The Gospel in Dorothy L. Sayers

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 02 Apr 2019

Member Reviews

This is probably one for the die-hard Dorothy L Sayers fan, one who is also interested in and knowledgeable about theology. I don’t fall into that category, but nevertheless I found much to discover in this exploration of the Christian thinking in her work. Until recently I’d never even looked at any of her books, but then I read my first Lord Peter Wimsey in a literature class and came to realise how multi-layered and complex her work actually is. I’d certainly never thought of her as a Christian writer, nor realised how faith informed her life and writing. I didn’t read all of this well-researched and informative book but it’s one that I will keep by me for when I tackle another of her novels. Sayers devotees will no doubt love this anthology, but even a casual reader will find something of interest here.
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First sentence: For almost a century, the murder mysteries of Dorothy L. Sayers have kept enthusiasts hungrily turning pages.

The Gospel in Dorothy L. Sayers is an anthology with dozens of excerpts from her works: her mystery novels, her radio plays, her essays, her poems. The chapters seem to be arranged somewhat thematically. There are chapters on faith, forgiveness, belief, pride, envy, greed, creativity, time and eternity, etc. Each chapter includes at least one long excerpt and sometimes several shorter ones as well. The commentary between excerpts is kept to a minimum--for better or worse. On the one hand, Sayers' words--her works--speak for themselves. On the other hand, the transition from one thing to another can be tough in a few places.

Before reading The Gospel in Dorothy L. Sayers I had a vague notion that she was Christian-ish. I remember her being quoted in a Michael Horton book and was impressed. (I love, love, love Michael Horton.) I still like a few of the quotes from her essay 'The Dogma is the Drama.' I did learn more about her, her background, her faith and theology. For better or worse. I had no idea she was Catholic and not Anglican. (I had no idea she believed in purgatory, for example) I also had no idea she was so liberal--and liberal is definitely the wrong word, I mean free and easy, loose with facts--in her radio dramas. Her life of Christ--from the excerpts included here and there sprinkled throughout the book--takes SO MANY liberties. I have a hard time seeing how the same woman who wrote "The Dogma is the Drama" could also write so many other works I struggle with accepting as even being Christian.
For example, one of the radio plays has Jesus talking with Mary and Martha and Lazarus BEFORE Lazarus' death and resurrection. Mary has been confused with the other Mary--a big pet peeve of mine. And her conversation with Jesus is just weird. But his conversation with Lazarus is just DISTURBING and bizarre. Apparently Lazarus was all angsty and suicidal.

I still love her creation, Lord Peter Wimsey, but reading this book has convinced me that I should not seek out her other books. That's not to say the book itself--edited by Carole Vanderhoof--was poorly written. The book helped clarify to me Sayers' beliefs and theology.
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Customer Review

Yvonne Rowley
5.0 out of 5 stars
A book to read and reread and ponderJanuary 21, 2019
Format: Paperback

“The variety of Dorothy Sayers’s work makes it almost impossible to find anyone who can deal properly with it all.” (C. S. Lewis, pg. 226) Well, I think Carole Vanderhoof has done a fine job of it in this anthology that reveals “the gospel themes woven throughout Sayers’s popular fiction alongside related readings from her plays, letters, talks, and essays.” For all Sayers lovers. A treasure. A book to read and reread and ponder. Dorothy L. Sayers—mystery writer, essayist, playwright, apologist, translator—an incredibly talented lady. I look forward to reading other books in The Gospel in Great Writers Series. I received a free copy from Plough Publishing to review on NetGalley.
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Recently a friend was lamenting how few people today know Dorothy Sayers as a theologian (although she wouldn't call herself that). This book seeks to remedy that oversight. The well-selected excerpts follow themes through both her fiction and non-fiction, as well as personal letters. Recommended both for readers who are unfamiliar with this creative Christian thinker and those who know her and want a thoughtful compilation drawn from her writings. Review based on an ARC received through NetGalley.
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Dorothy Sayers’ Gospel Calms My Soul

Dorothy Sayers is one of those authors who really made a difference in my life. I grew up reading her Lord Peter Wimsey stories. When I began homeschooling my children, she provided me advice and direction with her “Lost Tools of Learning” book. And now that my children are in high school, wee are reading her translation of the three Dante books.

