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Brideshead Revisited

3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  54,513 ratings  ·  2,468 reviews
The most nostalgic and reflective of Evelyn Waugh's novels, Brideshead Revisited looks back to the golden age before the Second World War. It tells the story of Charles Ryder's infatuation with the Marchmains and the rapidly-disappearing world of privilege they inhabit. Enchanted first by Sebastian at Oxford, then by his doomed Catholic family, in particular his remote sis ...more
Paperback, 351 pages
Published January 30th 1982 by Back Bay Books (first published 1944)
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Jun 20, 2010 Paul rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: novels
********Please note - contains spoilers ************

One's head is rather spinning, there are so many terribly good things and likewise so very much abject wretchedness it's hard to begin. Let us try.

1) This book is the twisted story of a homosexual affair, which I was truly not expecting it to be. It's famously set amongst the upper classes, firstly in Oxford, so you get pages of blissed-out descriptions of life amongst British aristocratic students in the 1920s and how many plovers eggs they ea
“Surely I was made for some other purpose than this.” Brideshead Revisited, p. 280

Charles Ryder seeks wholeness. He meets Sebastain Flyte while studying at Oxford University, and Sebastian’s aristocratic Catholic family (the Marchmain family) absorbs and enchants Charles, an agnostic, during the decades between World Wars. Charles falls in love with Sebastian, his family estate (Bridesehead), his parents, and, finally, with Sebastian’s beautiful sister Julia. Through his association with the Ma
I just finished rereading Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, a book I pick up every couple of years or so. This time I read it because of the new movie version movie (the one with Emma Thompson as the Lady Marchmain Flyte). As a critic, I get to see a pre-screening of the new movie on Tuesday; I am taking Dr. Steve. Also, I am a huge fan of the original, very-literal British miniseries from 1981 (it is the first thing that brought Jeremy Irons to international attention, and it had the excessi ...more

When I first started reading this book, I was puzzled, lost even in my effort to find what exactly the author was attempting. As time and pages passed, I grew horribly angry with it all, and wondered if I would be able to finish and review the story without a note of fury running through it and wrecking what analysis I could present. Now that I've finished, I find myself saddened by the entire experience. With that in mind, let me explain.

This story had a great deal of potential in it, obli
Apr 12, 2010 David added it
Disclaimer: The views expressed hereafter by Mr. God's-Love concerning Evelyn Waugh's novel are exclusively his own and should not be interpreted as a disguised or fictionalized representation of my own views. The following, you must understand, is merely an act of reportage. Having not previously read the novel in question, I am ill-equipped to make judgments with respect to the reasonableness of Mr. God's-Love's opinion, although I might point out, relevantly or not, that he has been twice dia ...more
Aug 03, 2007 Jason rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: the well-read and those who claim to be
Shelves: favorites
An English novel dating from near the end of World War II, Brideshead Revisited is an elaborate and fascinating reminiscence of a time passed. A novel told in reverie by eyes looking back.

At the core of the novel is the friendship between Oxford classmates Charles (the narrator) and Sebastian. One thing separates Charles and Sebastian. Class. A ubiquitous theme in the best English novels, portrayed here as well as it is in any counterpart in English fiction. One thing unites them. Affection. Per
Lauren G
this book hit me, hard. i read it for a course in 'catholic literature' which was the same course in which i read 'diaries of a country priest,' and 'le grand meaulnes.' it was an excuse for my favorite professor to teach a small group of students about his all-time favorite books. he made up the name so he could teach it as a theology/literature course.

we read brideshead, then watched the film version with jeremy irons. growing up immersed in an anglophile household, i was amazed i'd waited to
Evocative and nostalgic tale, infused with religion and (homo)sexuality, and hence passion, betrayal and guilt.

The later part, about Charles and Celia and then Charles and Julia is more subtle, realistic and sad than the light frivolity of Oxford days.

Hollinghurst's "The Stranger's Child" has many echoes of this (review here:

It's five years since I last read this, but a few ideas that have come back to me by discussing it elsewhere:

People we
Matthew Klobucher
Since I first read it, Evelyn Waugh's masterpiece Brideshead Revisited has unequivocally been my favorite book. It's haunting, melancholy, ironically humorous swan song to all that is elegant and beautiful and pure in this world captivated me. It echoed in eloquent, lucid, and devastatingly satiric paragraphs my firm conviction that true Beauty and Love and even God Himself exist not far beyond the pale glitter of a heartless, selfish, utterly apathetic and drear world. It is an ode to the ideal ...more
It is difficult to encapsulate a book which strives to reach for so much over the course of its pages. I'm sure I will miss some things, but perhaps that's best with a book like this. An epic style classic, I mean. There's always something more to dig out of it.

