Thursday, 24 March 2011

Book #6 Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

 Brideshead Revisited

Brideshead Revisited, or rather Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred And Profane Memories Of Captain Charles Ryder to give it is proper title is a known "classic". Though it was mentioned by Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen on 'My Life In Books' I'm not someone eager to take reading recommendations from the foppish one off of Changing Rooms as snobby as that may sound. I think it was him anyway it could have been the Mitford sister. What I did think was 'Oh yes, Waugh, I keep meaning to read Waugh and never have' and so I downloaded Brideshead Revisited.

Captain Charles Ryder and his company come across a stately home whilst on exercise, encouraged to see it by one of his men he replies 'I've seen it before' and the rest of the story takes place as a flashback.
Early in his university career Ryder befriends Sebastian Flyte the second son of Lord Marchmain, a man living in exile in Italy, having left his staunchly Catholic wife. Flyte brings him to visit their home and from there Charles visits become regular and he becomes intricately linked to their family.

Brideshead Revisited is of course now forever associated with the Eighties TV adaptation starring Jeremy Irons & I have to say without knowledge of it I would have been hard pressed to know what causes Sebastian's decline, Waugh of course could not have made the reasons explicit in the era in which he wrote, and a small, subtle clue is only given by Ryder towards the end of the novel when he is involved in a relationship with Sebastian's sister.

Although I love the drawing room society culture of Nineteenth Century literature, like Austen say, there was something about Brideshead that I thought was elitist and off putting, I didn't really care about them and I found them rather shallow. At the conclusion of the book, after the final event that Ryder shares with the family, I closed the book and I said : "The lesson apparently in this novel is : Catholicism ruins lives!!!" which is a strange conclusion to make because Waugh was a committed Catholic and i'm not sure that's the moral of the tale he would  have wished readers to take.

I think its "worthy" as in worth reading but again, I was disappointed as I'd heard it and Waugh mentioned so often over the years that I'd hoped to sink into a book which would forever stay with me and become a book that I wouldn't want to end and that experience didn't happen for me. I feel like maybe I "missed something" as you often do when you don't love a classic. Shame, really. 6/10

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