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Decline and Fall

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  5,723 ratings  ·  374 reviews
Expelled from Oxford for indecent behaviour, Paul Pennyfeather is oddly unsurprised to find himself qualifying for the position of schoolmaster at Llanabba Castle. His colleagues are an assortment of misfits, including Prendy (plagued by doubts) and captain Grimes, who is always in the soup (or just plain drunk). Then Sports Day arrives, and with it the delectable Margot B ...more
Paperback, 300 pages
Published May 2005 by Kessinger Publishing (first published 1928)
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Shovelmonkey1
Jan 04, 2012 Shovelmonkey1 rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who enjoys dissecting society with their razor sharp wit
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list
SUMMARY:
A skewed and satirical version of Lemony Snickets Series of Unfortunate Events for grown-ups including a similar line-up of comedy death scenes and improbably named characters.

THE LONG WINDED VERSION:
Oh Mr Waugh, you're a cad, a bounder and pithier than a bushel of oranges. Why, I do believe that without you the 30s would have been quite insufferably dull. Lets face it, with one war over and another one gestating quietly in the wings, what better way to pass the time than by disembowelin
...more
Paul

AN UNPLEASANT ENCOUNTER, OR, THE N WORD IN THE EARLY 20TH CENTURY

Bowling along in this droll farce about the upper classes – if you imagine a line with PG Wodehouse (utter lollery) at one end and Edward St Aubyn (still funny, but black, bitter and bleak) at the other – then Decline and Fall is towards the Wooster end of the spectrum - and then on page 77, there’s a sports day organised at the minor public school where our wan young defenestrated undergrad Paul Pennyfeather is now teaching. Glidi
...more
Trevor
I've just finished this book and look, read it. It is a delight from start to finish. In an odd way it reminds me of O Lucky Man - the Lindsay Anderson film. It also reminded me of Monty Python at their best, no, at their very best. Ok, so perhaps some of the social stereotypes don't really exist anymore, but that would be like not reading Wodehouse because no one has a man servant anymore. The architect is comic genius in its purest form - I may have even laughed out loud (though never lol) whe ...more
Brad
Decline and Fall was Evelyn Waugh's first novel, and the first novel of his (that's right, Kelly, Evelyn's a man) that I read. It wasn't at all what I expected.

I expected a weighty, gloomy, hopeless, depressing love letter to the British upper crust. I expected the kind of book Merchant-Ivory would be happy to film amidst overcast skies and lush lawns. I expected Masterpiece Theatre during a PBS funding push.

I didn't expect scathing satire, a sort of P.G. Wodehouse with fangs, nor did I expect
...more
Lorenzo Berardi
'Decline and Fall' is the sort of merciless social satire about Oxford and its elitist characters I expected to find when I bought 'Zuleika Dobson' by Max Beerbohm.

Whereas the latter left me utterly disappointed - to the point I left that book half-read - this novel turned out to be far more brilliant than I thought.

It's funny to notice how Mr. Beerbohm was chiefly a caricaturist who toyed with literature while young Evelyn Waugh was exactly the opposite.
And I believe both men made the right ch
...more
Barry Pierce (*ON HIATUS*)
Ugh how great is this? Waugh's biting satire of his time and class is just *heart eyes emoji*. This is a lot funnier than I expected it so be, although it is very much British humour (which I love) so it may be lost on a lot of people. It's sort of like a comical Clockwork Orange mixed with Anderson's If.... Basically it's a Malcolm McDowell film (but nothing like Caligula). It's really very good. It's my first Waugh and I need more! He may be a new favourite.
Steve
Mar 26, 2009 Steve rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Wodehouse fans
Shelves: 5-stars
This is Waugh's first book, and one of his finest. This is an absurd story of a young man, expelled (or "sent down") from Oxford for indecent behaviour, who obtains a job as a teacher at a less than salubrious third-rate public school in Wales and is then entrapped in a series of bizarre events that take him on a rollercoaster ride through upper-class circles. The central character, Paul Pennyfeather, is a naive soul, full of gusto and enthusiasm, but lacking in common sense. The use of the term ...more
Jan-Maat
This was Waugh's first novel and was received with great acclaim, even by my old favourite Arnold Bennett. However I find it like eating whipped cream. It goes down easy, but doesn't fill me up.

Clearly I lack the required level of sensibility to appreciate Waugh. Which is to say an addiction to the riotous upper classes. If you think there is nothing better than a snazzily dissolute aristocrat then this is the satire for you.

It romps from Bullingdon Club style antics at Oxford via cut price pri
...more
Caroline
Waugh's first novel is a wonderful satirical dark comedy, with no shortage of humorous characters. Be prepared for some racist and plenty of politically incorrectness. Paul Pennyfeather is sent down from Scone College for 'indecent behavior' and is disowned by his guardian. In need of money, he manages to get a job as a teacher at Llanabba, a small boys school in Wales.

