fresh in a visual reconstruction to solve the problem on purely theatrical lines; and at the same time the emotional elements are brought into harmony.”

In a lengthy introduction, the book’s editor, Alzina Stone Dale, elaborates on the genesis and various birthing stages of the play, and the book’s no less than four appendices reproduce significant additional materials; including the authors’ stern warning to producers as to the truly lethal risks of the murder method employed here, coupled with several-pages-long minute instructions how Peter’s reconstruction of the crime at the end of the play should be faked, so as to avoid actually endangering anyone on stage (first and foremost the actor playing the murderer, who ends up caught in and unmasked by his own trap in the reconstruction).

 

Another appendix reproduces Sayers’s handwritten notes on the major characters:

“PETER will be 45 next birthday; & though his small bones, whippy figure & fair colouring give him a deceptive appearance of youth, his face, in its rare moments of repose is beginning to show the marks set there by time & experience. At first sight one would say that the lines of brow & chin ran back rather alarmingly; but this, too, is largely an illusion, due to the dominance of the high, beaked nose which is, one feels, a tradition handed down from the Norman Conquest or thereabouts & somewhat exaggerated in the transmission. The steadiness of the grey eyes & long, humorous mouth is reassuring, & there is certainly no lack of physical health or vitality; yet the acuteness of the facial angle, the silvery pallor of hair & skin, the slight droop of the eyelids, the sensitive and restless hands, & above all a certain nervous tautness of gesture & carriage – these signs perhaps convey a warning that the family blood will not stand very much more this kind of thing, & that in marrying a commoner he has shown no more than a proper consideration for posterity. His social poise is inborn; but his emotional balance appears to be rather a matter of discipline applied partly from within & partly by training and circumstance; his outbursts of inconsequent gaiety are the compensation for the exercise of a rigid control in other directions. A natural sweetness of disposition, allied to a freakish sense of humour & assisted by a highly-civilized upbringing, makes him easy enough to get on with, but to get within his guard is difficult. The light, high, over-bred voice is his own; but the drawl, like the monocle, is part of the comedian’s make-up which he can & does put off when he is in earnest. […] Nor does he hold any surprises for Bunter, who has known him from his teeth to his toe-nails for twenty years. How far Bunter has it in him to surprise Peter is a matter for infinite conjecture.

 

[…]

 

HARRIET is 30 years old, tall, strongly-made & vigorous in speech, movement & colouring. She has dark hair & eyes & a skin like honey; her face has more character than beauty, but the older she grows the handsomer she will become. […] Past unhappiness has matured but not tamed her; she has not learnt, & never will learn, self-discipline as Peter has learnt it. What she has got & what he loves her for, is an immense intellectual sincerity. She will commit endless errors of judgment & hold to them in the face of any emotional attack; but if her reason can be persuaded, she will admit the error freely & without rancor. It is evident that she will never be happy unless her passions & her reason can march side by side; & she is lucky to have found a man honest and unselfish enough to refrain from using her heart as a weapon against her conscience. Indeed, in this respect he is the more vulnerable, & it is her honesty that will prevent him from turning the same weapon against himself. The fact that they both have the same educational background is probably a considerable factor in the establishment of a common understanding; & though you might think that they are the last people who should ever have married one another, Oxford will in the end be justified of her children.”

 The 1980s' version of Harriet and Peter: Harriet Walter and Edward Petherbridge -- in the small screen adaptation of Gaudy Night

   HARRIET: Oh, my dear: What is happening to us? What has become of our peace?

   PETER: Broken! That’s what violence does. Once it starts, it catches us all – sooner or later.

   HARRIET: Is there no escape?

   PETER: Only by running away … (Pause) … Perhaps it might be better for us to run. If I finish this job, someone is going to hang. I have no right to drag you into this mess … Oh, my dear, don’t upset yourself so. (He goes up to her.) If you say the word, we will go right away. We’ll leave the whole damnable business ... and never meddle again.

   HARRIET: Do you really mean that?

   PETER: Of course I mean it. I have said so. (His tone is that of a beaten man. He crosses and sits on arm of chair by table L.)

   HARRIET: Peter, you are mad. Never dare to suggest such a thing. Whatever marriage is, it isn’t that.

   PETER: Isn’t what, Harriet?

   HARRIET: Letting your affection corrupt your judgment. What kind of life could we have if I knew that you had become less than yourself by marrying me?

   PETER: My dear girl, most women would consider it a triumph.

   HARRIET: I know. (Gets up and comes down-stage.) I’ve heard them. ‘My husband would do anything for me.’ … It’s degrading. No human being ought to have such power over another.

   PETER: It’s a very real power, Harriet.

   HARRIET (decidedly): Then we won’t use it. If we disagree, we’ll fight it out like gentlemen. But we won’t stand for matrimonial blackmail.”

Busman’s Honeymoon, Act III, Scene 1

I just love that dialogue (which is contained both in the play and in the novel). It’s what epitomizes Peter and Harriet to me – and it just might explain, too, why Sayers didn’t finish a single further novel featuring them but, rather, only gave us glimpses at their married life in a couple of short stories. Because really, what else is there left to be said after this?

 

 

Dennis Arundell and Veronica Turleigh, who played Peter and Harriet in the 1936-1937 theatrical run of Busman’s Honeymoon (images from IMDb)

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