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review 2017-11-21 16:59
Brideshead Revisited
Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh

Largely regarded as Waugh's best work, Brideshead Revisited is one book I mostly associate with the tv adaptation rather than the book because it has been so long since I read the book that the tv adaptation, with all its visual charm and great acting, obviously left a more recent impression. Yet, I was not a fan of the story itself when watching the production, and from what I remember I could not connect with some of the major themes of the book on my first read. 


On re-reading the book, I discovered that take on the story, the characters, the writing, or the ideas put forth in the book has changed a little.


It was easier to engage with the book now that I have read other books by Waugh and his contemporaries, but at the same time I also found it way more tedious to slog through the last part of the book. 


Yes, the sadness of the characters is very real and dramatic, but I seem to have less patience now than on my first read for the self-imposed suffering that Waugh's characters take on by insisting that they have to sacrifice their chance of happiness for the sake of religion. At that, for a religious faith which seems to have arrived out of the blue...and with that I also had little patience for Waugh's religious philosophising, which I am sure some readers may see as the essence of quality in this story. For me, it spoilt the story and the character study just as much as Graham Greene's religious theorising spoilt reading his The Power and the Glory or Monsignor Quixote for me. 


What I would have liked to have had fleshed out a bit more was Sebastian's state of mind. Why did he chose to go into exile? Why did he loose the spirit with which he was described in the opening chapters of the book?


Still, despite the short-comings of the book, of which there were a few (including Waugh's casting a couple of stereotyped characters), it is an interesting book and one of Waugh's better one. The opening descriptions of Charles' return to Brideshead, the contracts in the circumstances of his visits, the implied description of the fall of the upper classes, and the unbelievable sadness of Charles' realisation that he has wasted his life is as beautiful as it is harrowing. The only author I have read who has outclassed Waugh in writing about these aspects is Ishiguro ... but if you ask me, he is in a completely different league altogether.  


Lastly, a note on the audiobook read by Jeremy Irons. It is fabulous!

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text 2017-11-14 00:59
16 Tasks of the Festive Season - Square #1: Día de Muertos
Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh

Book themes for Día de Muertos and All Saint’s Day:  A book that has a primarily black and white cover, or one that has all the colours (ROYGBIV) together on the cover.


I'm trying to do a bit of catch-up on the 16 Tasks but find that the task and books for each square seem too fabulous to pass or simply move on to another square.


I've been meaning to revisit Brideshead for quite some time, but every time I seem to come across Waugh I am reminded of the last couple of titles of his I read and how much I dislike his spite. (And yet, I adore Vile Bodies!)


From what I remember, there are parts in Brideshead Revisited that are absolutely fabulous, but it has been too long (15+ years?) since I read it, and I am sure that my observations will change, too. 


This visitation was brought on by my finding the audiobook (unabridged) read by Jeremy Irons to listen to alongside the book.


My editions - kindle and audiobook - have the black and while cover.


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review 2017-07-13 17:47
Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh

This book has been on my “to read” list for several years.  Given I knew only the synopsis on Goodreads, I had my own idea of what the book would be already formulated before I read the first page.  I suspected a summer tale, three months of glorious fun for two university pals.  This presumption wasn’t far off, but Waugh’s story goes further than romping around in the sunshine. 

The tale of a convoluted family and the witness of their stark emotional lives, Charles Ryder, explores spiritual responsibility and morality.  Despite this heavy subject, I did not feel as if religious opinion was being shoved down my throat, nor did I feel as if I was rifling through a bible. Like Fitzgerald’s Nick Carraway, Charles Ryder is the eye over a high and mighty set of people, albeit less glamorous.  