At Llanabba, Paul finds his own method of getting along with the boys and faculty members, often with hilarious results. But le
...more
Moses Kilolo
Decline and Fall presents us with Paul Pennyfeather, a young man sent away from Oxford for performing ‘a naked dance.’ After his inheritance is withheld, he resorts to teaching at a school with very funny students, all boys. It’s here that he meets the mother of one of his students (Peter), a lady named Margot. This chance meeting marks his descent into obscurity, characterized first by the promise of marriage to the wealthy Margot, but soon shattered by the arrest he suffers due to Margot’s ill ...more
James
Evelyn Waugh's first novel, Decline and Fall, is a delightful satiric comedy. It is based in part on Waugh's undergraduate years at Hertford College, Oxford, and his experience as a teacher in Wales. He is sent down from Oxford and as a result takes a position at the Llanabba school in Wales. The school itself is dingy, depressing, and seems always on the verge of coming apart at the seams. The masters, Captain Grimes, Mr. Prendergast, and Paul, are all unqualified for their positions, the stude ...more
Paola
According to the introduction to the Penguin edition, referring to his own work Waugh said
‘I regard writing not as investigation of character but as an exercise in the use of language, and with this I am obsessed. I have no technical psychological interest. It is drama, speech and events that interest me.’

Yet he is very precise in his depiction of English class conscious society. Witty, funny, and piercingly critical, it portrays in Paul Pennyfeather the stereotypical, quintessential English ge
...more
Mike Clarke
Decline And Fall is Waugh at his most piercing, polemical and disturbing. The cast of irredeemable characters behaving outrageously and voicing opinions of such venom and prejudice makes for unsettling - yet hilarious - reading. Unlike lesser haters, Waugh doesn't secretly love or admire them, he hates them all. It's difficult to unpick the authorial voice from the ridiculous views of some of the most preposterous protagonists, and this is the charm of the work - you won't read it and feel uplif ...more
Anthony
I have been re-visiting books which I read in my youth. This is an interesting activity. I began reading Tess of the D'Urbervilles in this vein, only to find that I had never read it in the first place. More about that later. Reading 'Decline and Fall' which I probably read while I was at Oxford, and generally a fan of Waugh's use of language I was preparing myself for a treat. I was ready to luxuriate back into a bubble-bath of wit. I recalled the opening scenes of the Bollinger Club (so opport ...more
Jacquelin
Poor Paul Pennyfeather. He gets kicked out of Oxford for indecent exposure, although it isn't entirely his fault. Leaving Oxford causes him to default on his sizable inheritance, which leads him to a teaching position in Wales, Not to worry that he has no teaching experience, he is hired anyway. He falls for the mother of one of his students and takes the enviable position of being the boy's private tutor. Unbeknownst to Paul, his new paramour's wealth comes from an investment in many high class ...more
Scott
Essentially a retelling of Voltaire's Candide updated to early 20th century Britain, Waugh's first novel, Decline and Fall (1928) recounts the misfortunes that plague Paul Pennyfeather, from his dismissal from Oxford for "indecent behavior," to a miserable term as master at a public school, to his disastrous betrothal to a wealthy socialite, and finally to his incarceration, death, and resurrection. The road to his ruin is populated with satiric send ups of typical literary characters, many of w ...more
Trina
Evelyn Waugh's first novel, and it's completely absurd, but the main character manages to be both passive and charming. He's really the "normal" guy in a huge cast of eccentric characters. I laughed out loud frequently. It's one of those early 20th c. English novels where nobody really ever works, but always has enough money to drink and carouse. There's some clear commentary, on boarding school, prison, and even architecture, but it's rather gentle and not really scathing. I can imagine that it ...more
Христо Блажев
Ивлин Уо тормози невинен до глупост младеж в “Упадък и падение”: http://knigolandia.info/book-review/y...
Ако П. Г. Удхаус ви е поомръзнал, но пък искате нещо подобно, “Упадък и падение” на Ивлин Уо е точно за вас. Писана преди 85 години, книгата е запазила чудесната си свежест, с която вероятно е предизвиквала по-скоро възмущение към момента на излизането си.
Colibri Books
http://knigolandia.info/book-review/y...
Nate D
May 13, 2010 Nate D rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: 1920s British aristocracts
Recommended to Nate D by: The Strand incoming used book pile
Evelyn Waugh's first novel is a brisk class satire of the British school system and aristocracy. Incisive, stylistically rather un-dated despite its period concerns, and sparkling with good dialogue and cynicism. Its insights are often lost in amusing set-pieces, but the amusement is real, so it works pretty well anyway. Apparently a sort of retelling of Candide, but such things are largely lost on me.
Cecily
An improbable, but comic, tale of Paul Pennyfeather, wrongly sent down from Oxford, and his subsequent adventures as a teacher in a very dubious private school, love with an older heiress, prison and Reggie-Perrin style "death".

This was Waugh's first novel, but in places it's like a caricature of his (not yet written) "Brideshead Revisited".
Laura
Just arrived from France trough BM.

