August continued my trend this year of not really getting any reading done. I read only two books in the month. Both of them were quite good, but the high quality doesn’t quite make up for the continuing lack of quantity. August was also the month that I finally ran out of new Jasper Fforde books to read. I truly was a sad day when I finished The Woman Who Died a Lot and realized that I didn’t have another like to immediately start in on. Hopefully Mr. Fforde has something coming soon. Maybe I should start rereading the Thursday Next books from the start. Decisions, decisions.
This is ostensibly a continuation of Sayers’ Peter Wimsey mystery series, but he is very much not the protagonist of this novel. That would his love interest Harriet Vane, the mystery writer first introduced in Strong Poison. She gets involved investigating some harassment happening at her Alma Mater, Shrewsbury College.
While there is definitely a mystery to be solved, Gaudy NIght isn’t so much a mystery as it is an examination of the changing roles of women in society at the time it was written. It is about Harriet’s relationship to Lord Peter and whether marriage, both in their case specifically and in general, is desirable or even worthwhile. It looks at the role of women in a world where the idea of separate spheres for the gender’s is crumbling. Harriet attends her class reunion and sees women who have taken all sorts of paths in life. Some married high, some married low, some gave up their studies to marry, some gave up marrying to study and very few that managed to have it all. She must face, after the end of her longtime relationship with a fellow writer, what path she wants to take. No one choice is shown to be absolutely right or wrong, she must decide what is best for her. It is fitting that culprit is someone upset about a woman supposedly usurping the rightful place of a man in academia.
Gaudy Night works as both a mystery and a feminist examination. While many of the problems are not particularly relevant here some seventy years later, a surprising number of them are. It is nice to read a mystery not wholly bound by it genre.
The Woman Who Died a Lot
Yet another Thursday Next book, one I take as proof that while Thursday’s adventure’s may be coming to a close, though I hope not, Fforde is far from out of ingenious ideas. In a big change, this entry in the series almost totally ignores the BookWorld that has been such a big part. Instead, it features the return of the giant, evil Goliath Corporation as immediate villains. It also finally deals with the continuing Jenny situation.
The biggest thing The Woman Who Died a Lot does is hammer home that fact that Thursday is getting old. While that has been a running plot thread in the second series, it is really front and center here. The only way she knows that she’s been replaced by a synthetic duplicate is that they are in much better shape than she is. She solves a mystery dealing with stolen duplicates, the last gasp of the ChronoGuard and the final ramifications of the stupidity surplus. Most importantly, at least to me, is that she finally deals with Aornis Hades and her fictional daughter Jenny.
Shocking no one, I loved this book. It isn’t my favorite Fforde, that’s still Shades of Grey, but I would put this one in the upper half of the Thursday Next series. I eagerly await whatever Mr. Fforde has coming next.