This book is a compilation of her letters and writings that center on her thoughts about the Gospel. It is a book to treasure. Her phrasing is unique and perfect. She can pull exactly the right emotion from your core as you read her ideas and thoughts. Just perfect.

We are nearing Christmas, so put this book on your wish list. Or just purchase it for yourself and in the midst of the craziness of the preparations and family visits and office parties, find some quiet moments to yourself to read and hear Dorothy’s words in your soul as she shares wisdom and comfort. That is exactly what we need at this time of year.
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This anthology of Dorothy L. Sayers's works is arranged by topic and very well put together. I appreciated seeing how similar themes ran through her fiction and nonfiction books. A great book to dip into at random or read all of the way through.
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An excellent book taking excerpts from Sayers' writing on many topics, both religious and not. Each chapter revolves around a specific theme and they all include selections from the Lord Peter mysteries. They also include ones from her broad range of other writings from letters to speeches and essays.

There is a short biography as an introduction and each selection is introduced with information about context or source.

The one missing area is her  work on Dante from late in her life. Except for one brief selection, the Introductions and notes from her translations as well as parts of her essays are missing.

Otherwise it's an excellent book.
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Providing a review for this book has been a delightful challenge.  I hesitated reading this book because at first 
glance it struck me as a choppy, dry compilation of plays, letters, and essays --- not the normal book I would select to read.  Lesson learned --- don't judge a book by its cover.  I quickly found myself distracted by the interjected plays and letters, though interesting, but wanting instead to absorb and stay spellbound by Dorothy's insight on numerous topics including but not limited to Forgiveness, Belief, Pride, Greed, Work, Equality and Time and Eternity.  

This book was not an easy read. Textbook in content yet at the same time thought-provoking.  I found myself re-reading and often times re-reading again particular sentences and paragraphs attempting to grasp her mindset
which caused me to reflect on my own beliefs, outlook on life, and the future of our country as a whole. 
Dorothy's writing are direct and the reader quickly realizes that she has little concern whether her opinions are shared or not.  

How would I describe the writings of Dorothy L. Sayers --- insightful, eccentric, bold, heartfelt, and God-based.  C.S. Lewis best described her by saying, "the variety of Dorothy Sayer's work makes it almost impossible to find 
anyone who can deal properly with it all" and by Dorothy saying "what we ask is to be human individuals, 
however peculiar and unexpected." This book would be an ideal bible study selection.  


Sherry Klusman
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Ms. Sayers’ mysteries are some of my favorite books. I was happy to read this book as I never knew the rest of the story. Sharing excerpts from her work, this book educates on how religion, atheism and society were meticulously woven into her stories and essays. I found this book to be interesting and enlightening. I received a copy from NetGalley and the publisher and this is my honest opinion.
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THE GOSPEL IN DOROTHY L. SAYERS: Selections from Her Novels, Plays, Letters, and Essays

In this anthology, the subtext of Christian faith is revealed in the works of famous murder mystery writer Dorothy L. Sayers (1893-1957).

For almost a century, her whodunnits captured the imagination of fans who hungrily followed the exploits of detectives Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane.

Mystery buffs may not know that she was also an esteemed essayist, playwright, apologist, and preeminent translator of Dante’s Divine Comedy.

Now, for the first time, an anthology brings together the best of both worlds in a rich introduction to her work.

Sayers, like her friend G. K. Chesterton, found murder mysteries a way to explore choices made between good and evil by her characters. Along with C. S. Lewis and the other Inklings with whom she kept a lively friendship, Sayers used popular fiction to probe deeper questions. 

This volume is the newest from Plough Publishing House to highlight Christian faith in the work of great writers, such as Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and George MacDonald. Highly recommended!

Pub Date 31 Oct 2018

Thanks to Plough Publishing and NetGalley for the review copy. Opinions are fully mine.

#DorothyLsayers #NetGalley
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