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Put Out More Flags

3.8  ·  Rating Details ·  1,395 Ratings  ·  99 Reviews
Put Out More Flags is Waugh's superb send-up of "smart" England, the bohemian crowd, as World War II approaches. Making a return appearance, Basil Seal this time insinuates himself into an odd but profitable role in the country's mobilization.
Paperback, 304 pages
Published August 30th 2002 by Back Bay Books (first published 1942)
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1984 by George OrwellAnimal Farm by George OrwellThe Diary of a Young Girl by Anne FrankThe Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-ExupéryThe Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil
Best Books of the Decade: 1940's
148th out of 475 books — 823 voters
The Book Thief by Markus ZusakCatch-22 by Joseph HellerSlaughterhouse-Five by Kurt VonnegutAtonement by Ian McEwanThe Winds of War by Herman Wouk
World War II Fiction
159th out of 789 books — 1,325 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,616)
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Nigeyb
Jun 28, 2014 Nigeyb rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I recently read, and very much enjoyed Sword of Honour, like this book, Sword of Honour is a satirical novel about World War Two.

The books that comprise the Sword of Honour trilogy were written in the 1950s and 1960s when Evelyn Waugh was able to put World War Two into some kind of perspective. Sword of Honour also happens to be one of Evelyn Waugh's masterpieces.

Put Out More Flags, an earlier war novel, opens in the autumn of 1939 and all takes place during the twelve months of the war. It wa
...more
Craig
Jan 19, 2008 Craig rated it it was amazing
I suspect Basil Seal and Bertie Wooster are two versions of the same person. Bertie is the one that shows up in stories for polite company; Basil is the one that shows up in court transcripts.
Jason Goodwin
Oct 07, 2013 Jason Goodwin rated it it was amazing
Thank God for Waugh! Going back to him - it must be ten years since I've read any - is like emerging from a Turkish bath, alive in every pore, your senses quickened and joie de vivre restored. The dialogue is brilliant, the characters sad, odious, weak, shabbily noble - all of them brilliantly anatomised. Waugh's sympathies are huge (and yet in life such a splenetic and selfish man!) and his wit is at full tilt. What a horrible, horrible man is Basil Seal. The evacuee children, the Connollys, ar ...more
Nathan Albright
Feb 16, 2016 Nathan Albright rated it it was amazing
Shelves: challenge
The title of this biting and deeply cynical novel about the beginning of World War II among the “smart set” of aristocrats in England comes from a translation of a Chinese epigram that gives the following cynical advice quoted and translated by Lin Yutang in The Importance Of Living: “And a drunk military man should order gallons [of alcohol] and put out more flags in order to increase his military splendor.” As many writers do, the author (who despite his name was an Englishman [1]) made the co ...more
Wealhtheow
The general image of Britain at the beginning of the second World War is very different from the polite, quietly ridiculous society portrayed here. The story follows an aging rascal (Basil, who I came to hate), his aristocratic family, and his friend Ambrose, a flamboyantly gay writer. The talk is witty, the characters vivid, and the plot mostly serves to show how wrong all the experts where when it came time for war.
Leslie
Evelyn Waugh's look at the first year of Britain's involvement in WW2 revolves around Basil Seal. Seal and his friends & family are typical Waugh characters and his depiction of the Ministry of Information was hilarious! It is an interesting look at how many Brits felt at the beginning of the war, an attitude easily forgotten in the events that followed.
Amy
Jul 19, 2013 Amy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classic-fiction
"...and a drunk military man should order gallons and put out more flags in order to increase his military splendour." --quoted by Lin Yutang in The Importance of Living, and by Evelyn Waugh in the frontispiece of this delicious satire.

