Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Vile Bodies” as Want to Read:
Vile Bodies
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Vile Bodies

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  12,240 ratings  ·  818 reviews
The Bright Young Things of 1920s Mayfair, with their paradoxical mix of innocence and sophistication, exercise their inventive minds and vile bodies in every kind of capricious escapade, whether it is promiscuity, dancing, cocktail parties or sports cars. A vivid assortment of characters, among them the struggling writer Adam Fenwick-Symes and the glamorous, aristocratic N ...more
Paperback, 322 pages
Published November 30th 1977 by Back Bay Books (first published 1930)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Vile Bodies, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Ryu If I am not wrong, these people are based on a British aristocratic group known as the Bright Young Things or the Bright Young People. They did get up…moreIf I am not wrong, these people are based on a British aristocratic group known as the Bright Young Things or the Bright Young People. They did get up to some silly things and splurged a lot of money, but I don't know how similar they are as I have yet to read the book. You can read about them here:

Sebastian Flyte was also loosely based on one of them (Stephen Tennant). (less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.78  · 
Rating details
 ·  12,240 ratings  ·  818 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Vile Bodies
Jul 25, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Vile bodies, vile people, vile attitudes, only they could have named themselves 'bright young things'. Good book, Evelyn Waugh knows his own kind but also knows how to send them up.
Steven Godin
Evelyn Waugh was in his mid-20s when he wrote Vile Bodies (1930), but he had already seen enough of the foibles of the ruling class to provide ammunition for a lifetime of storytelling. Although he hailed from a solidly middle class family, Waugh associated at Oxford with a circle known as the 'Hypocrites Club', and thereafter mingled with the rich and fatuous before marrying Evelyn Gardner, the daughter of a Lord and Lady. Waugh writes with a comical touch, precisely using the sort of character ...more
Jul 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Unputdownable; both excitingly modern & original, a novel about manners & society and all that jazz.

I have seriously not read something this comical and smart and sad since (my all-time fave) “A Confederacy of Dunces.” The sharp dialogue is more than clever: it constructs a full little universe in which bright young creatures can party it up like there’s no tomorrow. Love everything about it: the tone, the pace, the interaction of so many personalities. Fantastic: I read all 321 pages in one si
2.5 stars
Waugh’s second novel is a rather bleak comic satire on the “Bright Young Things” of the 1920s. It is a witty series of anecdotes, often rather disjointed. The title is from the funeral service and the style mimics Eliot and modernism. The pace is breathless and there is a line in a Disney song which runs “busy going nowhere”. Indeed there is an inscription from Carroll at the beginning “it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place”.
The plot is fairly thin. It revolves
Jul 26, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who needs a posh antidote to The Only Way is Essex
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list and the belief that Stephen Fry is a minor deity
"Ooooh what's that shiny thing, it's hurting my eyes."

"Sorry, that'd be me, I'm a bright young thing. Avert your eyes lest they be burned from their sockets."

"Wow, so what is a bright young thing then? Forgive my ignorance but I'm just not that cultured."

"Don't worry, its an easy premise to grasp - here, let me explain... we bright young things are an erudite group of social laaah-de-dahs who favour a bohemian life style. We like the finer things in life and indulge our love of drinking, dancing
Aug 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
Updated thoughts can be found here -

I just finished reading the gorgeous 1930 novel, Vile Bodies by the old genius of a boy, Evelyn Waugh.

I feel it's not too soon to admit to this already being one of my favorite books of all time. Just lovely in every way.

I'd already seen the hilarious 2003 film adaptation by my hero, Stephen Fry but I actually think I like the book even more.

So rich with wit and humor. so full of characters that one would love to share a bottle (or
May 10, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Vat of Vapid Rubbish Devolving into a Void

Each time I picked up this "novel," the question vexed me: how could it be that the same author who wrote the brilliant Brideshead Revisited also composed this doggerel volcano of vice and vileness, devoid of characters, dialogue and plot of any substance, value, or virtue?

This short novel comes across as either a manic pervert's puerile idea of high-brow humor, or a savant's crusade for the sake of literary sadism.

Ending this was much like slipping free
Nov 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“What a lot of parties!”

Published in 1930, this is Evelyn Waugh’s second novel, following the comic, “Decline and Fall.” Although this has some of the same humour, it becomes considerably darker in parts, which possibly mirrors the fact that Waugh’s first marriage (‘He-Evelyn’ and ‘She-Evelyn’) was falling apart during the writing of this.

The main character is Adam Fenwick-Symes, who returns to England on a ship, aboard many of the other characters who feature in the novel. For this is about th
Dec 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“I can't bare you when you're not amusing.”
― Evelyn Waugh, Vile Bodies


"Fiat experimentum in corpore vili"
"Let the experiment be done upon a worthless body"

Set in the 20s and published in 1930, Waugh's sophmore novel (after 1928's Decline and Fall) follows Adam Fenwick-Symes the anti-hero journalist/writer as he lightly persues his fortune, his fiance, and his career among an ever declining group that mirrors London's bohemian "Bright Young Things" of the 20s. According to Waugh himself, "T
Mar 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, uk, 2014
Very interesting and a different world to today. So much scandal and great characters.
I felt it was slow at parts. Some characters i loved and some i really didnt.
Everyone just seemed like upper class socicalite rebels.

