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Book Note: Dorothy L. Sayers, Busman's Honeymoon

I read this book about 10-Feb-2002. I've read this book before. The book is copyright 1937. This note was last modified Thursday, 22-May-2014 19:45:09 PDT.

This is book 13 of the "Lord Peter Wimsey" series.

This note does not contain major spoilers for the book.


I've classified this as no spoilers. In a book this old and this famous, I'm a little lenient with that. I don't reveal who done it, or how, but I do reveal some things that aren't foregone conclusions from the beginning. If you're really spoiler-sensitive, you might wish to skip this note.

My favorite Sayers, and I believe widely thought to be the best. The last real Peter Wimsey novel. Sometimes described as a romance, with detective interruptions (which is a paraphrase of something Sayers says in the introductory letter).

I think she handles the mystery very well, better than in many of the other books. The trick is clever but somewhat believable, and the way they figure it out is clever, and it was never a sure thing; it was a possibility until very late in the book that they would not figure it out.

However, that's not what makes the book important. For me, it's one of the best stories of love and romance I've ever read. Peter has pursued Harriet for 5 years, and she has finally agreed to marry him, and they are married. And now they're trying to figure out what the form of their relationship will actually be. It's fascinating and very enlightening (especially when read 10 or 20 or 30 years ago). They both reject a lot of the forms of society, so they can't just step into their allotted roles; they have to figure out for themselves how to make their relationship work for both of them. The only thing I've found of comparable interest to me on this subject is Lois McMaster Bujold's A Civil Campaign (#4).

Other delights of this book include considerable time with the Dowager Duchess of Denver, and Harriet's first meeting with the family ghosts in the library of the estate. The opening sections are a series of letters and diary entries from various people, including the current Duchess of Denver as well as the Dowager.

Annoyances include the long untranslated letters from Uncle Paul in French. I tried a French major friend on them, and she said she understood them but couldn't explain them in English (and wasn't willing to even try). But that still doesn't excuse publishing a book with that sort of big untranslated chunks in them. It's great for people to be able to read several languages, but it's unreasonable to require it. (Note that Sayers was probably writing for an audience that really could mostly read French; but publishers putting out a modern edition are not.)

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David Dyer-Bennet