Tuesday 11 November 2008

Remembrance Day

11 November is always one of the most sobering days of the year. Even though it was many years ago, I vividly recall a visit to the Remembrance Day service at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London. Very moving.

Today is perhaps also a suitable occasion to recall a classic detective story which not only opens on Armistice, or Remembrance Day, but in which the coincidence of events on that particular day is absolutely crucial to the story.

The book in question is The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, by Dorothy L. Sayers. I was in my teens when I first read it, but a few years ago I caught up, very belatedly, with the tv version starring Ian Carmichael as Lord Peter Wimsey. It's not the best book Sayers ever wrote, but it nevertheless deserves to be ranked as a classic.

Speaking of Sayers, I've just been reading a tribute to her by Michael Gilbert, which is included in Dorothy L. Sayers: The Centenary Celebration, edited by Alzina Stone Dale. Gilbert knew her mainly through their many encounters at the Detection Club. It's a frank and fascinating personal memoir, written by a man who admired Sayers, but wasn't blind to her idiosyncrasies. He describes her combination of sophistication and immaturity in a compelling way that brings Sayers alive as well as any of the lengthier biographies.

And if you are a Sayers fan, Dale's book is well worth seeking out.


Nan said...

When I saw the title of your post, I was hoping you would mention The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club. There's not a November 11 that I don't think of that story. I saw the televised version many, many years ago, and then again more recently. Just last year at this time, I read the book for the first time and did a little book report on the blog. If you'd like to read it (and see the great old book cover) it is here:

Anonymous said...

I have to admit I have not read the Sayres book but I just heard about it, and the Remembrance Day connection, last night from Mary!
Here in the US we do it differently. For years my office window looked out on the Rochester War Memorial/Convention Center and on Veterans Day some folks would assemble and rifles would be fired

Martin Edwards said...

Nan, thanks for the link to that excellent post - and I've added Letters from a Hill Farm to the blogroll.

Val said...

Thanks for the information on the Dale book, I'll add it to my "seek out" list.
I also like D.L.Sayer's Crime novels and enjoy them in their BBC Radio versions too (inspite of occasional quirks of casting and adaption that sometimes don't work as well,at least to me.. but who's perfect?!)
The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club works well on radio I think, and the story certainly doesn't seem inappropriate for the Anniversary of a War's end, as it doesn't glorify war at all.
Gosh I think I'd be wise to not comment on blogs till my brain clears...I'll be Sounding less coherent that our Famous Gov at this rate!!!
Thanks agin for the headsup

Martin Edwards said...

Perfectly coherent, actually, Val!
I haven't heard the radio versions, unfortunately.
The Dale book has various different people's take on Sayers and her work -pretty interesting, I think. A book to dip in rather than read all in one go, perhaps.