The bells, the bells!
What an ingenious book Dorothy L. Sayers's The Nine Tailors is; how well researched and cleverly plotted, and what great, dramatic, entertainment it makes.
As my first Sayers novel it was a superb introduction to the engaging Lord Peter Wimsey (gourmet, campanologist, all round superhero ...) and his faithful and resourceful manservant Bunter. The ordered, hierarchical society in which it is set provides the perfect framework on which to hang a plot such as this one, and so we have a charming absent-minded rector, some 'rude mechanicals', a landed family fallen on hard times, and for action, sundry deaths and an unexpected corpse, a jewel theft, bigamy, and all amidst the most marvellously realised East Anglian Fen country setting above which the church of Fenchurch St. Paul rises, literally and metaphorically, as the focus and centre of everything, playing - as we see - a major part in more ways than one.
I'll admit I got lost in the business of who was who and who did what and when when it came to Cranton, Thoday, Deacon, etc., but I'm sure that's down to my lack of close attention. Inevitably, given the book's age, there were some quite harsh stereotypical remarks which wouldn't figure - in the authorial voice, at least - in a similar novel today ("the mulish obstinacy of the French peasant" was one such I had in mind).
I was enthralled by all the information about the bells and change ringing and the intricacies of the church's architecture - context is everything in a book like this, and DLS knows how to use it to best advantage. Interesting too that she allows the plot to unfold relatively slowly (the story taking place over the span of a year) and in so doing she gives herself scope for practical development and 'atmospheric enrichment'.
"Authorship is a good stick but a bad crutch," says Edward Thorpe, Hilary's uncle. Is that Miss Sayers speaking from experience or is that purely her character's opinion. Whichever it is, a book like this shows that she herself could stand firmly on her own two feet, though of course knowing her reputation, that was never in doubt.
A real treat, then, for me; what did you think of it?
Later: 'Books and cakes' for The Nine Tailors is here.