I'd never read any Dorothy Sayers before this spring. For years I'd read other people's rhapsodies about her books, but they had never grabbed me. Gaudy Night sat on my Kindle for months before I finally got past the first chapter. It didn't make me rhapsodize, but I enjoyed it enough to read another. Today I finished Strong Poison, which I found much funnier and more engaging. Yesterday I kept sneaking in paragraphs in odd moments-- not the optimal strategy for reading books in which details are important, but I was impatient. This morning I had planned to grade like an overcaffeinated pink-pen-wielding Arbiter of Accuracy and Good Clinical Judgment, but instead I spent 45 minutes curled up in my armchair, finishing my book. (It was delicious, even though I guessed the twist.)
This bit, an instruction from a judge to jurors about a woman who had been cohabiting with her murdred lover, caught my eye:
It is one thing for a man or woman to live an immoral life, and quite another thing to commit murder. You may perhaps think that one step into the path of wrongdoing makes the next one easier, but you must not give too much weight to that consideration. You are entitled to take it into account, but you must not be too prejudiced.
Can you imagine? Stash that one in the "times have surely changed" file.
Earlier this year I read Barbara Kingsolver's latest, Flight Behavior. Like Gaudy Night, it was slow-moving at first; it completely sucked me in after a hundred pages or so. It's a climate change novel, about baffled butterflies and the intersection of science and politics, but it's not a polemic. The writing is gorgeous and I loved the main character, who looks fragile but turns out to be steely at the core. The ending still makes me sad. I'm glad I read it anyway.
I started writing this post with a connection in mind between the two books, but it is almost time for me to be done with this post and I have no idea what it was. Strong women aided in their difficulties by smart humane men? Gently funny books by clever women? Maybe they're both just novels I've enjoyed in 2013.