Books Career life

Novels are the Best Hiding Place

Gaudy Night

I do subscribe to the theory that will-power is a depletable resource. It’s why I hired a trainer in grad school – I felt like my willpower was used up by research and grad school tedium, and whilst I would do exercise that I enjoyed, I would not get round to doing the weight training that I needed.

Of course, I still have a trainer, although now it’s more travel than willpower that is the issue. But I’ve started to feel like creativity is a depletable resource too. Not in the absolute sense, but in the number of aspects that one can be creative about at a given time. Writing code, solving problems all week… at the weekend I’ve either been getting on a plane or curled up with a good book, or 5 (I think that’s this weekend’s total – one novel devoured Friday, two on Saturday, two on Sunday).

It can be so mentally exhausting, and as I get better at coding the more tiring I find it – maybe because I’ve got so much more done. It’s become not uncommon for me – on days without meetings, of course – to get so much done that come around 4pm I feel like every thought in my head has been emptied out and all that is left for me to do is lie down with a good book.

Maybe I’ll get better at it, things will get less stressful. Maybe I’m just down because life has been dealing unfair blows to people I’m fond of. Maybe it’s the change in seasons.

Whatever, since the very end of September I have been on a kick of reading books I loved when I was a teenager. First Georgette Heyer, and now Dorothy L Sayers. Checking my Kindle store, since September 30th I have bought 65 books. And read very nearly all of them. It’s pure escapism, but it’s starting to make me feel like I don’t have an original thought in my head.

That being said, when feeling cynical about how we’re doing with respect to women, there’s nothing like reading old literature to make you grateful for how far you’ve come. And many of Heyer’s heroines are sassy in a way that Austin‘s (aside from the amazing Elizabeth) are not.

I’ve been frantically pacing through the Lord Peter Wimsey books impatient to come to the point where Harriet – the detective writer he saves from the gallows by proving who did the murder she was accused of – realizes she’s in love with him. That happens in Gaudy Night, when she finally stops fighting being “saved” and realizes that is not the case, what the things he loves her for are. That he doesn’t aspire to save her from pain, but pushes her to do things that are extraordinary.

I have very little visual imagination, if I close my eyes I can’t “see” anything, but somehow these authors manage to transport me away and give me a little break from the world, if that makes sense. There’s something about going back to authors who I know I love, and extremely human characters that develop over the course of a whole series, that make that escape easier because I know it’s there.

Perhaps all I’m saying is that I’m a little lost of late, and hiding in the novels I loved when I was 15. I seem to have stopped producing content and have taken to only consuming it. I wonder if things will calm down, and I’ll have re-read all these books and go back to writing more – and I have some things that I want to code, but lack the inspiration. Perhaps I need to just go back to a schedule and make it happen. Or maybe these kind of lulls are normal. Feeling wrung out, building yourself back up with old friends and favorites until back to normal?

Either way, I might be charmed by Lord Peter, but I’m inspired by Harriet. Enough to write this, at least, and recommend the whole series, but at a minimum Gaudy Night (a poison pen at a women’s college, but about the price women pay in relationships for intelligence and ambition) and Busman’s Honeymoon (where they discover a dead body on their honeymoon, and about two fiercely intelligent and independent people figuring out how to balance themselves together).

Balancing independence is tough. My boyfriend and I agree – career comes first. And yet, travel eats up weekends and quality time. We try to time things together but that can’t always be done. Things come up, and dates get cancelled. Work stresses happen, and that’s what gets discussed rather than… I don’t know, the latest movie or current affairs. I remembered “whodunnit”, but I didn’t remember the wider context of the plot. Or maybe I just appreciate it more, 10 years later.

All links Amazon.


2 replies on “Novels are the Best Hiding Place”

I love Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen, and like Dorothy L. Sayers (though not all mysteries in general). I also love science fiction. Can you recommend more authors/books (e.g. that you liked as a teenager) to check out? I am in desperate need of more reading material! 

Some of my favorite authors (in case you have not read them): Diana Wynne Jones, Lois McMaster Bujold, Doris Egan, Patricia C. Wrede.

Oh I LOVED the Diana Wynne Jones books! I don’t think I’ve read any of the others though.

Hmm, late teens I got into Louise Bagshawe - – the earlier ones like Monday’s Child, Tall Poppies, were better I think. The more recent ones have got way more glamourous.

I did really like Agatha Christie, which is what took me to DLS, but DLS is more rounded, I think – about more than just the mystery. The shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella ( is a bit fluffier, but Can You Keep a Secret and Twenties Girl are both charming.

I’ve never been much about science fiction, but of course I read – and reread, and reread – everything by Douglas Adams. The man was such a genius. I should buy those books again for Kindle…

Comments are closed.