We rejoin the idle, scheming Basil Seal in the autumn of 1939, as the second World War is breaking out across Europe and all of England is mobilizing. He's wryly aware that the era of Bright Young Things is over for good; in fact, his halfhearted attempt to join a
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Charles Moody
Dec 10, 2012 Charles Moody rated it it was amazing
Waugh dazzles with what he can do in a single sentence: “It was one of those affairs which, beginning light-heartedly as an adventure and accepted light-heartedly by their friends as an amusing scandal, seemed somehow petrified by a Gorgon glance and endowed with an intolerable permanence; as though in a world of capricious and fleeting alliances, the ironic Fates had decided to set up a standing, frightful example of the natural qualities of man and woman, of their basic aptitude to fuse togeth ...more
Joel
Mar 16, 2016 Joel rated it really liked it
This is a satirical comedy looking at how a group of upper class English socialites respond to the beginning of WWII. It bridges the gap quite nicely between the social class Waugh first began satirising in Vile Bodies (which itself anticipated the Second World War by a number of years) and the romanticisation of the pre-War period and incorporation of deeper religious themes which Waugh attempted to address in Brideshead Revisited. It also sits quite nicely alongside Waugh's other WII satire, t ...more
Hugh Coverly
Jul 28, 2015 Hugh Coverly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For anyone who wants to understand the development of a great writer need only compare Waugh's two comic novels, Black Mischief and Put Out More Flags. As much as I liked Basil Seal's first appearance in 1932, he is given a better, more sympathetic treatment ten years later. Waugh also resurrects characters who had first appeared in his first novel, Fall and Decline and Scoop. Not that Basil is a better person in wartime Britain than he was in the fictitious Azania; far from it; in fact, it's ju ...more
Julie
Nov 27, 2014 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Put Out More Flags follows the careers of some of Waugh's characters from earlier novels through the first year of the Second World War - the period often called 'The Phoney War' as, after the declaration of war in September 1939, nothing much seemed to happen for quite some time. Waugh brilliantly captures the time - the muddle, the manoeuvring for position, the governmental and military cock-ups, the opportunities to make a fast buck. There's plenty of black humour of course, but also a sense ...more
laura
Jun 20, 2007 laura rated it liked it
Recommends it for: the hip. the clever.
Shelves: fiction, clever
i left this book on the train today, with 50 pages to go. so have i read it? mostly. will i finish it? not until fate sends another used copy my way, but i read enough to look forward to reading more of evelyn waugh: measured and urbane, with a knack for sparkling dialogue-- and it all feels surprisingly hip and ridiculously relevant given that it's a book written in the late 40s about late 30s.
Mike
Jul 26, 2015 Mike rated it it was amazing
Waugh's early novels from the 1930s (Decline and Fall, Vile Bodies, Handful of Dust, Black Mischief) are bleak and very funny comic stories, most of them about young men who were too young to fight in WWI and find themselves scamming their way through adulthood. In 1942, though, Waugh made the astonishingly bold decision to write a book in which these same reprobate characters get sucked up in World War II. It would be as if PG Wodehouse wrote a novel in which Bertie Wooster was drafted and foug ...more
Daniel Hooker
Dec 19, 2013 Daniel Hooker rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Not sure why I enjoy Waugh's books so much since they are such a product of the time and place (neither of which are my own), but I guess it has to do with how good the prose is. I suppose it is also comforting to read someone's critique of an era that they view with such contempt, considering how worthy of scorn our own generation is.
Mark Mctague
Aug 19, 2016 Mark Mctague rated it really liked it
Waugh satirizes the British upper class on the eve of WWII and into the first year, and though the tone becomes increasingly mournful as the horror and absurd waste of war draws near, Waugh manages some delightfully absurd scenes involving Basil Seal (cad extraordinaire), a set of monstrous children, Colonel Plum and wartime bureaucracy. This is not as lightheartedly satiric as "Decline and Fall," but it is worth reading for its plea for sanity against the stupidities of modern bureaucracies mad ...more
Alex
Jan 04, 2008 Alex rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most neglected pieces of satire in the 20th century. This book is hilarious and cringe-inducing, often at the same time. The writing and the structure are perfect: Waugh at his satiric best.
Daniel
May 12, 2016 Daniel rated it really liked it
Is financial mismanagement completely to blame when you're a union worker with a guitar in hock and your girl works at a diner yet you're livin' on a prayer?
Terence Carlisle
Written in 1942, in thick of World War II, Put Out More Flags is Waugh 19s satiric account of the first several months of the war 13 often referred to as the 1CPhoney War 1D 13 in which England geared up and girded its loins for a war that didn 19t seem to want to commit itself. It 19s a fascinating look at the time period, and considerably darker than Waugh 19s previous efforts. Several peripheral characters from previous novels take centre stage and Waugh brings back the irrepressible con arti ...more
Ingrid
Jan 03, 2010 Ingrid rated it liked it
It took more than a bit of concentration (I reread the first 20 pages over before I understood where I thought it was going--''thought'' being the key word). While it was of course witty and funny and at times divinely written (I even found myself marking pages to record some floral language I loved), there wasn't really a definable plot at all, and the characters didn't go much of anywhere. I wanted to hear more of the misbehaved kids and could swear it would come back into play later in the bo ...more
Katherine
Jan 29, 2013 Katherine rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
“There was a Gothic pavilion where by long habit Freddy often became amorous; he did become amorous” (13).
“Often, in Paris, Lady Seal had been proud that her people had never fallen to the habit of naming streets after their feats of arms; that was suitable enough for the short-lived and purely professional triumphs of the French, but to put those great manifestations of divine rectitude which were the victories of England to the use, for their postal addresses, of milliners and chiropodists, wo
...more
Emily
Dec 19, 2011 Emily rated it liked it
This novel is almost fantastic. Most of the characters are vibrant and eccentric (my favourite type of character!), the dry and scathing wit is a pleasure to read, and the prose is occasionally shocking in its beauty. However, I feel as though Evelyn Waugh didn't quite finish Put Out More Flags... as if the novel has yet to be reviewed and edited by its author. I found the ending unsatisfactorily inconclusive, with many of the complex threads that Mr Waugh had woven throughout the novel left onl ...more
Tom
Mar 09, 2012 Tom rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
At the twist in the tunnel…
Evelyn Waugh’s Put Out More Flags is a funny send-up of Britain’s prewar consciousness confronting the reality of the Second World War. He captures the vanity of a certain caste of high society during the Phony War of late 1939 and early 1940. Though a light book, and in my estimation not his best, there is plenty of vintage Waugh here to enjoy: nasty and selfish characters who use charm to slip blithely through the world, whether at war or not. Then there is Waugh’s s
...more
John Lucy
Jan 15, 2013 John Lucy rated it it was amazing
Young and disappointing, to his mother, Basil Seal looks to take personal advantage from the outbreak of World War II; his author friend, Ambrose Silk, meanwhile searches for meaning in the midst of the war. Both characters, though friends, have opposing goals and will come into a strange kind of conflict. Basil, the somewhat unlikeable main character, cannot really succeed in his endeavors without harming Ambrose. It's a strange scenario for a novel: the war starts and these two lowly men quasi ...more
Patrick McCoy
Nov 03, 2012 Patrick McCoy rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
The timing for reading Evelyn Waugh's sixth novel, Put Out More Flags published in 1942 at the beginning of WWII, was good for me. It is another of his great satires featuring Basil Seal, of whom was featured prominently in the last Waugh book I read Black Mischief. Seal is a scoundrel, but a very likable one when all is said and done. The title of the novel comes from Lin Yutang's book The Importance of Living, which I unsuccessfully tried to read (it comes across to me as the kind of book you ...more
Lorenzo Berardi
ROYAL MARINE CORPS
Per Mare, Per Terram

