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The Unbearable Bassington

3.79  ·  Rating Details ·  397 Ratings  ·  44 Reviews
Francesca Bassington--mother of The Unbearable Bassington--was one of those women towards whom Fate appears to have the best intentions & never to carry them into practice. Fate had done her good service in providing her with Henry for a brother, but Francesca could well set the plaguy malice of the destiny that had given her Comus for a son. The boy was one of those u ...more
Paperback, 120 pages
Published January 1st 2007 by Aegypan (first published 1912)
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Dec 14, 2014 Bruce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 02, 2009 Tony rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Stef Smulders
Nov 17, 2016 Stef Smulders rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For a large part a witty satire, reminiscent of Oscar Wilde's plays, it tends to become a bit repetitive and old-fashionedly slow halfway. But then the last two chapters turn out to be masterful, dramatic, written in an excellent style. Let's read some of Saki's stories!
A curious book with some hilarious passages early on. Ultimately a sad story of selfishness and wasted lives. I prefer his short stories.
H. P. Reed
Unlike his Reginald stories, which it much resembled at first, Saki's "The Unbearable Bassington" is a type of morality tale. It contrasts the selfishness of his mother with our protagonist's selfishness, and the conclusion we are forced to draw is that both have thrown their lives away on things of no real importance. Conus Bassington has been brought up frivolously by his mother, Francesca, who is completely in thrall to her accumulated treasures, and has one great painting which requires the ...more
Author’s Note
This story has no moral.
If it points out an evil at any rate it suggests no remedy.

We all know someone like Francesca or recognize something of her in ourselves. ;)

What a set of characters! I wish most writer's were half as good writing characters as Saki is in this book. This made it to my favorites list easily. Funny and witty in a rare way. I will definitely read more Saki in the future.
Jun 14, 2012 Claire rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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!
William Leight
I gave up on this about 3/4 of the way through. It’s not that Saki is a bad writer: I’m a big fan of his short stories, and his usual wit is still sparkling here, it’s just that, despite all the clever quips, the heart of this book is so unutterably bleak that I found it really hard to read. The problem starts with the title character, Comus Bassington: “unbearable” is presumably supposed to be sarcastic but I found it to be scarily accurate. Comus is a deeply damaged soul who spends the book ta ...more
Dec 31, 2016 Indira rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is a simple story of Francesca, her unbearable son, the tug between motherly affection and survival and the want of seeing your son make it to something in life. The language is old-fashioned - unwinding and descriptive sentences.But the art of story-telling, the satire - is amazing. This is a piece of literature you must bother to read if you like poetry, like the early 19th-century literature and love satire. Apparently, it is not Saki's best - He is good at short stories. But it is a very ...more
Oct 10, 2015 Nancy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this in the "Complete Works of Saki" but I think it warrants its own comments.

In re-reading the complete works of H.H. Munro, his short stories teem with irony and mockery regarding human nature and the foibles and essential superficiality of social behaviors, respectively. Perhaps he is merciless but not malicious, as some have described him. Maybe Reginald and Clovis, and even Vera, enjoy upsetting the artificial norm of Victorian/Edwardian behavior, but there is often an undercurrent f
Aug 19, 2013 Undine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jul 19, 2016 Nicola rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor, re-read, g1000
3 1/2 stars

This was a re-read but I remember so little of it before starting it again I thought it was new to me.

Saki is the King of the short story based on impeccably dressed, selfish, witty bright young things with rather mean hearted spirits. Although amusing his stories also shock with the callous disregard his characters show towards the feelings and lives of others. Think Oscar Wilde at his bored cynical best and then take out the kind heartedness which is often concealed beneath the sard
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
Oct 17, 2016 George rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I suppose that only Saki could so effectively write a tragedy--in the Shakespearean/Aristotelian sense, recounting a fatal fall caused by the protagonist's flaw (in this case, the flaws of the protagonists)--I say, no one else could write a tragedy so well, lace it with irony and wit and satire, and after the worst has happened, twist the ending to be a smidgen more ironically bitter.

Or want to.
Aug 07, 2013 Leslie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 12, 2016 Karen marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
* 1000 novels everyone must read: the definitive list

Selected by the Guardian's Review team and a panel of expert judges, this list includes only novels – no memoirs, no short stories, no long poems – from any decade and in any language. Originally published in thematic supplements – love, crime, comedy, family and self, state of the nation, science fiction and fantasy, war and travel – they appear here for the first time in a single list.
Morag Gray
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
George Ilsley
Feb 03, 2016 George Ilsley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, satire
A strange and funny satirical novel by the inimitable Saki. Odd for the young "Comus" to be described as the central character; his mother is really the centre of this book. The novel opens and closes with her, and dwells on her hopes and dreams. Comus, on the other hand, is a blank slate, albeit an attractive one.
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
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
Feb 09, 2011 Johanna Bouchard rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
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!
Oct 06, 2015 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to David by: Noel Coward talked about Saki
Another short -- just more than 100 pages -- satiric novel by Saki, this one written in 1912. The ending is surprising and much more serious than most of the book. The setting is interesting -- London and its environs.
Mar 15, 2012 Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 23, 2014 Ruthiella rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
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.
Dec 06, 2016 Sara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great, quick little satirical read and for being written in the early 1900s there were some passages that seemed remarkable relevant to current times. Also his depiction of eating in the Venetian hotel may be one of my favorite passages of all times.
Dec 29, 2013 Cris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
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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
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“I'm living so far beyond my means that we may almost be said to be living apart.” 18 likes
“Pluralism is a merciful narcotic.” 2 likes
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