A.J. Howard's Reviews > Brideshead Revisited

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
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Three Things I Learned About Evelyn Waugh From the Everyman's Library Edition That Contributed to my Reading of Brideshead Revisited.

1. Waugh sought a three month's leave of absence in the midst of World War II for the specific purpose of writing this book.

He didn't use another excuse. There was fake family or personal emergency. He requested a three monts leave of absence from the English Army in early 1944 for the explicit purpose of writing a novel. And it was granted! I think this may be the most English fact I've ever heard.

You must have a sense of humor to be able to pull this off, and Brideshead is chock full of exhibitions of Waugh's humor. I knew the book was humorous, but I didn't expect the book to be so funny (If that makes sense). There are several passages that had me giggling to myself, a habit I usually try to avoid. Just to give an example, the account of Rex's attempted catechism lessons was have been the funniest thing I've read in a while.

2. Waugh converted to Catholicism in 1930, and was a strict Catholic until his death.

As a lapsed Catholic, I find it somewhat surprising that the the best examination of Catholic guilt I've ever read was written by someone who was converted! Did he not know what he was getting into? The ending makes the Catholic Church, or religion as a whole, the unblemished protagonist of the story, which is a little uninteresting if you ask me. For example, the protagonist, a life-long agnostic, observes this family sacrificing happiness and healthy familial relationships, while torturing themselves for decades, and by the end of the novel he appears to be willing to sign up for the root cause behind it.

Thinking back on it, I really think Waugh was not completely comfortable with his religious beliefs and it shows in this book. Maybe it's my callous, agnostic heart, but the redemption of the characters at the end of the book seemed unbelievable, and somewhat heartbreaking.

3. Waugh's first wife's name was... you guessed it, Evelyn.

This didn't really help me appreciate Brideshead Revisited any more, but hasn't stopped giving me delight.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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brian   hey!
what happened here -- this was rated five stars, then four, now three...

the loved one and a handful of dust are better. check 'em out.

A.J. Howard Five stars was an error, four stars went out the window after I woke up and was still pissed off about that old coot making the sign of the cross. That's when I realized that some of my favorite parts of the book were probably contradictory to Waugh's actual intentions. A very high three stars though.

Thanks for the recommendations, I think I'm going with Scoop next, I've been wanting to read it ever since I read a Christopher Hitchens essay on it.

brian   yeah, the hitch essay is pretty terrific.

it's a shame, b/c there's a 5-star classic novel inside its pages -- but as it stands, its flaws just run too deep. and, yes, that cross business is just horrible.

check out the 2 i recommended. they're shorter, funnier, and superior.

A.J. Howard yeah, i agree with you on the flaws. i really can't think of another three star novel that was closer to five stars, if that makes sense. i think some of the flaws would have been lessened if the book was written even a couple years later during peacetime. waugh said that the novel was a creature of the war years.

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