I just had to share the joy that is Dorothy Sayers.
And I’m not a Brit, so for those of you across the pond, my humblest.
I grew up in British schools overseas, so my early education was thorough and vigorous, ecompassing authors like Enid Blyton and C.S. Lewis, of Narnia fame. Every year in the basement of the old mansion in downtown Madrid where we attended “college”, they’d have a book fair. The long, thin lunch tables creaked with stacks of shiny, new tomes imported from London, and it was my great joy to spend hours perusing, knowing I’d not receive more than one.
Brit lit for preteens was rife with boarding school adventures and sardine sandwiches, midnight parentless romps in crime-solving and the ever-looming A-level exams. The themes are always the same: fair play, being a good loser and a gracious winner, rising above your circumstances and taking responsibility for your actions.
And so we come to my dear Ms. Sayers. One of the first women to go through Oxford and receive a degree, she’s known for being just insanely smart and vigorously educated. Her mysteries are a good place to start, and are fairly short (since we’re all short on time). My favorite, though, is called Gaudy Night, a mystery dealing with women in academia and the tension between home and work. She’s also translated the Divine Comedy (haven’t we all), and written a good bit of nonfiction, including Are Women Human?.
She’s not for everyone, that’s for sure. If you’re affected by British pomp and circumstance then she’s not for you, since there’s always an inordinate amount of teatime and sherry-taking and “do give her my card”-ing . But I see it as cross-cultural in a way, and it always gives my vocabulary a boost. And if you’re into mystery at all, she’s a good one to experience.
Besides, I can always use a good dose of Anglophilia. Rather and righty-oh. And pass the crumpets.