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The Loved One

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  10,740 ratings  ·  1,021 reviews
Following the death of a friend, British poet and pets' mortician Dennis Barlow finds himself entering the artificial Hollywood paradise of the Whispering Glades Memorial Park. Within its golden gates, death, American-style, is wrapped up and sold like a package holiday. There, Dennis enters the fragile and bizarre world of Aimée, the naïve Californian corpse beautician, a ...more
Paperback, 127 pages
Published November 2001 by Penguin Classics (first published February 1948)
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Average rating 3.77  · 
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 ·  10,740 ratings  ·  1,021 reviews

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Jul 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The copy I had of this was used, and had underlines where the previous reader would note in the margin "funny," and "ha." This reader stopped doing this by the third or fourth page, either because s/he no longer found it funny, or it became absurd to underline all passages and mark them as "ha." I think most readers will fall into either of these categories. I am in "ha." ...more
Nov 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is my first experience of reading Waugh, thanks to the Reading the 20th Century group. This is a savage and very funny dark comedy, subtitled "An Anglo-American Tragedy". According to Waugh's preface, it was inspired by a trip to Hollywood to meet a producer who wanted to film Brideshead Revisited, a trip on which Waugh spent much of his time in the cemetery he dubs "Whispering Glades". Much of it is about misunderstandings and cultural differences between Britain and America, and some of t ...more
Oct 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Evelyn Waugh wrote this novel while visiting the US, shortly before WWII. While there, he became fascinated by the ‘unsurpassed glories,’ of a cemetery, which is renamed here as, “Whispering Glades.” The book was published in 1948 and is set in Hollywood; among the British expat community. Dennis Barlow is a young poet, who is staying with Sir Francis Hinsley. Dennis is currently working at a pet cemetery, prosaically named, “The Happier Hunting Ground,” much to the disapproval of many fellow ex ...more
Paul Bryant
Feb 18, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
You heard of the phrase “shooting fish in a barrel” – that’s what Evelyn Waugh does here. There are two barrels, but both are of solid oak and the fish are glittery and plump so there is still a lot of fun to be had.

The story I get from Wikipedia which got it from his biographer is that Hollywood wanted to film Brideshead and Waugh didn’t want them to because he didn’t think Americans understood the theological implications of Brideshead – that’s some classic grumpiness, you have to sneakingly
Steven Godin
Mar 02, 2019 rated it liked it

Before the outbreak of WW2 the quintessentially British writer Evelyn Waugh briefly visited New York and Washington, before being invited with his wife to Hollywood where a producer expressed interest in filming Brideshead Revisited. In the end that came to nothing. At the time he was glad to escape England but found the sprawling, uninspiring features of Tinseltown not really to his liking. Of all things, it was a Cemetery there that obviously left an impression on him, thus leading to th
What an excellent book! It definitely kept my interest and had I not had other things to do I would have read the book in one sitting! Funny, in spots especially when Dennis Barlow is planning the funeral with Miss Thanatogenos! I nearly split a gut! I would highly recommend this book to all! Enjoy!
Apr 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My appreciation of Evelyn Waugh's The Loved One is authentic, sure, but at the same time a little reserved because, try as I might, I can't convincingly revise my initial impression of it as a cheap shot at American life and values -- which isn't to say that it isn't funny or compelling or entertaining, but rather that in the considerable chunk of time separating us from the initial publication of The Loved One (this time marking the ascendancy of the United States on the global stage both polit ...more
Nov 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
With Caitlin Doughty working to make death practices more natural by founding The Order of the Good Death, and via her three books, including "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Other Lessons From the Crematory" and her new bestseller, "Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs: Big Questions from Tiny Mortals," Evelyn Waugh's satire seems more relevant than ever and is even more delightful to read and re-read.

In "Smoke" Caitlin writes about Forest Lawn, the famous Hollywood cemetery where so many celebrities are b
Vit Babenco
Apr 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What is this thing necrophilia? According to Evelyn Waugh it is a truly megalomaniac obsession with burying the dead. And The Loved One is a cynically murderous and hilarious… obituary.
“Our Grade A service includes several unique features. At the moment of committal, a white dove, symbolizing the deceased’s soul, is liberated over the crematorium.”
An authentic talent, applied properly, allows even death to become a cosmic triumphal event.
“Hair, skin and nails and I brief the embalmers for expres
Mar 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
Evelyn Waugh is my guilty pleasure. His books are like candy, they are so easy to read. But if they are candy, they are lemon drops coated with arsenic. Waugh's bitter, sarcastic, and completely devastating portraits of humanity warm my heart. His characters destroy each other's lives so casually, and I love it.

