The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik

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September 21, 2013

Found on a blog: Conundrums for the Long Week-End

If books could be tailor-made for my {sometimes quirky} reading habits,  Conundrums for the Long Week-end:  England, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Lord Peter Wimsey, by Robert Kuhn McGregor with Ethan Lewis, would be one of them. It's intelligent, but very readable; it combines biography, literary history, social history and mystery novels, and it's set in the period between the two World Wars {the 'long weekend'}. {Now I'm smiling just thinking about that. There are novel cures now, but they're already on the shelf. If you could have a book made for you, like a suit, what kind of a book would it be?}

I put this book on my reading list after Lyn told us about it, {thanks, Lyn!} and finally found it {surprisingly!} in our library's e-book collection. Lyn describes it so well -- it's partly history {what happened during, after and leading up to the two wars}, partly social history {how was life changing in England?}, partly literary history {how did DLS's Lord Peter Wimsey novels fit into the changing form of detective fiction}, and best of all, partly biography {of Dorothy L. Sayers, and of her fictional detective, Lord Peter Wimsey.} A biography of a fictional character. Yes, please.

Even though I'm increasingly drawn to social history and historical fiction, my knowledge of history is abysmal. One of the things I liked best about this book was how it wove in and explained historical events {how World War I proceeded, for example}. I also never knew much about Dorothy L. Sayers, and she had a surprising life {including a son conceived during an unsuccessful, unrequited love affair}. And then there were the descriptions of the ten Lord Peter Wimsey novels, and how DLS deliberately and carefully developed his character and crafted his romance with Harriet, and a theory about why the books came to an end when they did.

I have a feeling I'll read this book again. I've read all of the Wimsey novels {I think all of them}, but now of course I want to go back and read the books again, in order. I think Gaudy Night {'a novel of manners disrupted by a psychopath'} was my favorite, and now I'd also like to re-read Thrones, Dominations, the Wimsey novel that DLS left unfinished, set at the time of the Abdication, and finished later by Jill Paton Walsh.

. . . . . . . . . .
'Found on a blog' is a label for books that I discover by reading
your wonderful blogs. I try
to keep track, before I read them, but I thought
I would also like to say thanks this way.


Vintage Reading said...

Oh I'd like to read this. Just re-read Gaudy Night and I have Busman's Honeymoon up next. I'd like to know more about her life and whether Harriet Vane was her alter-ego - I suspect she was! I'm interested in the inter-war period, too. Never heard it referred to as the Long Weekend before!

elizabeth said...

You make this book sound fascinating! I just requested it from my college library.

Lisa said...

I loved this book. Though I had read & re-read the Wimsey books so many times, this was the first that I really read about them, and about DLS. It made me want to read more - as well as re-read all the novels of course. I can recommend the two volumes of letters edited by Barbara Reynolds, and also Catherine Kenney's The Remarkable Case of DLS.

I loved the authors' statement that "Despite an almost overwhelming temptation to the contrary, Peter Wimsey will not be treated as a historic figure..."

lyn said...

Thanks for linking to my blog, I'm glad you enjoyed the book. DLS is one of my favourite authors. I can always reread the Wimsey books for the atmosphere of between-the-wars England, even when I know whodunit & why. There's a new Jill Paton Walsh Wimsey novel coming out at Christmas, The Late Scholar. It has echoes of Gaudy Night (my favourite as well) as it's set at an Oxford college in the 50s. I'm looking forward to it.

JoAnn said...

This sounds just perfect for you - what a great find! Dorothy L. Sayers has been on my authors to read list for several years. I'd never heard of her until I started blogging.

It's been another slow reading week for me, but I'm about halfway through The Age of Innocence... think I must be the only person around who doesn't know how it ends :-)

Nan said...

Beautifully written!
I adored this book, and learned so much. I read it ten years ago, and it still stays with me. Such a great idea for a book.

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