Saturday, 4 June 2016

A Little Bit Wimsey-cal

Perhaps there is something in the air - but three other bloggers have mentioned recently that they are re-reading the Dorothy L Sayers books.
I love DLS, and the Wimsey/Vane books especially.
But I had not come across this one - A Presumption Of Death.
This one, like Thrones, Dominations is another ones of the pieces begun by DLS, and completed by Jill Paton Walsh after Ms Sayers' death.[JPW never met DLS]

It is set in wartime - around 1940. Lord Peter is away on some hush-hush mission for the Government, and Harriet has taken the children to their place in the country to avoid the bombs in London. 

A Land Girl earl- is mysteriously killed, on the night of the Air-Raid Practice, and then the chief suspect goes missing. The local copper asks Harriet for help [in the absence of her super-sleuth husband] and in the end it all gets sorted.

I was a bit disappointed whilst reading it. Although JPW does manage to convey the strength of the relationship between Wimsey and his wife, and Harriet's constant struggle to feel adequate to the role of 'Lady Peter' - which were key parts of the DLS oeuvre, other aspects of the book left much to be desired.
It felt like a book written in the 90s about the 40s. Somehow the style of language felt a bit too 'modern' in places. There were a few anachronisms which really jarred with me. Like - how come Cook was making Woolton Pie before it had been invented? Once or twice I felt details had been put in just to educate us about life on the Home Front. The death of the poor Land Girl became less and less important as the other, more implausible parts of the plot took over. I appreciate it must be hard to write a book using the notes of someone else who is no longer around to advise - but I didn't think this one was as good as JPW's previous Wimsey.  
Nevertheless I rate it ****I should like to give it 3½stars out of 5 - but can't work out how to type that - and it seems churlish to mark it down - so I am going up to 4/5. 
I am intrigued that Dorset libraries have a number of copies of Presumption of Death - all of them large print - Does reading the works of Ms Sayers make one short-sighted? Do they assume we all wear monocles like her hero?

Have any of you read The Attenbury Emeralds [the third DLS/JPW] and if so, what did you think of it?


  1. I agree with the bits of modernism that just sounded wrong but forgave her as I enjoyed the story, I'm still waiting for Thrones,Dominations and will now look up that 3rd one

  2. Our library just got The Attenbury Emeralds in - so that's now by the bed. Expect a review sometime soonish.

  3. I've never read any Sayers (anyone who knows my book tastes looks at me in disbelief! I want to but somehow, I haven't seen one in a charity shop or library by accident, so I guess I haven't had a reason to remember to try them!x

  4. I love Dorothy L Sayers' books, and although I enjoyed reading the Jill Paton Walsh versions they're not as good as the original. With respect, I don't think that she was a friend of Dorothy L Sayers as you've said above - she was only 20 when DLS died and these 'completions' were written much later.

    1. thank you for the correction - I must be more diligent in my researching [and not trust other internet reviews] I just found an interesting article here

      thanks again Athene

    2. I have read The Attenbury Emeralds and it's ok. I preferred A Presumption of Death but I agree that they are not as good as the originals. Where they score is in satisfying some of the curiosity of how their life continued I love the idea of them being such a strong and loving unit after everything they went through to be together.


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