Monday, April 26, 2010
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh: Review
Anyway... In Brideshead Revisited, Charles Ryder is in the army in England when his Company takes over an old estate for their headquarters. The place is a wreck now but Charles has been here before. Back when it was a stately home to an aristocratic family...
Cue the Lost-style Flashback soundtrack.
When Charles was in Oxford, he met this strange guy named Sebastian Flyte, a 19 year old who carries around a teddy bear he calls Aloysius and talks to like a person. Weird, right? Well, Charles is charmed by him and they strike up a friendship. After hearing a few stories about Sebastian's family, Charles wants to meet them. Sebastian doesn't like this idea and several other people warn Charles about the family. They're all afraid he will fall for them and get entangled in their drama.
So what's the drama? Lord Marchmain (the Dad) hated his wife so much he ran off to live in Italy with his mistress. Lady Marchmain refuses to divorce him because she's Super Catholic and this is just not done, even though she has a secret boyfriend. This has messed Sebastian up.When Charles does meet them, he falls in love with all of them which does not sit well with Sebastian. He takes to spiteful drinking and making scenes in front of the Christmas guests. This causes many "we need to talk about Sebastian" moments. Charles declares that if they leave him alone, he'd give it up but after a 'little talk' with the Mom, he's sent packing.
Years go by, Charles grows up and has his own life but ends up meeting one of the Clan and gets tangled up in New Drama. It doesn't end well and Flashforward...
We're back in the army.
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh seems like a book about nothing in particular but is packed with nostalgia for a different age. When the Marchmains are introduced, I had the feeling that they were sitting around like they were part of a museum exhibit. The world around them was changing but they were waiting for the eventual end of theirs.
This was a book club selection and the first half of the book caused some discussion about Charles and Sebastian's relationship. Were they or weren't they? There were lots of clues that felt a little like Mr Smithers in the first few seasons of The Simpsons: they spent all their time together, Julia (sister) calls them 'special friends' (wink, wink), and Charles gets a little excited when he meets Julia- not just because she has girl parts but because she looks like Sebastian.
Then there's religion. Religion is a hot button issue for Charles since he doesn't have much of it and the Marchmains have plenty. There is lots of discussions about 'the right thing' and hand wringing about when to call the priest in, etc that cause Charles boatloads of frustration.
This was actually quite an enjoyable book. Waugh brings the reader right into the 1920-30s before the destruction of the war. It feels like you are there. The characters are complex and I'm still unsure about the motivation of some of them. This is definitely a book to get lost in.
*That's my book up there. The bear threw me until I read the book but wow what a suit! I must get one, I always wanted to look like a giant inverted triangle.
Michelle's Masterful Musings
books i done read