April's Reviews > Brideshead Revisited

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
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May 09, 09

bookshelves: classics, 2008, 1001-books-list

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 their faith, but then turn to it in times of crisis--even make sacrifices for it when required to do so.

I've read that this is Waugh's ode to Catholicism, but it's not a great one, if it is. The main message seems to be something like, "Run as much as you want, you can't get away from me!" Me meaning Catholicism. I'm pretty sure that's not the way to get people to convert or to ... revert (?).

Each of the main characters, at one time or another, seem to have disconnected, from life, from family, even from themselves. It's hard to believe they have any emotional depth at all; they've suppressed any humanity they may have had. There could be any number of reasons for this: deterioration of the class system, family ruptures, loss of faith, inability to face reality, resistance to maturity. I'm not saying they're good reasons, or justifiable reasons; in fact, most of them are things that everyone experiences, but we all seem to get through it.

That Charles Ryder maintained contact with the Flytes is to his credit; I would have ignored them altogether after having been thrown out of their house. I wonder, though, if his interest came out of genuine affection or out of pity for them. Ultimately, he was just the little boy plugging the dike with his thumb; they were too intent on orchestrating their own destruction to let Charles help them.


Thanks to K.K. for helping me out with Catholicism questions.



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Greg Tarter "This is a thinking book"?! All books are thinking books, sweetie!


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