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Book Report: Justice Hall

It is probably inevitable that when I finish a Peter Wimsey novel, I am tempted to start re-reading Justice Hall. I don’t know if I can make a logical case for the connection, other than, you know, English mystery novel set between the wars. And Busman’s Homeymoon is quite aggressively a village novel rather than a country house novel. Now that I think of it, is there a country house novel? Clouds of Witness is, I suppose.

And Justice Hall isn’t the Mary Russell book where Peter Wimsey actually shows up. No, I think the connection there is that somehow I connect Peter Wimsey’s WWI experience with Gabriel’s in Justice Hall, although of course Wimsey Gabriel doesn’t come home with crippling PTSD. Or at all. Nor was Wimsey young and fresh-faced (clean-shaven, yes) in 1914; he would have been 24 and if he had not yet begun his succession of sopranos, he had already gained his notable Balliolity.

Or maybe it’s Marsh that I connect with Lord Peter: the reluctant submission to the Family Name is something that one can imagining happening to Lord Peter. Which would make Gabriel connect to Jerry, which makes sense, now that I think about it. Isn’t the standard history that Jerry is shot down in the Battle of Britain? Which, if he hadn’t produced an heir, would leave Lord Peter the duchy, assuming that the Duke doesn’t remarry some young thing in his late years, which he might, of course.

Anyway, the real point is that Justice Hall is, more than anything, an examination of the scar of WWI, and the way that England tries to cover it over, pretending that it hadn’t happened. The ambulance drivers who returned to demure lives, or didn’t, or tried to. The holes left in families, including the nobility. The disruptions of social networks and norms, the pretense that nothing had changed, the drink and drugs and Bright Young Things. Of course you could claim that anything written or set in England between the Wars is an examination of the scar of WWI and the way that England tries to cover it over.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,