The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club is one of the early Lord Peter Wimsey titles, written before Harriet Vane appeared on the horizon. It’s my favourite of the series not to feature Harriet and today’s date has a lot to do with that. The novel is set around, and depends on, Armistice Day. Originally published in 1928, it gives us a contemporary account of how the shadow of the Great War continued to affect the population. It also gives an insight into Lord Peter’s character and behaviour and how his wartime experiences affected both.
I don’t need an excuse to read Dorothy L Sayers’ novels but I use Remembrance Sunday and/or 11. November as a reason to re-read this one. It’s not just because of the glimpses into the long-reaching effects of the war, though. I re-read it because I think Lord Peter starts to develop substance in this book. In Whose Body? he was amusing, urbane and a little too pleased with himself (although none of that stops me enjoying the book). Clouds of Witness introduces us to Peter’s siblings and I think we learn more about them than we do of Peter. And I find Unnatural Death a difficult book to read. In it Sayers introduces lots of ideas and philosophies at the expense, I think, of the plot. She does also introduce us to Miss Climpson, however, so she can be forgiven.
In The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club we are shown Peter supporting others for whom the war has ongoing repercussions and we see his humanity and tact at work. We’re also given a clever plot and some wonderful humour particularly at the expense of gentlemen’s clubs. Bunter, too, starts to come into his own. So I’m using this very different Remembrance season to commend it to you whether you’re a long-time Wimsey reader or have yet to discover him.