In The Loved One, Waugh takes on L.A. British neocolonial snobbery in post-war Southern California, set in a Disneyesque funeral home (actually a "memorial park") and a much less classy
Oct 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A supremely enjoyable, blackly comic satire of certain traits of American culture which, despite being first published in 1948, still feels remarkably contemporary in 2017. The characters are cyphers for what Evelyn Waugh (and sane people everywhere) perceive as the ridiculousness of some aspects of contemporary culture specifically film studios and cemeteries. Most of the action takes place in a Los Angeles-based film studio, a pet cemetery, and Whispering Glades (based on Forest Lawn Memorial ...more
Jon Nakapalau
Nov 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, classics, humor
I found this book slightly seemed to me that the point being made was that a life 'lived well' is often hidden behind a veil of conformity - that veil often being more important than happiness. My fist reading of Waugh, but not my last. ...more
Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore
Macabre and funny both at the same time. Dennis Barlow, a British poet who finds himself out of the Hollywood studio that hired him takes up work at Happier Hunting Ground, a cemetery for pets. When a fellow Briton, in a similar predicament, doesn’t end up taking it as “well” as Dennis, Dennis finds himself navigating the (rather complicated) world of the Whispering Glades, which gives human loved ones their last farewell, which he finds is as concerned with images and appearances as Hollywood i ...more
Apr 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: humour
Brief, satirical and rather funny novel about the American funeral industry. Waugh visited California in 1947; he didn't like it, finding the tendency of the "lower orders" to ask personal questions rather irritating. Waugh was a snob and it shows.
It is funny in parts. The love triangle is very amusing; this isn't the intense YA/vampire type. It involves Aimee Thanatogenos, who works at Whispering Glades, a funeral emporium. She does cosmetic work on the corpses. One of her beaus is the wonderf
Jun 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Six Feet Under?
Recommended to Antonomasia by: a will-o-the-wisp
What a peculiar book. I hadn't read an Evelyn Waugh for the first time since I was at school: was his humour usually quite this dark, sick even? Bits of Decline and Fall would have been distinctly dubious these days, I remember thinking, (schoolmasters and schoolboys) but it was par for the course of class and time etc, rather than bizarre (morticians in LA isn't usual Waugh-world). Though in my late teens the delicacy of my reading sensibilities was at an all-time low, so perhaps I missed thing ...more
Feb 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The last couple of pages of this book made me chuckle. It's not everyday that you read a book about a cosmetician for the dead, an embalmer, and a pet cemetery employee with a poetic bent. The Hollywood Forever cemetery holds new meaning for me now. ...more
May 11, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Anna by: Bridget
Shelves: fiction
I haven't been to a library for eight weeks, undoubtedly the longest period since I learned to read. Not to sound antisocial, but I miss seeing books face-to-face more than seeing people face-to-face. While I can video call my loved ones, there is no webcam that lets me check on the library books! I hope they're doing OK. Anyway, a couple of lovely friends basically let me browse their bookshelves like a library via video call, then we had a carefully distanced outdoor exchange of items. I swapp ...more
Nov 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: group-reads
They are a very decent generous lot of people out here and they don't expect you to listen. Always remember that, dear boy. It's the secret of social ease in this country. They talk entirely for their own pleasure. Nothing they say is designed to be heard.

After dishing out this critique of American society, self-appointed leader of the British ex-pat community Sir Ambrose Abercrombie continues his discussion with Sir Francis Hinsley, neither, of course, listening to the other. On the receiving e
Aug 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010, death, satire
Waugh has the dry, underhanded wit that I adore, the sly sort of humor that can be easily missed by the distracted or the terminally stupid. And as morbid as it may be, the scene surrounding the preparations for the Loved One's final arrangements had me laughing out loud through the duration, a perfect lampooning of the industry. Brilliant! ...more
Apr 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reread, humor, fiction
The Loved One: An Anglo-American Tragedy by Evelyn Waugh is in every way a hoot, though somewhat nasty withal. I cannot help but think that Waugh did not think much of Southern California. The nastiness creeps in where the two main Californians, Aimee Thanatogenos and Mr. Joyboy, are concerned. When the latter conspires with Dennis Barlow to have the former, who had committed suicide by swallowing cyanide, to be cremated sub rosa in a pet cemetery. Dennis takes the crown when he arranges to have ...more
Jan 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, read-2009
Satire on the funeral business, in which a young British poet goes to work at a Hollywood cemetery. I had seen the 1965 movie of the same name by director Tony Richardson and Richardson seems to have followed the script quite well.

