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L'insupportable Bassington

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  271 ratings  ·  30 reviews
Alone among Saki's works in being almost entirely located in London, this novel focuses on the Mayfair scene of bridge afternoons, dinner parties & concerts. At the center of a group of brilliantly depicted bores & savage wits is Comus Bassington, "the beautiful wayward laughing boy."
Published September 12th 1999 by Julliard (first published 1912)
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The English writer H. H. Munro, writing under the pen name Saki, straddled the19th and 20th centuries. He mainly wrote short stories that often addressed the foibles of high Edwardian society, sometimes with a touch of the macabre. His only novel was the short work, The Unbearable Bassington. I think I first read his short story, “The Open Window,” when I was in my mid teens, almost six decades ago, and was captivated by it. This was my first return to any of Saki’s works. It was a pleasant re-a ...more
Saki (H.H. Munro). THE UNBEARABLE BASSINGTON. (1912). *****. I’ve read some of Saki’s short stories, but this is the first novel I’ve read by him. I thought it was terrific, even though his style of writing is of the period. He was obviously the master of the “put-down,” and the book is full of them. This is the story of Comus Bassington, the only son of Francesca Bassington. Francesca lives in a house in London surrounded by all of her treasured things and is well content to continue living the ...more
A curious book with some hilarious passages early on. Ultimately a sad story of selfishness and wasted lives. I prefer his short stories.
I will now write my review with the aid of Rin Okumura from Blue Exorcist, my stand-in for Comus Bassington.

Comus Bassington is a devilishly handsome and charming young man.

The key word here is devilish. He usually does exactly the opposite of what he should do.

He gets away with it for a long time, thanks primarily to his loving (and patient) mother, but also due to his almost equally devilish friends.

Of course Mephisto is Courtenay. Of course.

But, eventually life deals him what he's owed.

I know
Having never read Saki before, this was a surprise. The reviewers talk about his biting sarcasm and wit - and they're right, but I was floored by his character descriptions, so clear that I could see the person in front of me - I know this person! He is a wonderful writer. Not happy, perhaps, but startlingly perceptive about human nature and personality. I will have to read more!
I file this one under "interesting failures." Like some other writers with a genius for writing short stories, Saki seemed unable to master the very different skills required to construct a first-rate novel. "Bassington" reads more like a series of disconnected vignettes than one seamless narrative. Worse, while his usually "unbearable" characters are entertaining, even weirdly lovable, when briefly encountered in a short story, they become simply obnoxious when you get a steady diet of them in ...more
Kelly Crigger
I realize this was first written in the early 20th Century and the style is completely different, but in today's "get-to-the-point" instant gratification world this book takes a long time to develop. Each chapter starts with lengthy scene-setting prose or character descriptions that are sometimes irrelevant to the story. The meat of the book comes in bits and pieces and doesn't flow forward very well. On the flip side, this is an incredible look into 19th Century England that does an incredible ...more
Everyone is fairly unbearable in this novella. A satire of the Edwardian era upper classes, centering on a vapid, selfish young man and his materialistic, selfish mother. Saki can be very funny in a scathing way, although there were quite a few political references that I am sure I didn’t get.
Curious book. Some wonderful epithets. Written approximately 1912. As one critic wrote of it, it gives a good feeling for society as it was in 1914 just before WWI.
It took me 10 years to read the last 3 pages. I'm sorry I did. Brilliantly written, crushingly depressing.
The novel was not Saki's best genre (his short stories were much better), but still full of funny lines.
Not for everyone, these funny English pig dogs. Go and boil your bottoms, you sons of a silly person. I blow my nose at you, so-called "Arthur King," you and all your silly English K-nig-hts. Oh wait... i went off on a tangent. But Saki is the king of the snarky English put-down. Perhaps John Cleese got his inspiration from him. One of those books you need to own so that you can read a few chapters or a short story on sleepless nights or rainy afternoons.
Claire Charmant
The Unbearable Bassington is like hanging out with Oscar Wilde at 4 in the morning at a bar after he's had a bad breakup. It's laugh-out-loud funny, it's got snarky put-downs in spades, and it has an undercurrent of cynicism, even bitterness. It's great entertainment (clearly, humor is Saki's defense mechanism, too!) but it's got a bitter aftertaste as well. I find something very human and relatable about Saki's writing, and this is a keeper.
Timothy Ferguson
As Saki’s first novel I suppose I should cut him some slack. Witty, but not as witty as his later short pieces. Terribly cruel to his characters, but not quite so charmingly as later.

Recommended for people who like class satire; Oscar Wilde fans, for example.

This review originally appeared on book coasters
Morag Gray
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Interesting but failed novella. So cynical and bitter it leaves you a bit empty. The end is abrupt and ,as promised by the author, leaves you wanting for meaning. I enjoy the short story Saki much more.
Marts  (Thinker)
Young Comus Bassington just doesn't give a damn, but he does have good looks and much charm, he eventually realises that this gets him nowhere and despite his mother's urgings, eventually ends up as an exile...

Can be read online:
Johanna Bouchard
I was really let down after reading this book. I had such high expectations for it, considering how much I love Saki's short stories, but found it was nothing like them. It was very verbose, almost a chore to read, because the plot line went absolutely nowhere. What a shame!
This story resemebled those by Virginia Woolf and I couldn't help feeling that, as with Woolf, there was a lot of subtext in the story I wasn't quite able to hang on to. I enjoyed the book, but it tends to encourage readers to analyze it rather than read it for pleasure.
I actually possess the Nook edition, not Kindle.

What an unusual story! Much of his humor is reminiscent of Oscar Wilde's, but HH Munro turns this tale into much more than an amusing romp. In its way, it is unforgettable and I highly recommend it.
Sam Reaves
Saki is remembered for his dry, wicked, finely honed short stories; I had heard of this novel but never seen a copy. I scooped this one up for a dollar and it was the bargain of the year. Saki's lofty skepticism and contempt for pomposity are pure oxygen.
Judith Lewis
Saki always worth reading - though don't remember this novella as clearly as many of his short stories. He was a wonderfully perceptive writer and is surely overdue for rediscovery.
The first Saki I've read ... and it's a great read. I loved the verbal put-downs of which there are plenty. If you're a cynic (like me) you'll love it.
Gosh, what a strong ending.

I enjoy this style of writing very much, in moderate doses.
Kally Sheng
May 10, 2015 Kally Sheng marked it as consideration  ·  review of another edition
The Unbearable Bassington:
Just a joy to read prose like this.
David Cain
Lovely, brilliant, strange
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Hector Hugh Munro, better known by the pen name Saki, was born in Akyab, Burma (now known as Sittwe, Myanmar), was a British writer, whose witty and sometimes macabre stories satirized Edwardian society and culture. He is considered a master of the short story and is often compared to O. Henry and Dorothy Parker. His tales feature delicately drawn characters and finely judged narratives. "The Open ...more
More about Saki...
The Complete Saki The Collected Short Stories of Saki The Open Window The Best of Saki The Chronicles of Clovis

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“I'm living so far beyond my means that we may almost be said to be living apart.” 15 likes
“Pluralism is a merciful narcotic.” 1 likes
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