I heard a quote that i found matched what I thought of the book:
"Vile Bodies, Vile People, Vile Attitudes"
Dec 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Vile Bodies was the only major novel by Evelyn Waugh I had yet to read, so I was very happy to finally put that right.

Vile Bodies captures the world of the "Bright Young Things", a privileged and wealthy elite in the 1920s, and their associated misspent youth, self indulgence, anarchic behaviour, and easy attitudes to sex and drugs. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, the Bright Young Things's were a staple of newspaper gossip columns, who seized upon their adventures and reported them with a mi
Jun 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"Our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the saviour...Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself."
Philipians 3:17-21

This book, the best-titled book by one of literature's great titlers, snuck up on me. It's really fun and quick to read - satirical and absurdist - and suddenly toward the end I started to think that maybe it's not a little but quite a b
An odd, fun read, more broadly humorous than I expected. Set among the out of control bright young things of London who are quite crazily sent up by Waugh, Vile Bodies is enjoyable and crazy yet also shows some of the pathos of the time lurking in the background. I think I prefer Waugh's more subtle work but would have to read more to be sure.

Then there are some great passages that I really did love such as the following.

The truth is that motor cars offer a very happy
illustration of the metaph
Apr 07, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: humor, 1930s
"Who's that awful looking woman?"
"She's no one. Mrs. Panrast she's called now."
"She seems to know you."
"Yes. I've known her all my life. As a matter of fact, she's my mother."
"My dear, how too shaming."

If you’ve got a taste for Ronald Firbank’s prose and you enjoy seeing Thomas Hardy getting skewered, I think you’ll gleefully sink your teeth into Waugh’s Vile Bodies (1930). The book’s a nice slab of satire that hasn’t lost its humor, though now its bite may resemble more a vicious gumming than a
This is the second book I've read by Evelyn Waugh. The first book I read was The Loved One which I thought was fabulous, a five star read all the way. With this book he was attempting to be humorous and for me it fell flat. Don't get me wrong, there were some really cute parts but having just read The Loved One, I was expecting more. 😕 ...more
Aug 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviews, modernism
Reading Evelyn Waugh is like watching an elaborate, adult cartoon. His writing is beyond the usual satire, black humour, cynicism and all other attributes it was gratified with. Its extraordinary visual quality is supported by few epic features, and it is called a novel only in the absence of a better term, as justly observed Alan Dale in his review on Blogcritics. Therefore, if you look for a cleverly deployed plot, strong characters and coherent actions, or balanced oppositions and moral battl ...more
May 03, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: funny, clever, satire
First impression? Hilarious. Total spot-on satire of 1930s, pseudo/wannabe posh society in Britain - and I can say that with such confidence because I was there and all. Well, no, not quite, not by about 53 years and an ocean, but I do live in New York, where desperate social climbers - the "see and be seen-ers" - and tacky people with a bit of money proliferate against my wishes.

The difference is that somewhere along the road, we stopped satirizing these people and took to glorifying them inst
May 30, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, humour
Stephen Fry filmed it under the title Bright Young Things. Implausible aristos and hangers on, and often written in brief banal sentences that are more reminiscent of Janet and John reading primers than good literature and perhaps shows how shallow and ephemeral these people were. Nevertheless, very readable.

Jack Edwards
Apr 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
A book in which every character is equally detestable. The 'Bright Young People' are superficial, snobbish, ostentatious and vulgar, and yet - much like the tabloids - you cannot look away. Such a pertinent read for todays age of digital influencers. I'd love to see a film made about this in a modern day setting.
Nov 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 Stars

First published in 1930, Vile Bodies was Evelyn Waugh’s second novel, a wickedly funny satire about the farcical escapades of London’s Bright Young People from the high society set. I enjoyed it a lot – much more than Waugh’s debut, Decline and Fall, which I liked in parts but not as a whole. Interestingly, Vile Bodies was more successful than D&F on its release, catching the attention of both the critics and the public alike. It’s a very good book, one that captures the uncertainties a
Masked parties, Savage parties, Victorian parties, Greek parties, Wild West parties, Russian parties, Circus parties, parties where one had to dress as somebody else, almost naked parties in St John’s wood, parties in flats and studios and houses and ships and hotels and night clubs, in windmills and swimming-baths, tea parties at school where one ate muffins and meringues and tinned crab, parties at Oxford where one drank brown sherry and smoked Turkish cigarettes, dull dances in London and
Roger Pettit
Jul 03, 2014 rated it it was ok
I fear that, if 'Vile Bodies' is typical of his work, I shall have to add Evelyn Waugh to the list of critically acclaimed and popular writers whom I simply can't get to grips with. (EM Forster and Charles Dickens are already on that list.) 'Vile Bodies' is a dull and very disappointing book. First published in 1930 (when Waugh was in his late 20s), it's one of the author's earliest novels. I've not read any of Waugh's other work. I can but hope that his writing improved considerably after this. ...more
Nov 05, 2010 rated it it was ok
I often wonder about book blurbs, because really how many times can you describe a book with the words funny and hilarious and have the book actually be funny and hilarious. My edition of this book has a blurb by the New York Time's that says "It may shock you, but it will make you laugh". Well New York Times, let's see the tally shall we: times I was shocked by this book = zero; times I laughed = maybe two and a half, but it wasn't a hearty laugh, it was more of a sarcastic "Ha!" Now, a better ...more
Apr 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Vile Bodies was Evelyn Waugh’s second novel, first published in 1930 it is dedicated to Bryan and Diana Guinness –the sister and brother-in-law of Nancy Mitford, Diana of course later becoming the infamous Diana Moseley.
"Ooooh what's that shiny thing, it's hurting my eyes."

