Thursday, September 19, 2019

Thrones, Dominations

Of the Wimsey continuation novels by Jill Paton Walsh, Thrones, Dominations is the best. Most likely because it has the largest amount of Sayers in it. Sayers sketched out most of the novel, left plot diagrams, and wrote about six chapters of the novel before abandoning it in 1936. When I first read it, long before blogging, I was incredibly eager to do so--knowing how much Sayers had left to work with and longing for more Lord Peter Wimsey. At that time I rated it a decent outing, but it also made me sad because I knew how very outstanding it could have been if Sayers had completed. Needless to say--Paton Walsh is no Sayers. She doesn't have the literary style, nor the Renaissance-woman feel of Sayers (despite having been inspired to attend Oxford after reading Sayers' novels). But I thought her handling of the characters decent. There was, however, an indecent lack of Bunter. And when he did appear it was not for long and he did not have the importance of Sayers' character.

This time around I am feeling a bit more generous. In part that is because I don't have the same heightened expectations. But also this "reading" was an audio novel read by Lord Peter Wimsey himself, Ian Carmichael. Carmichael was my first filmed Wimsey and embodies the man for me. Edward Petherbridge also gave a fine performance--but Carmichael was first. His reading of the novel breathes a spirit of the Sayers Wimsey into the work that is lacking on the written page. He knows the Wimsey way (and by extension that of the other characters in the novel) even if Paton Walsh doesn't have complete mastery of it and he brings the work up to another level.

Two notes on the book itself:

The novel is worth it for the appearance of the Countess of Severn and Thames when she swoops down upon Harriet to spy out for herself how her godson's marriage is getting along. I love the way she and Harriet size each other up and come to like one another. Harriet isn't about to be cowed by this formidable woman and gives just as good as she gets.

On a more serious note, this novel continues to explore the themes of love and marriage first broached in Gaudy Night and Busman's Honeymoon. So, on that count, it makes for an interesting follow-up. Where Gaudy Night has Peter tell Harriet "But when you have come to a conclusion about all this, will you remember that it was I who asked you to take a dispassionate view, and I who told that of all the devils let loos in the world there was no devil like devoted love...." Thrones, Dominations examines the jealous, possessive side of love. Sayers' outline contrasts the marriage of equality, respect, and deep love of the Wimseys with the jealous, possessive love of the Harwells. It seems that the Harwells are not happy unless Laurence is repeatedly "storming the citadel" and taking possession of his wife once again. And Rosamund loves to play the ice queen who must be won over and warmed by love and adoration of her man. 

Last time round, I gave this three stars. I'm upping the ante just a bit (primarily for Ian Carmichael's reading): ★★

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