This is the first book by Evelyn Waugh which tells the story of Paul Pennyfeather, his decline and his fall from Scone College to Llanabba, a Welsh castle. In some editions this book is subtitled as "A Novel of Many Manners".
Karen
3 1/2. Nasty satire about elitism and decadence in post WW I Britain. Some of it's hard to take and I had to remind myself these were the characters and not Waugh (though I don't think I'd have liked him personally, either.) Wonderfully absurd.
Izumen
Жестока сатира на английското общество от началото на XX век. Дебютен роман за бъдещия класик Ивлин Уо.

Рецензия на книгата: http://izumen.blogspot.com/2014/05/bl...
Christopher
I liked this title a little less than A Hand full of Dust. The absurdity of HFD was there, but this was definitely a lighter treatment of interbellum bedlam. The most disturbing part of this book and other Waugh books is how accurately he depicts bland characters who are anti-Romantic. By this I mean characters who go along with whatever life gives them without sorrow or happiness and without really fighting for anything. life passes by their dim perception and then they die.

At some point in th
...more
Barksdale Penick
This book is from another era, the interlude between World Wars in England, but before the Great Depression, when the upper class could behave as if England were still the dominant World Power and there was lots of money and servants to ease their path through black tie parties and country weekends and many whiskies and soda. And for the most part, it is completely absurd, filled with bounders and scalawags who come and go and then return into the twisted path of our hero, a seemingly innocent, ...more
Michael
Paul Pennyfeather finds himself taking a job at a public school called Llanabba after being expelled from Oxford for indecent behaviour. He takes up some private tutoring to get close to the student’s mother, Margot Beste-Chetwynde. Their relationship forms and they are soon engaged; all the while Paul is still unaware that the main source of her income is a number of high class brothels in South America. Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall is a black comedy satirising British society in the 1920s.

T
...more
Gareth Lewis
Just brilliant. Though I must admit I read it ages (months) ago and can't remember why. Here's a clever and entertaining passage on architecture (there are many more in the book):

‘The problem of architecture as I see it,’ he told a journalist who had come to report on the progress of his surprising creation of ferro concrete and aluminium, ‘is the problem of all art - the elimination of the human element from the consideration of form. The only perfect building must be the factory, because that
...more
N W James
Oct 05, 2010 N W James rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to N W by: Steve-O
Shelves: 2010
If I had been reading this book in 1928, I would have been laughing out loud. Probably. I'm not sure.

I don't think the book withstood the test of time. But I'll be the first to tell you that I am not an expert in modern English satire and I'm sure 90% of Evelyn Waugh's point went over the top of me brains. I still enjoyed the character's quirks. I enjoyed the author's social commentary: the rich have the money to manipulate their stories and evade social discipline. And sometimes (most times?) t
...more
Marija
I think Evelyn Waugh was reading a lot of Thomas Hardy when he penned this novel. There are so many little elements put together… Far From the Madding Crowd’s Sergeant Troy and the coast scene…the relationship upheavals in Jude the Obscure with Jude Fawley, Arabella and Sue… even how Pierston’s story goes full circle in The Well-Beloved… and most important of all the roles of fate, choice and consequence, present in all of Hardy’s novels and stories. The mix is wonderful. Paul’s story is full o ...more
BrokenTune
As much as I liked Vile Bodies, Waugh's other books just leave me cold.

There is wit, and then there is spite. Waugh just somehow doesn't seem to be able to rise above the latter.

Yes, there are some fine caricatures, but what spoils them is that Waugh tries too hard at times and comes across as nothing more that a bitter and self-important cynic.

I have one other of his books but it just moved down (quite) a few places on my TBR.

Review first posted on BookLikes: http://brokentune.booklikes.com/po
...more
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Decline and fall 6 25 Aug 07, 2013 12:22PM  
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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
More about Evelyn Waugh...
Brideshead Revisited A Handful of Dust Scoop Vile Bodies The Loved One

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“Old boy," said Grimes, "you're in love."
"Nonsense!"
"Smitten?" said Grimes.
"No, no."
"The tender passion?"
"No."
"Cupid's jolly little darts?"
"No."
"Spring fancies, love's young dream?"
"Nonsense!"
"Not even a quickening of the pulse?"
"No."
"A sweet despair?"
"Certainly not."
"A trembling hope?"
"No."
"A frisson? a Je ne sais quoi?"
"Nothing of the sort."
"Liar!" said Grimes.”
10 likes
“What an immature, self-destructive, antiquated mischief is man! How obscure and gross his prancing and chattering on his little stage of evolution! How loathsome and beyond words boring all the thoughts and self-approval of his biological by-product! this half-formed, ill-conditioned body! this erratic, maladjusted mechanism of his soul: on one side the harmonious instincts and balanced responses of the animal, on the other the inflexible purpose of the engine, and between them man, equally alien from the being of Nature and the doing of the machine, the vile becoming!” 8 likes
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