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Date: 2016-11-01 18:17 (UTC)
swan_tower: (Default)
From: [personal profile] swan_tower
I read Whose Body? first, because I thought I should start at the beginning and go through in order; then I read Strong Poison, because I couldn't get my hands on Clouds of Witness but stumbled across that one in a used bookstore. Then I went on, haphazardly and out of order, reading everything except Gaudy Night and Busman's Honeymoon, before this year going back to the beginning and doing them all in order, including the last two.

I'm sort of not sorry for that approach, because Whose Body? didn't do very much for me, and gave me no sense of why people love this series so much; Strong Poison, for all of the problems with how Peter behaves toward Harriet, did a much better job of making me say "yes, I understand now, and will keep reading." I think the third one I read was The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, and if I were to try and hook a new reader on the series, I might start there, letting the first two slide until later. I feel like that one offers the best balance, in terms of demonstrating depth of character and narrative without having too deep of a foundation the reader's missing out on.

. . . and I might just tell them to skip The Five Red Herrings, which I didn't actually re-read on this pass because I got rid of my copy. Possibly it would come off better if I told myself/the hypothetical new reader to just straight-up ignore every last thing about train schedules and pay attention to the rest of the story.

As for Gaudy Night, yes, it's astonishing how much Peter isn't in it, while simultaneously being very important to it. I feel almost like that serves another narrative/aesthetic purpose . . . I've noted with Dorothy Dunnett (who obviously imprinted on Sayers, hard) that she can get away with Lymond being as much of a Gary Stu as he is in part because we're almost never in his point of view, and the story spends a fair bit of time telling us what the people around him are doing instead. So then I look at Gaudy Night and think, Sayers leaving Peter offstage has the effect of making us miss him, making us admire the good qualities we might have been taking for granted and want him back. His absence creates a sort of gravitational force that helps drive Harriet's own changing perspective, in a way that I think wouldn't work as effectively if he were around more. (Or if we were in his pov at all, which I don't think we ever are in Gaudy Night. In fact, with the exception of Strong Poison, I think the Harriet/Peter scenes are almost exclusively from Harriet's perspective, or else from a more distant omniscient.)
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