Friday, August 7, 2015

Conundrums for the Long Week-End: Mini-Review

Warning! If you have not yet read the Lord Peter Wimsey novels by Dorothy L. Sayers, then you will not want to read this book before doing so--unless you want the plots spoiled. Robert Kuhn McGregor and Ethan Lewis have no compunction about giving away virtually every clue and unmasking every villain in the novels and (most) short stories of the well-known mystery writer while expounding the Conundrums for the Long Week-End: England, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Lord Peter Wimsey. They assume (rightly, I believe) that anyone plunging into their literary critique will be well-acquainted with the ins and outs of Sayers's works.

MacGregor and Lewis fully examine the plots of the Wimsey novels, tying them firmly to both the events in Britain and the world during the "Long Week-End"--the period between the two World Wars--and to the life of Dorothy L. Sayers. They find themes and events in the fictional life of Lord Peter, and later Harriet, and use them to understand Sayers's views on love, marriage, the evolving place of women, and the social changes which are rapidly shaping Sayers's world. They also reveal how each of the Wimsey novels play upon different mystery conventions--from the thriller to the time-table focused crime to the how-dunnit. Sayers worked hard at her craft and used it consciously to explore her own views as well as to comment on (and sometimes criticize) the methods and conventions of other Golden Age mystery practitioners.

For readers of Sayers's work, there may be little to surprise in the examination of the novels themselves, but the historical groundwork, social critique, and background on Sayers herself is interesting and useful for anyone who wants to understand her work better or see it in a different light. ★★★★

1 comment:

fredamans said...

Note taken. Will not read without reading the Lord Peter Wimsey novels first. :-)
Great review!