The writing style is one of the most striking things about the book, let me just put that out there. This is due to the hodgepodge nature of the thing. The beginning of the book has quite a bit of high Romanticism, of a style more appropr
Grace Tjan

There was once a noble house called Brideshead
Of sacred and profane memories
Seat of the last of the Marchmains
An ancient pile with a false dome
Where painted classical deities cavorted
Reflected in gilt mirrors
Echoed in carved marbles
The chapel was Art Nouveau
The drawing room Chinoiserie
And the whole thing flanked by colonnades and pavilions
Lady Marchmain was a lady of religion
Perpetually at her Matins, Lauds and Vespers
Lord Marchmain had long fled the magnificent coop
To live
In his letter of 7 January 1945 Evelyn Waugh wrote to Nancy Mitford that (regarding Lady Marchmain) "no I am not on her side; but God is, who suffers fools gladly; and the book is about God." Nancy, in a subsequent letter (17 January 1945) commented that she was "immune from" the "subtle" Catholic propaganda supposedly in the novel. Well, I guess that I am in Nancy's camp, recognizing the excellence of this G.E.C. (Great English Classic) and in my own way fascinated by the role of God in it, I r ...more
Jan 17, 2012 Shovelmonkey1 rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who like bright young things with vile bodies
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list
Absolutely loved this, and am finding that despite my original half-arse preconceptions I have enjoyed a lot of books from this historical time period. Is this a sign I am developing discerning taste? Am I becoming more open minded? Doubtful, but I can only live in hope and keep on with the mind expanding forays into the more classic side literature. This will not stop me reading trashy smut as well but it means I look more high brow at least 50% of the time.

On the whole Brideshead Revisited is
Momina Masood
Warning: Here be spoilers (well, not really) and sentimentalism.

“He told me, and, on that instant, it was as though someone had switched off the wireless, and a voice that had been bawling in my ears, incessantly, fatuously, for days beyond number, had been suddenly cut short; an immense silence followed, empty at first, but gradually, as my outraged sense regained authority, full of a multitude of sweet and natural and long-forgotten sounds—for he had spoken a name that was all too familiar to
Two totally separate, virtually unrelated books with over-the-top narration and no arc. Brideshead Revisited is divided into two books that take place ten years apart from each other. The narrator/main character is almost unrecognizable from one to the other, and no real explanation is given. Is a simpering fool in the first book, and a cold jerk in the second. His main obsession in the first book is almost entirely and perfunctorily absent from the second, and vice versa with his obsession from ...more
Oct 20, 2007 Sarah rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
This is one of the two books I tend to read at least once a year (the other one is Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov). I've probably read it at least 25 times and I get something new from it every time. He's one of those writers who makes the English language sound decadent and beautiful.

It definitely contains the single best passage about food that I've ever seen - the scene with Charles Ryder and Rex Mottram eating pressed duck and caviar blinis in a little restaurant in London. The way he writes ab
I know it's terrible to admit this--but I didn't dig Brideshead Revisited. Well, I did, at first: I liked the descriptions of Oxford after WWI, and Sebastian with his teddy bear named Aloysius (really, if someone had told me about the bear I would've read this novel years ago!). But then the story just meandered and hemmed and hawed through years and years. I found the narrator dull, and his relationship to Julia just didn't matter to me. I had no interest in the Catholic themes, which the entir ...more
Wow, this book was dark. I've seen the movies and from those conjured up a story that had this dreamy quality of submerged attraction and envy--decorated with elegant old houses. But Brideshead Revisited the novel took me to a very dark and disturbing place. To me, the pieces that shone were the broken fragments of relationships: Charles and his horrible father, and the oppressive mother and Sebastian. Waugh deftly shows these strange, decaying bonds in a way that sticks with you, haunts you. I' ...more
Jun 10, 2008 booklady rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: any anglophile
Shelves: 1990s, 1980s, classic
On the surface it's a book about two friends, the narrator, Charles Ryder, and his wonderful, but bizarre friend, Lord Sebastian Flyte. Eventually Charles befriends the entire Flyte family and it's this unusual friendship as well as the other relationships -- as they evolve over the course of many years -- which form the basis of the novel.

But actually it's a story about the difficulty of being a practicing Roman Catholic aristocrat in England in the 1930s. Charles, an agnostic, doesn't underst
Mar 31, 2013 Sue rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: readers of classics, British 1920s and 1930s
4 1/2 *

I still can recall watching the original Brideshead on Masterpiece Theater, along with most of my friends at the time. Being enthralled with the actors, performances and story. Charles ryder will always be Jeremy Irons for me. Now I've finally read the book behind that performance and am not at all disappointed.

