Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Thrones, Dominations

Thrones, Dominations. Dorothy L. Sayers and Jill Paton Walsh. 1998. St. Martin's Press. 312 pages.

'I do not,' said Monsieur Theophile Daumier, 'understand the English.'
'Nor does anybody,' replied Mr Paul Delagardie, 'themselves least of all.'

Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet return to London after their honeymoon, Harriet hasn't been unconditionally accepted by all of Peter's family--at least not yet. And let's be honest, she may never be welcomed by Peter's sister-in-law, Helen. But she is happy as a new wife. Though she'd admit it feels strange to not have to write detective stories anymore. She still wants to write, but her writing is not prompted by absolute necessity. And so she's still trying to figure out what that means to her writing, how to get focused on her work--or should I say stay focused on her work. She's being introduced to new people all the time. Some of these new acquaintances she welcomes, some are more forced upon her. The Harwell couple, for example. Neither Lord Peter or Harriet "enjoy" spending time with Laurence Harwell and his wife, Rosamund Harwell; and it should be said that Laurence Harwell and Rosamund Harwell don't truly "enjoy" spending time with them either. But. Society is society and the connection may prove useful at some point.

Thrones, Dominations provides an intimate (not that kind of intimate) look at two marriages. Peter and Harriet and Laurence and Rosamund. The two marriages do share certain similarities. Husbands who at some point in the past 'rescued' their wives. The husbands being of higher social class than their wives. But a closer examination proves the differences outweigh any similarities. For it becomes clear that Lord Peter and Harried LOVE each other truly--with a forever-kind-of-love. And for Rosamund and Laurence, what love might have existed is buried under disinterest, neglect, and manipulative games. She wants her husband to be jealous of her, possessive of her, to want her to be his and his alone. And he just doesn't care who she talks to, who she dines with, who she goes about with in town, etc.

Halfway through the novel, once the reader gets a chance to know both couples and the society they share, the mystery begins. Lord Peter is once again called upon to solve the mystery and find the murderer.

I enjoyed this one. I did. I particularly liked seeing Harriet and Peter together. I thought she did a great job with their dialogue and the development of their relationship. I would recommend this one to those that can't get enough of this couple!

Harriet and Lady Severn
"Well, how do you like it?"
"Like what, Lady Severn?"
"Being part of the Wimsey Estate."
"Peter doesn't treat me as part of the estate."
"I suppose not. He always had good manners. An excellent bedside manner, too, or so they tell me."
Harriet said gravely, "I don't think they ought to have told."
In spite of herself, the corners of her mouth twitched and the vulture chuckled again.
"You're quite right, my dear, they oughtn't. You won't tell, I can see. Never tell me anything; I always repeat it. Are you in love with him?"
"Yes. I don't mind having that repeated."
"Then why didn't you marry him sooner?"
"Obstinacy," said Harriet, and this time she grinned openly.
"Humph! You're probably the first woman that ever kept him waiting. What do you do with him, now you've got him, hey? Lick his toes, or make him sit up and beg?"
"What do you advise?"
"Honest dealing," said the old lady, sharply. "A man's none the better for being fretted to fiddle-strings. You're going to amuse me. Most of these young women are very dull. They either take offence or think I'm a scream. What do you think?"
"I think," said Harriet, feeling she might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb, "you are behaving like a character in a book. And I think you are doing it on purpose."
"That's rather shrewd of you," said the vulture.
"When I put you in a book," pursued Harriet, "I shall make that aspect of your psychology quite clear."
"All right," said Lady Severn. "I'll take six copies. And I'll promise to live till it's published." (41-42)
Lord Peter to Harriet on her writing:

"How I envy you your capacity to take facts or leave them," said Peter. (51)

Harriet to Mr. Amery:

"You should never say thank you for a good review," said Harriet. "That would imply that one had done a favour to the author, whereas one has simply done justice to the book." (101)

Lord Peter and Harriet:

"It is perfectly possible, I suppose," said Lord Peter to his wife, over breakfast, "for someone to be murdered while doing something she does not usually do, or behaving in a way unaccustomed to her. But it is an affront to the natural feelings of a criminologist, all the same."
"It has a feeling of lightning striking twice in the same spot, you mean?"
"It does rather. I would greatly prefer it if in every tiny break in precedent was in some way connected to the crime. And therefore could be constructed as a clue by a brainy enough person."
"Well, if this were a work of fiction, one would certainly make sure that was the case," said Harriet. "But in real life, Peter, don't people usually do unusual things? Aren't they always going to places for the first time, mildly surprising their friends by little switches in behavior, suddenly getting bored, or headachy, and dashing out to parties, or going early to bed, or buying a red dress instead of a blue one, or suddenly marrying, at the age of forty-five, a highly unsuitable person?"
"Do you mean that unpredictable behavior may simply reveal the secret truth of someone's inner man or woman?"
"In a novel, of course, it would. Things have to be connected or the reader would not believe them."
"It's odd, that, isn't it?" said Peter. "If unconnected and spur-of-the-moment things keep happening in the real world, why shouldn't they be plausible in novels? Shouldn't the most plausible picture of life be a portrait of reality in all its bizarre and incoherent confusion?"
"I think a novel has to deal in a different kind of truth," said Harriet. "For example, if poor Rosamund's death were in a novel, readers would know at once that the Sunbury attacker who so alarmed Laurence Harwell could not have done it. If a wholly unconnected stranger arrived in a story just in time to commit the crime and disappear, there would be no plot."
"But in real life random things occur, and there may actually be no plot, in that sense of the word," said Wimsey, thoughtfully. (137-38)

Lord Peter to Inspector Parker
"I wish you wouldn't get so obsessed by motives, Charles. Motives are ten a penny. There's always a motive for anybody doing anything. Just find out who had the opportunity, and you can make up the motive."
"I don't really agree with you," said Charles. "Juries like motives, you know." (141)

Lord Peter and Harriet
"Frivolity can give a good deal of pleasure," he said, mildly. "But I don't like to hear you call detective stories frivolous."
"But aren't they? Compare to the real thing?"
"What do you call the real thing?"
"Great literature; Paradise Lost; novels like Great Expectations, or Crime and Punishment or War and Peace. Or on the other hand real detection, dealing with real crimes."
"You seem not to appreciate the importance of your special form," he said. "Detective stories contain a dream of justice. They project a vision of a world in which wrongs are righted, and villains are betrayed by clues that they did not know they were leaving. A world in which murderers are caught and hanged, and innocent victims are avenged, and future murder is deterred."
"But it is just a vision, Peter. The world we live in is not like that."
"It sometimes is," he said. "Besides, hasn't it occurred to you that to be beneficent, a vision does not have to be true?"
"What benefits could be conferred by falsehood?" she asked.
"Not falsehood, Harriet; idealism. Detective stories keep alive a view of the world which ought to be true. Of course people read them for fun, for diversion, as they do crossword puzzles. But underneath they feed a hunger for justice, and heaven help us if ordinary people cease to feel that." (151)
Dowager Duchess in a letter:

Sent Franklin to Hatchards for copy of War and Peace, thinking today good time to start long book...Silly woman came back with Anna Karenina, saying it was the nearest thing she could find. Got as far as first sentence, then stopped to think. "All happy families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Great author has got that the wrong way round. I think unhappiness is much the same whatever the reasons for it, and happiness is a quirky odd sort of thing... (312)

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


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