"Sorry, that'd be me, I'm a bright young thing. Avert your eyes lest they be burned from their sockets."

"Wow, so what is a bright young thing then? Forgive my ignorance but I'm just not that cultured."
Vile Bodies is a wonderf
This book really snuck up on me. For the first 100 pages I kept thinking it was a cute little book but only worth 3*. The more I read though the more I enjoyed it and appreciated its wit and charm. Still it was only a 3.5* read. I finished and thought about it for awhile when like a thunderbolt the true value of the book hit me.

The parody of the romantic comedy centers around Adam Fenwick-Symes, reportedly a bright, young, up and coming novelist who has as his love interest, another bright youn
Guy Portman
May 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: humour, satire
Author Adam plans to marry his fiancé Nina Blount, but he does not have enough money to convince his disinterested, aristocratic beau to tie the knot. Every time Adam feels certain that his financial position is poised to change, disaster strikes and he is back to square one. The various shenanigans entail a cocktail party, a car race and more besides. Adam and Nina are joined by a host of parodied characters, who include the amoral Drunken Major, the absent-minded Colonel Blount and the ever-of ...more
Feb 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ah where are the bright young things today? Vile Bodies is a joy to read with some amusing characterisations. I was partial to Colonel Blount and his eccentric ways. Waugh seems to capture the media and stories perfectly. It’s not really a story but a series of incidents. None of the characters have real jobs and their is a theme of unhappiness while trying to be happy. Great weird names too.

Adam and Nina, Miles, Ginger and mad Agatha all hell bent on having a good time. Of course the story als
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was ok
There were some genuinely funny moments in this satire of the post World War One / Roaring 20's /Jazz Age, but the satire hasn't aged all that well. Maybe, that isn't right. Maybe it would have read like a joke going on way too long back in the 30's when it was written, as well.
Andrea Zuvich
Sep 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Superb satire, downright funny at times, with silly characters flailing about and making poor decisions, but I feel strangely melancholic about the ending - which, I suppose, was Waugh's intent.
Kristopher Jansma
Mar 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bookblog
Vile Bodies is no Brideshead Revisited, but then, if you read my (much) earlier post on Brideshead, you'll know that even Brideshead itself didn't quite live up to it's own first 100 pages for me. What I'd really like to do is just read the beginnings of Evelyn Waugh novels from now on. From the first pages of Vile Bodies I was filled with the delicious anticipation of forthcoming satirical wit, but just as I experienced with Brideshead, Handful of Ashes, and even Decline and Fall, the rest of t ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
The Book Cult: Vile Bodies 2 47 Mar 20, 2020 10:11AM  
Reading 1001: Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh 3 13 Sep 03, 2019 05:40AM  
Reading the 20th ...: Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh (December 2018) 115 42 Jan 31, 2019 07:13AM  
Vintage Book Group: Discussing Vile Bodies 7 23 Dec 05, 2013 06:22AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Incorrect Format Relative to ISBN 3 99 Sep 28, 2013 11:47AM  
Eclectic Readers: Vile Bodies 1 9 Apr 21, 2012 08:21AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Lucky Jim
  • Party Going
  • Wigs on the Green
  • Mr Norris Changes Trains
  • Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead
  • Love in a Cold Climate (Radlett & Montdore, #2)
  • A House and Its Head
  • Taking Up Space: The Black Girl’s Manifesto for Change
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Other American Stories (Modern Library)
  • The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot
  • The Good Soldier
  • Don't Tell Alfred (Radlett & Montdore, #3)
  • The Dark Object
  • Goodbye to Berlin
  • The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages
  • Laughing Gas
  • The Diary of a Nobody
  • The Pursuit of Love (Radlett & Montdore, #1)
See similar books…
Evelyn Waugh's father Arthur was a noted editor and publisher. His only sibling Alec also became a writer of note. In fact, his book “The Loom of Youth” (1917) a novel about his old boarding school Sherborne caused Evelyn to be expelled from there and placed at Lancing College. He said of his time there, “…the whole of English education when I was brought up was to produce prose writers; it was al ...more

Related Articles

In most historical romances, love and marriage go together like...well, a horse and carriage. But what if the girl part of the girl-meets-boy...
52 likes · 19 comments
“After all, damn it, what does being in love mean if you can't trust a person.” 596 likes
“There's only one great evil in the world today. Despair.” 81 likes
More quotes…