Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh

I have to admit Brideshead Revisited hadn’t ever really appealed to me. I don’t know why I just imagined it being a bit of a stuff novel about rich people being dastardly to one another. In terms of the storyline I wasn’t actually too far off in my guesses, however what I didn’t expect would be such a wonderfully written book that I know I will read over and over again.

Charles Ryder is a bit of a misfit, he doesn’t seem to have a particular place in his school society or indeed in society in general. That is until he starts at Oxford and meets Sebastian (a grown man who carries a bear everywhere he goes) someone who is he warned to avoid. Soon the two of them have become the thickest of friends with an added certain tension in the background. Before long he is invited to meet Sebastian’s family at Brideshead. There he meets Sebastian’s mysterious and enticing sister and his domineering mother, the fabulous, Lady Marchmain. He also discovers the catholic undercurrent that rules everyone in the families lives some for good most for bad. Before long he is embroiled in the entire goings on at Brideshead and a tug of war for his attentions from the siblings. It doesn’t sound as thrilling as it is, seriously its brilliant.

I loved Evelyn Waugh’s tone and prose with his writing and I didn’t think I would, it was stunning I think one of the best written books I have ever read. I wasn’t expecting humour in the novel yet the scenes between Charles Ryder and his father were absolutely hilarious. In equal measure this book is filled with venom (Lady Marchmain) and sadness and it all mingles into what I think is one of my favourite ‘classics’ – hoorah, a classic that deserves its hype. Lady Marchmain is a wonderful character mainly for her dark streak that as the reader you see far more often than tose around her do. I actually could have read a lot more of her in the novel I wanted to know more about her past and why she was the way she was.

This book also looks at sexuality with Charles and Sebastian clearly being lovers through most of their college years, indeed even after there is still that love left unsaid when they meet each other again in completely different circumstances. The fact that Charles also falls for Sebastian’s sister (who I thought was a truly calculating minx) adds to the tension and looks at bisexuality. This also looks at Catholicism and how religious beliefs can affect families and relationships sometimes to a very sad and desperate conclusion. Religion is a difficult subject to write about and though Waugh is actually criticising it in this instance you feel that he doesn’t dislike religion just sees the negatives in them and how much damage can be caused by enforcing them on other, particularly those whose life styles don’t meet with the specific beliefs.

This is a true classic and is a book that I would recommend to everyone, if of course you haven’t already beaten me to it and read the book already yourselves. It has wit, drama, wickedness and emotions running through the whole novel with a cast of characters that I won’t forget for quite some time. Waugh is definitely someone whose work I shall be reading again and again
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~ by greatgayreads on August 25, 2009.

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