Memorandum for:
Flow Bookshop, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China

Subject:
Recommendation for Special Duty

1. I am privileged to write in support of one of our members, CAPT Evelyn Waugh. CAPT Waugh was assigned to our naval base in Chatham and has soon been involved in a daily training routine that left him with - quoting CPL. Chubb - 'so stiff a spine that he found it painful even to pick up a pen'.
During the time CAPT
...more
Mike Harper
Nov 08, 2015 Mike Harper rated it liked it
Waugh excels at poking fun at the British upper class, and particularly, at those who welcome war and military service as a chance to break out of their ruts. The characters here are uninformed, self-absorbed and quite without morals. They are, however, well-spoken and well-connected; with a notable exception, the men among them blissfully accept commissions as officers and proceed to lead their unfortunate countrymen to war.
A reader who likes Flashman and Bertie and Jeeves will enjoy this.
ElSeven
Apr 24, 2010 ElSeven rated it it was ok
This was not one of Waugh's best efforts. I find it shocking that Bloom includes it in his Canon.

In his dedication, Waugh says that the book is about "a race of ghosts, the survivors of a world we ... knew ten years ago". That's how the book reads. Basil Seal, Ambrose Silk, Margot Metroland and all the rest are there capering about as they always have, but there's no spark in it, no life. They're going through the motions, but there's nothing behind it. There are some high points to be sure. Th
...more
Kristen
Mar 31, 2016 Kristen rated it it was ok
It opens just as WWII is about to hit England. "It won't be that bad. The French will stop the Germans from bombing us." By eight pages in, I was already lost in a sea of characters, not to mention a lot of cultural references that I could only know if I read the same newspapers that Waugh read. It's probably a pretty good book, but the library wanted it back. So, with a combination of confusion and regret, I gave it up.
Anthony
Nov 08, 2010 Anthony rated it liked it
A well written, funny, and insightful book into the society and mores of Great Britain on the Eve of World War II. Waugh is a master at showing the shallow and selfish side of humanity without seeming bitter or nihilistic; which is the trap so many satirists fall into.

The book's shortcoming in my opinion is that it covers too wide a cast of characters and this makes the narrative seem unfocused. I think Waugh was going for a sweeping, all encompassing, big-picture type of novel, i.e., Dostoyevsk
...more
Ensiform
Feb 17, 2012 Ensiform rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Written in 1942, this tale of declining mores deals with the lives of several people and how they deal with the onset of war with Germany. Basil Seal, the main protagonist, is a cad who feels almost no empathy for others, but then neither does anyone else in Waugh’s books. (In some ways, Waugh was quite prescient, considering the horrors of isolation and indifference we find in today’s youth.)

Although there are several amusing scenes in the book, it’s all quite bleak, and the resigned indifferen
...more
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Evelyn Waugh's father Arthur was a noted editor and publisher. His only sibling Alec also became a writer of note. In fact, his book “The Loom of Youth” (1917) a novel about his old boarding school Sherborne caused Evelyn to be expelled from there and placed at Lancing College. He said of his time there, “…the whole of English education when I was brought up was to produce prose writers; it was al ...more
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