September 17, 2013
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (Review)
Author: Evelyn Waugh
First published: 1945
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Waugh is a very clever writer. He can be hilariously funny and in the next moment really heartbreaking. And then both at the same time. Brideshead Revisited is a mourning for pre-war high society life in England, which was swept away by the calamities of the early 1940th. The protagonist, Charles Ryder, who is now an infantry commander, finds his platoon relocated to a big country house, which happens to belong to a family he had a lot of connections with and where he has spent some of the most memorable moments of his life.
The first part of the novel tells about the happier days in Oxford, full of parties, drinking and friendly feelings. Charles gets close with Sebastian Flyte, whose family resides in Brideshead, and so his visits there begin. Sebastian's family can't be called ideal: his mother and his father live separately, children feel oppressed, and all these problems are aggravated with religious discord. Religion is much discussed in the novel, and although I usually don't like plunging into this controversial topic, Waugh made it interesting and avoided preaching. Over time, Charles meets all the members of this curious family and is able to observe how family influence and personal decisions collapse in each of them to form their futures.
Comparing with Decline and Fall, which we read at the University, Brideshead Revisited is much darker and much more philosophical. War has irrevocably changed English society, and this of course has in its turn changed Waugh's writing dramatically. But I think I liked Brideshead even more for its seriousness and melancholy. Its mood is unforgettable, and I really enjoyed it.
In my book:
A true classic of the 20. century British literature. I'm not sure if I can say anything which can surpass this.