30 review for Dorothy L. Sayers: A Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sun

    After reading so many biographies of Dorothy L. Sayers, I hoped that official biographer Brabazon would say something new. Brabazon was an actor and producer who first met Sayers at one of her lectures and who later was encouraged by her to act professionally. The biography includes a preface by Anthony Fleming, Sayers' son, and a foreword by P. D. James. It is telling that Fleming does not reveal any feelings towards his birth mother despite the fact that he takes the responsibility for allowin After reading so many biographies of Dorothy L. Sayers, I hoped that official biographer Brabazon would say something new. Brabazon was an actor and producer who first met Sayers at one of her lectures and who later was encouraged by her to act professionally. The biography includes a preface by Anthony Fleming, Sayers' son, and a foreword by P. D. James. It is telling that Fleming does not reveal any feelings towards his birth mother despite the fact that he takes the responsibility for allowing this version of the Sayers' life. The foreword by James is one of the highlights. Brabazon has a more measured approach than his predecessors and he is able to reveal a lot more detail and make fewer assumptions than other Sayers biographers simply because of his access to her letters and other unpublished papers. It is a very full biography, and in terms of detail, I would recommend this above previous tomes by Janet Hitchman, Alzina Stone Dale, Ralph E. Hone, and Nancy Tischler. Where this official story falls down is in not chronologically tying Sayers' life to her works and this makes it difficult to envision the tensions between Sayers the writer and Sayers in her other roles. Although Brabazon's work is touted as the definitive Sayers' biographer, there is also that of Barbara Reynolds published a dozen years later, which I'm working through at the moment.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Surreysmum

    This was the first "authorized" biography of Sayers, anticipating by several decades her request that no biography be written for 50 years after her death (which occurred in 1957). Brabazon was acquainted with Sayers in the latter years of her life, and that acquaintance spills over, perhaps sometimes a little too much, in his characterizations. While there's nothing wrong in themselves with his frequent references to her intellectual arrogance, loud voice and impatience with folks who were slow This was the first "authorized" biography of Sayers, anticipating by several decades her request that no biography be written for 50 years after her death (which occurred in 1957). Brabazon was acquainted with Sayers in the latter years of her life, and that acquaintance spills over, perhaps sometimes a little too much, in his characterizations. While there's nothing wrong in themselves with his frequent references to her intellectual arrogance, loud voice and impatience with folks who were slow off the mark, I found them a bit repetitive; most of all, I found myself being rubbed very much the wrong way by his endless references to her weight, which appears to have greatly bothered him. That said, he clearly strives to do her justice, and he makes solid use of his sources, in particular the voluminous letters. The analysis of her early autobiographical novel fragment, Cat o' Mary, as a key to her life in girlhood and young adulthood is very interesting indeed. Brabazon tells what he can about the early loves of Dorothy's life, chiefly unrequited, again drawing on substantial manuscript resources relating to Eric Whelpton and John Cournos (the discovery of the letters to the latter, at Harvard, appears to have been Brabazon's major scholarly breakthrough). He was greatly inhibited, though, it appears, in his account of the affair which resulted in the birth of Dorothy's "adopted" son, Anthony Fleming, who never really became part of her family; Anthony Fleming himself writes the preface, but it becomes clear that he was far from giving Brabazon a free hand. The full story doesn't appear to have been publishable until after Fleming's death; I see there is an appendix on the subject in the second volume of Sayers' published letters. Brabazon is interesting on the subject of how the developments in Sayers' life affected the evolution of the Wimsey books, and the development of Wimsey's character. I am so pleased that the plan to kill off the mystery-writing by marrying him off in Strong Poison did not come to fruition - it would have been dreadful not to have the subsequent books. The latter half of Sayers' literary career has always been a little more difficult for me to sympathize with, because we are poles apart politically and theologically. Nonetheless, it is a mark of her vigour of expression that I can read her at all, and that I appreciate her religious plays (especially the Man Born to be King series) for the vividly imagined and moving pieces of work they are. This biography gives a lot of interesting detail about the genesis, writing, and production (Sayers was very involved in the production). I will be interested to read the more recent (1992) biography by Coomes with this one still relatively fresh in my mind. I do hope he doesn't harp upon D.L. Sayers' weight!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Karla Huebner

    Generally speaking, this was good. Previous reviewers here have gone into more detail about its strengths and weaknesses, and have done a pretty good job. It is an authorized biography--authorized by Sayers's son Anthony Fleming--so benefits from access to papers and such, while being very reserved on the topic of Fleming's illegitimate birth and his upbringing with Sayers's cousin. It has been many years since I read the earlier Hitchman biography, so I cannot compare them here; nor have I read Generally speaking, this was good. Previous reviewers here have gone into more detail about its strengths and weaknesses, and have done a pretty good job. It is an authorized biography--authorized by Sayers's son Anthony Fleming--so benefits from access to papers and such, while being very reserved on the topic of Fleming's illegitimate birth and his upbringing with Sayers's cousin. It has been many years since I read the earlier Hitchman biography, so I cannot compare them here; nor have I read any subsequent biographies. I would have enjoyed more about the mystery-writing stage, since that is the aspect of Sayers's work I've read and enjoyed (apart from the Dante translation); I was less interested in the discussion of her later periods but others might find that more interesting. I disagree with one previous reviewer's feeling that this book harps on Sayers's weight; it's well known that Sayers became very stout in middle age and Brabazon balances that information satisfactorily, in my mind, with references to her ability to put together an impressive appearance (in her own personal style) for speaking engagements. Biographies are tricky to write and depend so much not just on the biographer but on the materials available at the time.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    Read this in 1994.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ange

