Friday, March 02, 2007

Brideshead Revisited

In his letter of 7 January 1945 Evelyn Waugh wrote to Nancy Mitford that (regarding Lady Marchmain) "no I am not on her side; but God is, who suffers fools gladly; and the book is about God." Nancy, in a subsequent letter (17 January 1945) commented that she was "immune from" the "subtle" Catholic propaganda supposedly in the novel. Well, I guess that I am in Nancy's camp, recognizing the excellence of this G.E.C. (Great English Classic) and in my own way fascinated by the role of God in it, I remain unmoved by any hidden proselytizing (perhaps too harsh a word). Brideshead Revisited is possibly Evelyn Waugh's greatest novel and certainly one of the best English novels of the twentieth century. The demonstration of the battle between the culture of a civilization dying in the aftermath of World War I and the modern "hollow" culture of the the twentieth century plays out in this drama of a family and their estate, Brideshead. The journey of Charles Ryder, who guides us through this story, from his first encounter with Sebastian Flyte and his first visit to Brideshead keeps the reader rapt until the final pages, when under the shadow of the Second World War Charles returns to Brideshead for a final visit. His growth through encounters with the Flyte children and their mother and father plays out against the background of the Brideshead and all that for which it stands. Waugh uses comic relief in a judicious manner to lighten the way for the reader in a way that keeps the serious themes of the novel from becoming overwhelming. This classic novel also provides a beautiful depiction of the experience of going up to Oxford during the 1920s.

6 comments:

* said...

I love Brideshead Revisited. It's possibly the only book that has made me cry out in sheer agony. Beautiful language. Who is your fave character? Mine is Sebastian. I'm fiercely loyal to him!

James said...

Glad to hear that this is one of your favorite novels. My favorite character is Charles Ryder, and of course I cannot but think of the young Jeremy Irons as I reread the book. In fact this is one of the few instances where the film version of the book is almost as good as the book itself.

* said...

Absolutely! Almost all the characters were portrayed so well in the TV adaptation that it is their faces that come to mind. Could you imagine anyone play Sebastian as well as Anthony Andrews? Or Nickolas Grace as Anthony Blanche?

James said...

You're exactly right about the characters/actors. Are there any other film versions of books that do as well? What else are you reading lately?

JohnOS said...

Agree with Waugh - about God, and love....

http://brideshead.wordpress.com

James said...

Thanks for your comment and the site reference.