The Marchmains are so pious that they have left very little room for common decency.  And they’re not even truly pious. Mrs. Marchmain’s religious conviction is just as much a form of escapism as Sebastian’s drinking.  While reading this book all I could think about was how everyone just wanted to run away and free themselves from themselves.  Except no one could find a way to do it.  Instead, each person just sunk deeper into what complicated their lives in the first place, be it guilt, drunkenness, or obsession.  I can’t say I would read the book again, but I liked the story while I was in it and I appreciated the prose, even if the characters were icy and impulsive.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2015-07-12 06:36
Brideshead Revisited
Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
Some books are so well written, so rich in language and expression, that it makes me wonder if writers today possess the same level of facility. That's one of the thoughts I had as I was reading Brideshead Revisited, a bitter, nostalgic, beautiful novel published by Evelyn Waugh in 1945. This story is so personal and so distinctive in tone, I feel it could only have come from one man. That sounds like faint praise, but in reality, a lot of the books I read are very formulaic, lacking any semblance of original expression. And that's ok - those books are a certain sort of entertainment - diversions, we might call them - thrilling, sometimes moving, but not art. 
There are so many aspects to this novel that interested me. Let me briefly account for a couple of them:
Homosexuality - I know nothing about Waugh's life, whether he was drawing on personal experience in depicting the nature of young, gay men and the way these men were perceived within their society. There are several characters who reference the love between Charles and Sebastian - I'm thinking of the woman Cara involved with Lord Marchmain and what she tells Charles about this love, in which she excuses it as an early dalliance before settling down. I think also of how Charles tells Julia that it was a "prelude," and to what extent he truly felt or believed that. But the character of Anthony Blanche is another fascinating part of this picture, as he discusses the beatings he received in school and we see the underground bars he is forced to frequent. All of this falls into the novel's distinct mixing of comedy and tragedy that Waugh handles so brilliantly.
Roman Catholicism - A major theme to the book. I did understand the way Roman Catholics were out of place in England at that time, at least in the author's mind, but this is something I truly can't feel within me, as I feel that England is so different today in this respect. The sense of class decorum that pervades the story is so foreign to our modern sensibilities. Not even the royal family behaves or thinks in these ways anymore. So this aspect of the story seemed like an unfortunate backwardness to me. 
I did feel a small disappointment in Waugh's handling of Julia and Charles' parting, which comes off as a hurried decision. If this was how he wanted to leave it, let's have it in a conversation that unfolds at a more understandable pace. I feel the end could have used ten more pages to it. None of this, however, mars the overall work enough to slight it a star. 
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review 2015-02-22 18:11
Not quite as I remembered it
Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh

Well, I’m not quite sure what to say about this book. There were parts of it I adored and parts I couldn’t care less about and wouldn’t have missed if they’d been omitted. But, before I get into that allow me to go back a few decades.


I was in my late teens when I saw the television series of Brideshead Revisited and all I can say is that I was fascinated by the story, the characters, the setting and the period it portrayed. I fell in love with Sebastian and Charles and eagerly awaited each new episode. When I picked up this book I expected to fall in love all over again.


I guess sometimes it is wiser to leave old loves in the past and not try to revive them. The vague images I had in my head and the – rather limited – memory I had of the story would have been enough to keep me mesmerized for the rest of my life. Reading the book now - 30 odd years after first seeing the story – has removed a lot of the glamour from my memories. Which of course means this is anything but a fair review of the book. This is an essay about how my selective memory stands up to the reality of the written word. As it turns out, the written word never stood a chance.


So, back to the story as I found it in the book. I adored the first part of the book. The developing relationship between Charles and Sebastian drew me in and fascinated me. The twenty years between the two World Wars and the ways in which the world changed make for intriguing reading. I watched the interactions between the characters in this book with growing repulsion. Nobody seemed to really connect with others or even want to make the effort to look below the surface. The moment characters did allow themselves to discover the hidden depths in others, almost invariably meant the end of the relationship. All of this kept me turning the pages but in a similar way I would if I were reading a science fiction story; it intrigued me but a lot of it was incomprehensible to me.


To me this read as an extensive story about destruction - the destruction of one man’s dreams and illusions, the destruction of a family and the destruction of a way of life. By the time the story ends, nothing remains of the certainties the story starts with. It made the reading experience similar to watching a train-wreck; horrifying to watch yet impossible to look away from.


I think I would have liked the book more if the story had been just about Sebastian and Charles. I just couldn’t get interested in the second part of the story when it turns into a description of the ‘doomed to fail’ relationship between Julia and Charles. And I guess that’s the root of the problem; in my memory this was a story about those two men. I assume the rest of the story featured in the TV-series as well, but it had faded from my memory, and even now I’ve read the book, no images come to me.


I can’t honestly say whether the way this story was written disappointed me or whether I felt led down by the fact the book didn’t live up to my memories. Either way I have to conclude this fascinating story was not quite what I hoped it would be.

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