Stefani's Reviews > Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
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Oct 08, 10

bookshelves: british

Oh, this book was so decedent in its description of the British upper-class, Pre-WWII—it fulfilled every requirement I have for a book about the filthy rich—gloriously eccentric characters out-of-touch with reality, a VC Andrews-like aura of creepiness that hints at incestuous and dysfunctional family members, and lots of bad, bad behavior going on despite the need to keep up appearances.

The story is narrated by Charles Ryder, who becomes acquainted with Brideshead when he befriends Sebastian Flyte at Oxford. Sebastian—charmingly freakish, exceptionally good-looking, attached to a misbehaving teddy bear named Aloyius—comes from a titled, quasi-aristocratic family that resides at Brideshead. Charles is smitten with Sebastian in a sexually ambiguous manner—in many ways, I think Charles wants to inhabit Sebastian's world, but is unable to any other way.

One of the major themes in this book is man's conflict with religion, more specifically, Catholicism and how these principles can be contradictory to how one lives their life. Julia and Sebastian both struggle with the stronghold that religion has over the decisions they make in life—whether to stay in an unhappy marriage or to marry again or, in Sebastian's case, whether to reveal to live his life openly as a gay man—and yet remain eternally faithful to the rituals of Catholicism, Julia insisting that her atheist father be given last rites.

And, the ambiguity of Charles' and Sebastian's relationship really threw me for a loop—are you or aren't you? The whole situation became more complicated with Sebastian is living with a man in West Africa and shocker Charles is married? WTF?? Since when has he been interested in women? Then I thought about how segregated schools were in 1920's England plus Oxford was single-sex so I guess it makes sense for men to kind of form quasi-romantic relationships with members of the same sex if they don't have access to women? Anyway, I was just hoping to be the one that got to take a ride out to the country with a picnic basket full of champagne and strawberries, with a teddy bear riding shotgun. Or maybe that's just the movie version..
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