    Dorothy Sayers is not what I expected her to be, although I did not realize that I had expectations of her, Of course, I don't admire loud over-weight woman. Like me also, she kept cats. Her intelect ruled her life. She did act responsibly and kindly to her son, her husban, and her husband's prefious wife. Her freinds were very important to her--more for exchange of ideas than to feel comby with. Her theology and mine share some points. Her experience with it and mine differ. Dorothy Sayers is not what I expected her to be, although I did not realize that I had expectations of her, Of course, I don't admire loud over-weight woman. Like me also, she kept cats. Her intelect ruled her life. She did act responsibly and kindly to her son, her husban, and her husband's prefious wife. Her freinds were very important to her--more for exchange of ideas than to feel comby with. Her theology and mine share some points. Her experience with it and mine differ.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Melinda

    An excellent biography, and one that sheds some interesting thoughts on Sayers prioritization of her reason and intellect over emotions. Her emotional life got her into trouble, while the reason and intellect seemed safer and more secure. Later in life she came to learn that this is not the case always, but in her young years she fled emotional attachment and investment because she had been very badly burned. Very thoughtful writing, highly recommended.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Walker

    I read about 2/3 of this. Well-researched, and generally fairly well-written, with a balanced appreciation of Sayers' work. It's certainly better than one of the available alternatives, which comparison revealed to be shamelessly derivative of Brabazon's work. Sometimes, however, Brabazon is inappropriately personal in his criticism. I read about 2/3 of this. Well-researched, and generally fairly well-written, with a balanced appreciation of Sayers' work. It's certainly better than one of the available alternatives, which comparison revealed to be shamelessly derivative of Brabazon's work. Sometimes, however, Brabazon is inappropriately personal in his criticism.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lavender

    A really nice biography. Some information intentionally left out in order to protect some then living persons; such information has now been made public in other places, though.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Delia

    Dorothy L. Sayers kept me engrossed, staying up longer than I should have.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Thompson

    There were very good points to this biography. The author had access to private papers and interviewed her son several times. The writer's style was clear. I had a hard time putting down the book at times. The parts I liked best about the biography was how the author described how the theology of her plays and spiritual writings fit into the milieu of the times. My least favorite parts was the description of Sayer's early love life and toward the end of the book the author's opinion of Sayer's t There were very good points to this biography. The author had access to private papers and interviewed her son several times. The writer's style was clear. I had a hard time putting down the book at times. The parts I liked best about the biography was how the author described how the theology of her plays and spiritual writings fit into the milieu of the times. My least favorite parts was the description of Sayer's early love life and toward the end of the book the author's opinion of Sayer's theology. I knew nothing of Sayers. From reading her detective novels and some of her essays I thought she was acamedician, who wrote detective stories on the side. However, in some ways she was a detective novel writer who did academic works on the side. Her most stable income was from the Lord Peter Whimsey novels. I knew she was brilliant and C. S. Lewis respected her. I did not know she about her son and her love affairs. This was good to find out, but Brabazon had to theorize about her mind set and how Sayers viewed marriage and men. His psychoanalysis annoyed me. The other drawback was how the author argued that Sayers's theology was outdated. However, I couldn't tell the difference between the biographer's theology and the theology of Church that he praised Dorothy for arguing against early in her career. It appeared to me to be the same wishy-washy Jesus was our example to good living theology. In spite of my critcisms, the book as a whole paints a picture of a brilliant scholar and writer who argued passionately for what she believed in. The author on a whole presents a fascinating portrait of Sayers.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Katherine

    A wonderful book about an extraordinary woman. The author did a masterful job of telling the story of Dorothy Sayers and he is a quite good author in his own right. I'll admit to some mild irritation that in spots he slipped into rendering verdicts on her life (not just her work or her writing, but her actual life), but it's forgivable since he has such an obvious affection for his subject. For my part, I have not read the last of Ms. Sayers. I hope to spend a lot of time in her company in the c A wonderful book about an extraordinary woman. The author did a masterful job of telling the story of Dorothy Sayers and he is a quite good author in his own right. I'll admit to some mild irritation that in spots he slipped into rendering verdicts on her life (not just her work or her writing, but her actual life), but it's forgivable since he has such an obvious affection for his subject. For my part, I have not read the last of Ms. Sayers. I hope to spend a lot of time in her company in the coming days.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Stacey Douglas

  13. 4 out of 5

    Louise O'donnell

  14. 5 out of 5

    Paul Vittay

  15. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn Barry

  16. 5 out of 5

    Norman Voisey

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Buffenmyer

  18. 5 out of 5

    Karen Floyd

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bill Peschel

  20. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa

  21. 5 out of 5

    Regitze

  22. 5 out of 5

    Marci

  23. 4 out of 5

    MaryEllen Clark

  24. 5 out of 5

    Melody

  25. 5 out of 5

    Chrisoula Skouritakis

  26. 4 out of 5

    Donn Headley

  27. 4 out of 5

    Elisheva Flink

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bri

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ria Stone

  30. 5 out of 5

    Chila Woychik

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