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Review May 2020

 Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh.

First Published: 1945

Internet entries:

Brideshead Revisited

by Evelyn Waugh

This classic was published shortly after WW2 and is set in the years of the great depression. The entangled lives of Charles Ryder and the Flyte family enable Waugh to explore themes of collegiate life, status in society, alcoholism and Catholicism.

The strange structure of the book, it starts at the end, is declared with sub-book and chapter headings. The language of the book is curious being based mainly on a conversational style. However, the ambiguous choice of words, pacing, and tone enable the reader to be amongst the characters and feel the issues of status, power, idiosyncrasy, and sometimes sheer bloody mindedness of the characters.

The historical setting, humorous tone, and powerful use of language lay behind Steve’s choice of this book.

The book was, in general, well received by book club members. It had an interesting setting, diverse characters and an extensive plot. Uniquely, the book was generally very readable in spite of the general distaste engendered by all of the main characters.

The first part of the book was enjoyed as a lyrical description of collegiate life; many of the depicted behaviours (both good and bad) still continue nearly a century later. The later parts of the book were significantly less enjoyed as a consequence of the way the values of the characters jar against our commonly held values of truth, fidelity and family life.

The fact that the book attempted to address divine grace and Catholicism was missed (!) by some of the club members.

Diverse reactions from club members:

  • The first part was great, the rest was distasteful
  • Reading the book shortly after visiting Castle Howard is not a good idea.
  • It was a man’s book, a bit like a GCSE text / test.
  • Brilliant use of metaphors
  • The DVD stays close to the book
  • Loved the language
  • Arrogant, nasty, self-indulgent, right-wing politics; but a nostalgic easy read with a preference for the second part.
  • Tried to read it three times and hated every bit of it.

Nevertheless, the book inspired a TV series in the 1980s (Chris and Pete have the DVD), photographed at Castle Howard, and it has continuing high scores on “Goodreads” 4.00 from 90,500 ratings.

AABC star rating: 3.72.
PC. May 2020.