Bonus Book Review: Dorothy L. Sayers: The Centenary Celebration

Since I do not own a copy of Dorothy L. Sayers: The Centenary Celebration, this entry qualifies as a bonus review.

  • Title: Dorothy L. Sayers: The Centenary Celebration
  • Edited by: Alzina Stone Dale
  • Year Published: 1993 (Walker and Company New York)
  • Year Purchased: N/A
  • Source: This book is on loan from my dear Momma.
  • About: Let me begin my confessing that I have, at most, read one Dorothy L. Sayers book. I cannot be sure, because it was a long time ago and I have nothing to compare it against. Did it feature Lord Peter Wimsey? Likely, as I know it was a mystery novel. I have a near perfect memory when it comes to everything I’ve read as an adult. Thousands upon thousands of books, and I remember them all. Except, it seems, the one in question. Perhaps I am thinking of something else, and have never really held a Sayers book in my hands. I specialize in dead female writers-not as weird as it sounds, rest assured-but remained in near total darkness about one of the quintessential queens of mystery until a couple of weeks ago. Dorothy L. Sayers: The Centenary Celebration features essays by 14 genre biggies, including the editor of the volume, Alzina Stone Dale, Amanda Cross, and Anne Perry. As with all good books of this type, the opinions and theories set forth by the contributors are sometimes wildly at variance. The result is a thoughtful and compelling study of one of the most famous writers-genre or otherwise-of the mid-20th century. I opened this book wishing to kill a bit of time. I finished it with my expectations lapped and left in the dust, an opened mind, and a deep well of curiosity about this woman who wrote immensely popular mysteries before turning to the arduous task of translating Dante. I want to know more. First-hand, and backwards: from Dante to Wimsey. Having finally, undeniably, met Dorothy L. Sayers, I won’t forget her this time.
  • Motivation: Whenever I visit my mom, I immediately raid her bookshelves for fresh reading material. Never mind that I travel with a small library, I’m always hungry for something new.
  • Times Read: 1
  • Random Excerpt/Page 18: “So is that the truth-that she indulged in such pantomime in order to be noticed and remembered? I think this might be true, but it is only half the truth. The other half lies in her abiding immaturity, a curious facet of her character when one considers the sophistication of her central character and alter ego, Lord Peter Wimsey, with his musical ability, his taste in vintage wines, and his essentially adult outlook on the motives and characters of people he met. (Dorothy once confessed to me that she could not tell the difference between burgundy and claret, one of many differences between her and her puppet.)
  • Happiness Scale: 9++



10 thoughts on “Bonus Book Review: Dorothy L. Sayers: The Centenary Celebration

  1. I have heard the name but have never read her books (that I can remember). Lucky you, to remember every book you have read as an adult – I cannot remember even some I have read recently but I also read in the NYT that this is not unusual. You are also very lucky to have a bookworm Mom. Books were very scarce in my house growing up; the library card was the magic key. Your reviews are great.


    • I write about dead writers and other creatives, with the emphasis skewed to women, and I was not too familiar with her actual body of work. I could have picked her image out of a line-up and told you when she was born and died, but that was about it until last week.
      My mom is a big reader, and so is my dad. We always had a lot of books around, as did my grandparents. Naturally, I had a library card too because, even then, I wanted to read all of the (good) books in the world.


      • You know, I should have picked up that you were focusing on dead writers. My literature class just got through John Cheever and Erskine Caldwell. Found out Caldwell lived in Tucson for awhile and is buried in Arizona.


      • My emphasis is on pre-1960s literature, with the main focus being on obscure female writers. I also write about other creative women of the period and, naturally, silent cinema. One doesn’t hear about Erskine Caldwell every day, so that is cool.


      • The instructor went to a library to borrow a book by Caldwell. There was not a single book by him in the library or the county library system. He wrote “Tobacco Road” and “God’s Little Acre”. Not to have this author in the library of the city where he lived? (shocked expression on my face)


      • It is hard to imagine not being able to check out Erskine Caldwell’s most famous works from any library system that is not tiny. How sad.


  2. I read Dorothy Sayers “Gaudy Night” one wintery week in February when I was in college – about a professor who, when returning to Oxford, encounters a series of deadly literary pranks… It’s a fun and intricate read.


    • Gaudy Night is well represented in one of the essays. She is just one of those writers I’ve never gotten around to, but I plan on rectifying that soon. I am really interested in her detailed notes for her Dante translations.


  3. Sayers is one of my favorite writers. I did not know that she went from mystery writing to translating Dante. In Gaudy Night, Harriet Vane struggles with continuing as a novelist or becoming a scholar when she is invited to a University to solve a problem for a friend. I wonder if Sayers wrote that while she was thinking about doing Dante and it echoed what was going on with her. I felt like that book was very different than her earlier books — to me, she dug into the characters more.


    • Apparently, she considered that translation to be her best work. I imagine that it was a real labor of love for her.

      My mom always had some Sayers books in her collection, so I read them here and there as a kid. I’ve always enjoyed her books, but feel like I need to read more of them.

      Your theory seems like a logical one, good thinking!

      Liked by 1 person

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