As I settled in to read, I was immediately struck by the language, the period phrasing and speech, and became a bit doubtful as to whether I was actually going to enjoy this book
Soup of oseille, sole in white wine sauce, caneton à la presse, caviare aux blinis, lemon soufflé, wines, cognac, and cigars – few scenes in Brideshead Revisited (1945) better capture the sumptuous, decadent texture of the Waugh's encomium and critique of British aristocracy between the wars than Ryder's dinner at Paillard's. Indeed, one of the great pleasures of the book is savoring the novel's rich settings: Oxford, London, Venice, Paris, the Maghreb, and of course Brideshead Castle. We get to ...more
Read this book after the PBS series years ago. The series was true to the book and depicts the elegance and tragedy of a lost period in British life. It is the story of two young men, their family, and the intertwinement of their lives. Life was slower, people dressed for dinner, there was thoughtful conversation. Nonetheless there is illness, repression, alcoholism. Read the book and rent the DVD. Timeless classic.
This is a thinking book. Initially my first reaction, upon completing the book, was this: "What a bunch of assholes."

After further reflection, I stand by that statement, but I can see how each of the characters was flawed, and how the individual failings of each character were exacerbated by relationships with the others'.

For me, most of the book seemed to be an attack on Catholicism, which caused so many rifts in the Flyte family. Throughout, both Sebastian and Julia struggle so much against t
Stephanie Sun
Not since Open City has a book come alive for me most fully between the lines. Once it does Brideshead Revisited is crazy genius, heavy on the crazy.

Waugh gives ample clues about what he's doing, but you have to believe that this louche-editor's-son/self-styled-satirist/voluntary-Catholic knows what he's doing before you give into it fully. In that way, the book is kind of meta. It is a book about religious awakening written exclusively for staunch atheists by someone with a biography whose eve
Laurel Hicks
7/14/09: Like Maugham's Of Human Bondage, Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited is an eloquent working out of the book of Ecclesiastes. It is the story of the vain search that, for the wise, ends with what Solomon and Dante and St. Augustine found. In case we don't notice Ecclesiastes in his novel, Waugh quotes its most famous phrase in the epilogue: "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." Then he quickly adds, "and yet that is not the last word." Waugh's beautifully evocative tale of the destruction ...more
Both the book and the mini-series are compulsively re-read and re-watchable to me.I like Waugh's more acerbic/comic works as well, but this work, which many dismiss as too sentimental, is my hands-down favorite.

In addition to a delightfully complex set of characters and relationships, there are so many quotes which so perfectly evoke the feeling of longing for a time which has long since past:

"I had been there before. I knew all about it."

"It was as though someone had switched off the wireless,
Allie Whiteley
2 1/2 stars.

Beautiful prose, but I wasn't taken with any of the characters who came across as spoilt brats whose concept of religion seemed to boil down to shame, respectability and theatre. The notion of loving other people, truly loving them, and not just using them as a means to an end appeared to be sadly lacking. The action felt disjointed in places and, on the whole, I found it unsatisfying and irritating. Oddly, I think I might have enjoyed it more if I were more familiar with the famous
If it wasn't for a Goodreads review I've read about this book, I would never have bought it, or even knew about it. So many friends read it with great thoughts shared in their reviews.

I cannot add more praise to the prose. It was simply a wonderful read. Nostalgic, compassionate, passionate and beautifully written. I would like to share the blurb of the book here:
"Evelyn Waugh’s most celebrated novel is a memory drama about the intense entanglement of the narrator, Charles Ryder, with a great
When everything else has left me, names of places, of friends, of family, passages from favorite books and lines from favorite movies, when I forget the dazzling lights of Parisian nights, and how many people are in the world, and one day when I wonder who I am, I will always retain a memory for spaces. I return, at times, to places I have been, places I have lived, which are hot with the molten honey of my past memories. An apartment which I shared on the corner of 14th and Q stirs the dust of ...more
4 and 1/2 stars

I enjoyed this book tremendously: the writing, the wit, the characters, the dialogue. Geek that I am, I even reveled in the structure of the sentences -- all those semicolons (no one uses them as much anymore); I loved them! Even after saying all this, I'm giving it 4 (and a half) stars, instead of 5, though I'm not sure why.

In theme and (sometimes) temperament, this book reminded me, at times, of The End of the Affair, a novel which affected me much more than this one did. Perhap
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Goodreads Librari...: This topic has been closed to new comments. Description Language Match with Edition Language 5 45 Sep 21, 2014 11:28AM  
The relationships in the book. 8 157 Sep 12, 2014 07:23AM  
Love 6 36 Jul 26, 2014 07:37AM  
Bright Young Things: April 2012 - Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh 63 86 Sep 25, 2013 04:47AM  
Lady Marchmain? 14 210 Jul 06, 2013 01:58PM  
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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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“It doesn't matter what people call you unless they call you pigeon pie and eat you up.” 1221 likes
“I should like to bury something precious in every place where I've been happy and then, when I'm old and ugly and miserable, I could come back and dig it up and remember.” 317 likes
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