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.