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[personal profile] bookgazing
Picture of The Bletchley Circle main cast from series one and two

I know, I know - it seems like only yesterday I was trying to convince you to get your heart broken by investing in a kick-ass TV program that was cancelled far too early. And here I am poking you to watch another cancelled series that has absolutely no hope of being revived. Quit it, Jodie, you say, just quit it.

I think I can win you round though. Yes, even though there are only seven episodes to watch. Yes, even though the actress playing the protagonist left half way through the second series. Yes, even though – look, are we going to have a problem here?!

Anyway, here are five good reasons why I you think I should latch on to "The Bletchley Circle".

Read more... )
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[personal profile] bookgazing

‘In Dorothy L Sayers’ novels, I found the sort of main character I loved when I turned to fiction: someone with a ‘real’ life, someone who wasn’t just a hero who conveniently had no relations to mess up the novelist’s plot.’

That quote comes from Elizabeth George’s introduction to the Hodder reissue of ‘Strong Posion’. It describes one of my favourite things about the first novel in the loosely linked ‘Vane and Wimsey’ trilogy (‘Strong Poison’, ‘Have His Carcase’ and ‘Gaudy Night’), that exists within Sayer’s Lord Peter Wimsey novels.

Sayer’s detective, Lord Peter Whimsey, is not the isolated, alcholic loner who populates so many modern detective novels. Instead, he is a personable character who is intimately connected to many people who care deeply about him. In ‘Strong Posion’ we see him interact with friends, family, an ex-grilfriend, his devoted secretary and Harriet Vane, the women he has decided to save from the noose. This is so refreshing, coming in an age when every male detective character seems to have a divorce and a dependancy on alcohol, which keeps them emotionally cut off from the rest of the world. I mean, I really enjoy reading about Ian Rankin’s Rebus and detectives of that kind, but I also enjoy diversity of approach.

These interactions between Wimsey and others aren’t just there to increase the reader’s interest in Sayer’s detective, they also perform a useful drammatic function for anyone who has been cajoled decided to start by reading ‘Strong Poison’ instead of begining at the very begining, with the first novel in the Wimsey chronology, ‘Whose Body?’. As the novel progresses and Peter Wimsey interacts with all the people from his past, the reader picks up fleeting, but important clues about his past and his personality, which come together to create a fuller, more interesting picture of his character.

This is much more subtle than Sayers including an info dump about his character at the begining of the book, in order to remind returning readers what they know about Sayer’s detective and give new readers all the information that they need. Wimsey’s character and past experiences are teased out gradually and although the reader doesn’t know everything about him by the end of this novel they can make some informed guesses about the detective’s current emotional state, how he came to be the man he is and the ways in which he is trying to develop. This method of character creation works for me, because I like characters with a bit of mystery and I find picking up clues that show how a person works, or how they came to be who they are, much easier than spotting author signposts to the solution of a mystery. The little touches were more than enough for me to build a version of Wimsey in my head.

For anyone who wants more information about , a short biographical study of his past, is included at the back of this edition. This will answer any questions the reader might have about Wimsey’s past. I really appreciated that this biography, written by his kindly mentor, came at the end of the novel, because that meant I got to form my own impressions about Peter Wimsey, from the hints dotted through the text, but I did also enjoy having some things about his life clarified, before I began ‘Have His Carcase’. An author can help readers really gain more from a book by including lots of revealing, pertinent, well written information about their characters , but often readers can make do with incredibly small amounts of information. Sayers allows her readers the best of both approaches in ‘Strong Poison’.

I’ve established that I’m the kind of reader who enjoys using small, almost throwaway clues about a character to create my idea of who these people are. I’m also the kind of reader who enjoys finding small, fleeting moments in novels that may have no real wider plot significance, but could easily begin a whole world of new stories by themselves. A glance as two people walk down a corrider, the touch of a hand that is never discussed, the worried look that crosses someone’s face. ‘Strong Poison’ provides plenty of these tiny and simple moments, which encouraged me to harbour strong feelings about characters and their relationships.

My absolute favourite has to be this short snippets of a conversation between Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, when he visits her in prison:

‘ ‘Any minor alterations, like parting the old mane, or growing a toothbrush, or cashiering the eye-glas, you know, I shoudl be happy to undertake, if it suited your ideas.’

‘Don’t,’ said Miss Vane, ‘please don’t alter yourself in any particular.’
‘You really mean that?’ Wimsey flushed a little.’

Here the reader gets a glimpse of the vulnerable person behind all the cheerful, but cynical bustle that Wimsey puts out for most of the book. How could I not fall for a character who is so pleased and a little undone, by words which suggest someone will take him exactly as he is? For me, there’s a wealth of emotion in that last line and Wimsey’s flushed response. Romance is the only option for these characters now. Don’t fail me Dorothy L Sayers.

‘Have His Carcase’ has been conquered1 since I read ‘Strong Poison’, so there’s only what everyone describes as the unadulterated pleasure of ‘Gaudy Night’ left for me to read, before I start looking into the rest of Sayer’s novels. Will this linked trilogy end happily for me? Who knows! 2

1And I mean conquered. Sadly its mystery was not for me, in fact the ending convinced me that it wasn’t for Sayers either and by the end of the novel she had bugged herself so much that she had her characters throw up their hands in sympathy with her predicament.

2 Blatantly teases Ana.

Other Posts

Thoughts on Strong Poison – Dorothy L Sayers (Part One)


The Sleepless Reader
things mean a lot
Jenny’s Books
renay: artist rendition of the center of a nebula (Default)
[personal profile] renay
cover of Kraken deep blue with the letters K R and K of the title forming long tentacles off their ends

Hold on to your tentacles, this post is jam-packed full of words and revelations, although not of the spiritual kind. There are massive spoilers, including the ending for the entire book. If you care about being spoiled for this book before you read it, don't read this. Onward to FEELINGS.

Oh, China Miéville, why did you do this to me on our first date? I thought we had something special. I read one hundred pages of this book and recommended it to Chris! He probably had to go put on pants to buy this book! I added your entire back list to my reading list in a year when I can only read one book by a dude after I read five books by ladies. I gushed at people about this book. I HAD SO MANY FEELINGS AND THEY STILL HAVEN'T GONE AWAY. I need healing fanfic and none exists.

I both loved and loathed this book. Kraken was recommended to me by Jodie and Maree after I spent several successful years pretending I wasn't avoiding Miéville's work out of abject fear that my brain wouldn't measure up to the telescopic gaze of his prose. I kept a tight grip on my terror that I would be found wanting and then discarded in the margins as the narrative chugged on without me, inaccessible to my puny intellect. Have you read the first chapter of Perdido Street Station? I have! It will be a vodka-fueled adventure quest before I go back into that novel again, or any of the other Bas-Lag stories, for that matter.

Cut for spoilers and feelings. )

Other reviews:
things mean a lot, Jodie & Maree, The Book Smugglers, Ashley Crump (SF Signal), Theresa Delucci (, yours?


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