David Coomes. Dorothy L. Sayers: A Careless Rage for Life (1992)
I’ve read at least one biography of Sayers before, but struggled with an intense desire to abandon it halfway through. It wasn’t difficult to finish this one. Coomes blended for me the three Dorothys: the writer of detective novels, the Christian apologist and writer of religious plays, and the Dantean scholar. But he also shows Sayers against the background of her time–only child of a minister, one of the first women “up” at Oxford, life interrupted by twice by devastating world wars.
It is a personal as opposed to a professional biography. He perhaps tries too hard to understand Sayers’s personality and analyze her emotional life, not only giving us the facts but explaining how they came to be. How was it possible for a woman like Sayers to have an illegitimate child? And then why didn’t she raise him? What led to her crisis of faith in her later years? Coomes seems to know exactly. The book is sourced by a combination of excerpts from her private letters, fragments of her published writings, anecdotes of those who knew her, and the conjectures of Coomes. All the same it was an interesting read.