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Freewheeling Andy

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I've just read Brideshead Revisited, probably the most famous of all of Evelyn Waugh's novels. It's a fantastic and thoroughly unexpected book.

 

I wasn't sure what to expect, as part of me knows Waugh as the cynical, funny author of Scoop and Vile Bodies, both of which I utterly love. But part of me remembers Brideshead being on TV in the mid-80s, all sepia tinted footage of effete young men in Oxford, like the worst of period pieces.

 

And I know how much I hate set-piece period stuff, and how much I hate, too, the kinds of books set in rich families in nice country stately homes with serving staff, etc, etc. Things that boil down to feeling like a comedy of manners. It's why I've never been able to read more than a few pages of Austen, and one of the (many) reasons I despised McEwan's Atonement.

 

But this book, whilst having an elegiac tone, and starting off the same as I'd expect from my memories of the TV serialisation, doesn't actually play as a manor-house rich-family tale. It is, instead, much bleaker, of the slow collapse into irrelevence of the British aristocracy in the inter-war period.

 

There's humour in there, all right. But nothing so slapstick and obvious as Scoop. It is a brilliantly written novel, I think, the way the narrator - despite being utterly in love with the Brideshead family - actually survives far better by not being quite part of the same class. How the excessive eccentricities of the aristocracy slowly come to tear them apart. But also, the tales of ambiguous sexuality work through it.

 

Has anyone else got a soft spot for Waugh? This post is mostly about Brideshead, as it's what I've read most recently, but Scoop really is just as wonderful in different ways.

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I haven't read anything by Waugh yet.

 

I bought a copy of Brideshead Revisited in Oxfam a few weeks back. I didn't watch the TV series so I don't really know anything about it (apart from it featuring a teddy bear!) but I'm looking forward to it.

 

I noticed the DVD of the recent film version is out now - I'd like to see that once I've read the book.

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I just read Brideshead Revisited about a month ago and I absolutely fell in love with it. The subtlety and dry humor was just magnificent. I can't say enough good things about it. I liked every single character.

 

I watched the first part of the more recent movie made of it, and I just couldn't finish it. The subtlety was completely lacking and while the casting was good, the dialogue felt heavy handed and forced.

 

I generally do like the 'novel of manners' type of books, but you're right that this was nothing like that. Very unexpected and thoughtful.

 

I definitely want to get some of her other books. I'll look into Scoop and Vile Bodies :welcomebcf: Cheers!

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His, by the way. Evelyn was a man, surprisingly.

:welcomebcf: Oh really?!? Never woulda guessed. Thanks for letting me know.

I thought Rainer Maria Rilke was a woman for years so it's nothing new for me :D Must be the feminist in me

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"What kind of conflict, I wondered, was an Evelyn Waugh?" - Clive James, Unreliable Memoirs.

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I loved 'Brideshead Revisited', both the book and the TV series. I haven't read anything else by him but maybe I should. I was reminded very much of his writing when I read 'The Remains of the Day' by Kazuo Ishiguro.

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I was reading the Wiki entry on Waugh yesterday and it was explaining how Brideshead was a reflection on his ever more reactionary conservatism. Funnily, I really didn't get that at all. He clearly loved inter-War aristocratic Oxbridge type life. But to me he seems to have accepted that it's anachronistic and failing, and he is, in part, parodying and chronicling the inevitable decline. He loves it, but he knows it can't last, that it's lost.

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Now I can't wait! It's in my stack -- naturally. Maybe I should add it to my Reading-Through-the-Decades Challenge (of books I might not otherwise get around to).

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I am a big Evelyn Waugh fan and have read Brideshead Revisited (3 times), A Handful Of Dust, and Decline and Fall. I've also read The Pictureque Prison; Evelyn Waugh and His Writing by Jeffrey Heath.

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