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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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text 2015-12-28 20:31
Look what I found!
Scoop - Evelyn Waugh
Put Out More Flags - Evelyn Waugh

Found this one lurking with the shirtless dudes at the gym, so I decided to give it a good home. 

 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2015-11-26 20:47
Decline and Fall
Decline and Fall - Evelyn Waugh

A picaresque novel in the tradition of Lazarillo de Tormes, etc, only in 20th century England. Completely absurd, and funny, and even more absurd.

**spoilers below!**

Paul Pennyfeather is expelled from his college (I think--this novel would be much more enjoyable for someone who understands the English school system and old money/new money/titled social expectations) for "indecency" for accidentally crossing paths with a rich student's drunken mob.

He then becomes a school master at a boarding school in Wales. A sloppily run boarding school--so how does it attract wealthy students? That is not answered. Or maybe they are all like this?

He quits and gets engaged to one of his students' mothers. All is going swimmingly until he is arrested for white slavery while doing a business favor for his fiance. He is sent to prison. His fiance marries someone else. They arrange for him to get out of prison and fake his death. He goes along with it all, and ends up back in school to be a clergyman.

Meanwhile, he meets the same people over and over--he ends up in prison with another employee of the boarding school, while the school's chaplain is now the prison chaplain and so on and so forth. There is a lot of sarcasm and wit regarding British society and culture, but I definitely do not have the background needed to find it as funny as it probably is.

All in less than 200 pages.

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review 2015-11-16 01:37
Mr Loveday's Little Outing & Other Early Stories by Evelyn Waugh
Mr Loveday's Little Outing & Other Early Stories - Evelyn Waugh
bookshelves: radio-4x, autumn-2015, under-50-ratings, play-dramatisation
Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Laura
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from November 08 to 13, 2015

 



http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0075bbg

Visiting her dad in the asylum, Angela is curiously affected by the situation of his loyal secretary. Stars Barbara Leigh-Hunt.
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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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