Lindsay Heller's Reviews > The Loved One: An Anglo-American Tragedy

The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh
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's review
Mar 31, 12

bookshelves: 2012, antiquity-nostalgia
Read from March 29 to 31, 2012

I feel rather wrong giving three stars to an Evelyn Waugh novel, particularly since the feeling I had coming away from this one was that I did, in fact, like it. But I suppose my problem is that I didn't love it. This volume was thin, which was part of the reason why I picked it up just now; it had been sitting on my shelf since Borders went out of business and I thought now was as good a time as any to tick it off my list.

'The Loved One' is essentially about funerals. British expatriate, Dennis Barlow, came to Hollywood to write like his mentor and housemate Sir Francis Hinsley but ends up working at a funeral home for pets instead. When Sir Francis is unceremoniously fired from his job at Megalopolis films he commits suicide and the ensuing funerary arrangements cause Barlow to meet Aimée Thanatogenos, with whom he is instantly in love. But Aimée has also caught the attention of head embalmer, Mr. Joyboy, and the subsequent love triangle takes up the bulk of the story.

It was fairly clear to me that Waugh wrote this story after an unsatisfactory visit to California and upon some research discovered it was when a studio expressed interest in adapting 'Brideshead Revisited' to the silver screen. Apparently he only enjoyed meeting Charlie Chaplin and Walt Disney, citing them as the "only artists in the place". He believed 'Brideshead' to be over the head of most Americans (I try very hard not to find that insulting) and in that wrote 'The Loved One' as almost an antithesis. Take from that what you may. I found 'The Loved One' to be a good little novel but certainly nothing to the brilliance of 'Brideshead' or even the magnificent farce of 'Vile Bodies'. It's almost felt, at times, that the novel was written with contempt, which felt a little single minded. There were parts that were subtly hilarious and parts that sailed by with barely a ripple. This would be normal, but perhaps not ideal in a volume so thin. Overall, yes, of course, it's Waugh so it's good, but I wouldn't say it's his best effort.

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