Sarah Dunant Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Sarah Dunant has created a realistic female private investigator in Hannah Wolfe, adding a feminist slant to the detective-fiction genre. She has added psychological and issue-oriented elements to the genre without sacrificing the necessary strengths of plot and action. Her later novels Transgressions (1997) and Mapping the Edge (1999) stretch the boundaries of the psychological thriller genre, developing themes of women who refuse to become victims and exploring the relationship between sexuality, fear, and control. Her style is intelligent and literary, blurring the lines between detective fiction, psychological thriller, and literary fiction. Dunant’s work bridges the gap between commercial fiction and the literary novel. Hannah Wolfe’s self-conscious commentary is reminiscent of postmodernism, while both Transgressions and Mapping the Edge maintain complex parallel plots that are experimental in form. The first Hannah Wolfe mystery, Birth Marks (1991), was shortlisted for Britain’s prestigious Gold Dagger Award. Fatlands (1994), the second Wolfe mystery, won the Silver Dagger Award.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Dunant, Sarah. “The Female Eye: An Interview with Sarah Dunant.” Interview by David Stuart Davies. Armchair Detective 27, no. 4 (Fall, 1994): 419-421. An interview in a journal devoted to detective fiction, analyzing Hannah Wolfe’s place in the detective canon. Discusses Birth Marks and Fatlands.

Dunant, Sarah. “Rewriting the Detectives.” The Guardian, June 29, 1993, p. 228. Dunant wonders how female mystery writers will depict the violence against their women protagonists, graphically or subtly.

Horeck, Tanya. “’More Intimate than Violence’: Sexual Violation in Sarah Dunant’s Transgressions.” Women: A Cultural Review 11, no. 3 (Winter, 2000): 262-272. In-depth scholarly article discussing the controversial rape scene in Transgressions from a feminist point of view.

Johnson, Tracy. “The Fear Industry: Women, Gothic and Contemporary Crime Narrative.” Gothic Studies 4, no. 1 (2002): 44-62. In-depth scholarly article discussing Dunant’s place in the canon of crime writing, placing her in the gothic literary tradition, and discussing narratives of fear and women’s sexuality.

Neustatter, Angela. “Women: Fear and Loathing.” The Guardian, May 27, 1997, p. T008. Dunant responds to the criticism about her protagonist turning a rape into a seduction in Transgressions.

Steinberg, Sybil. “Sarah Dunant: Fate and Fiction in Florence.” Publishers Weekly 251, no. 10 (March 8, 2004): 43-44. Profile of Dunant that discusses her background, themes, and writing The Birth of Venus.