The Loved One is full of sly, macabre humour, and some of the funniest scenes occur when Aimee goes home with Mr. Joyboy to meet his mother–a miserable woman whose bosom companion is a naked parrot named Sambo. The Loved One is one of the oddest novels in the English l
Jul 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
I've only read one Evelyn Waugh book before this one, A Handful of Dust. And what did I think of it? Well honestly, I hated it. However, I couldn't resist picking up this little novel in the library the other day. I was looking for a short, quick read, and the cool Quentin Blake artwork on the front cover and interesting blurb on the back really drew me in.

This is an odd little story, about a young English poet and pets' mortician named Dennis Barlow who becomes involved with a not-so-traditiona
Justin Evans
Mar 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
In which Waugh again proves that the satisfactions of 'realistic' fiction are pretty pale compared to the satisfactions of vicious, spiteful, hate-filled satire. The characters, plot and setting are all paper thin, but that helps the book with its main point, which is to make you laugh out loud and recognize the ugliness, stupidity and vanity of the world in general. There's nothing and nobody redeeming here. The Brits are snobs and/or morons; the Yanks are James-lite innocents with none of the ...more
Jan 24, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone with a morbid sense of humor.
Recommended to Chloe by: Rosie
While not my favorite book in the world, I have to say I enjoyed this macabre little satire. Perhaps the somewhat unusual humor appealed to me. I tend to find such things as funeral parlors and crematoriums amusing. I do not, however, find the story to be quite as condescending towards Americans as some people have said it was. The British characters were not especially intelligent, either. In fact, I would say that there are no attractive characters in the story. Which is part of the reason why ...more
Jan 06, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Loved One is a cutting satire. Waugh impietiously aims his spotlight on a community of English expatriates in California and on the locals. His prominent tract is a brilliant, pretentiously serious, light-hearted touch, sharp as a knife.

When I think of the clash between the English and the American culture, I am immediately reminded of The Canterville Ghost, a milestone on this topic. Wilde’s witty humour is light and hiliarious, and preludes to a happy ending. The English and the Americans
Apr 10, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: funny, lit
My fourth experience of Waugh and once more I was not disappointed. This fun little novella is filled with Waugh staples; mean Brits abroad and parodies of the natives. Only this time it is a people and a place we have all come to be too familiar with over the last 70 years, Los Angeles, USA.

He writes quite beautifully, filling paragraphs with sentences of exquisite composition that always achieve their aim; whether that be to make you laugh, shock or create a credible absurdity in your mind. Th
Dec 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature
There is a film to this, which I haven't seen, but think I would have liked to.

This is Waugh's where else but America book.

Imagine the sort of book an Englishman would write about living in LA and working in a funeral parlour for animals who fancies a local woman who works in a funeral parlour for people and sends her poetry he has written, just for her - you know - like Shall I compare thee... Yes, the underlying assumption is that the Americans are a bit simple and a bit thick, and the Brits
Aug 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature
I read this 50 years ago, and thought that it was fairly funny then. On a re-read, I think that it is brilliant satire, of a very dark and bitter kind. Waugh's prose is superb. ...more
Manuel Alfonseca
Nov 04, 2020 rated it it was ok
ENGLISH: A poet in a cemetery. It looks commonplace, but it isn't! The poet is one of Evelyn Waugh's characters, and the cemetery is out of the ordinary: it's a place of art, with lots of flowers, the buzz of bees (artificial, of course), the Poet's Corner, the island of Innisfree, and a beautiful girl who works there, called Aimée Thanatogenos (!), as the cosmetician of the dead.

An atypical novella to be authored by Waugh, with an amoral and cynic protagonist, while the girl is plain silly.

Death has never been this delighted with such saccharine morbidity. Waugh's tragicomic The Loved One dips in little funny musings that don't always land then halfway through makes a 360-degree turn with its mishaps. Set in 1940s Hollywood, Los Angeles, it tells the story of British "poet" hired-then-fired film scriptwriter, duplicitous Mr. Barlow who took a job in the Happier Hunting Ground, a pet cemetery that offers unusual funeral services, thereby being an embarrassment to the Hollywood Brit ...more
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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

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