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Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder [Paperback]

Evelyn Waugh
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (116 customer reviews)
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Book Description

30 Mar 2000

Brideshead Revisited is Evelyn Waugh's stunning novel of duty and desire set amongst the decadent, faded glory of the English aristocracy in the run-up to the Second World War.

The most nostalgic and reflective of Evelyn Waugh's novels, Brideshead Revisited looks back to the golden age before the Second World War. It tells the story of Charles Ryder's infatuation with the Marchmains and the rapidly disappearing world of privilege they inhabit. Enchanted first by Sebastian Flyte at Oxford, then by his doomed Catholic family, in particular his remote sister, Julia, Charles comes finally to recognise his spiritual and social distance from them.

Evelyn Waugh (1903-66) was born in Hampstead, second son of Arthur Waugh, publisher and literary critic, and brother of Alec Waugh, the popular novelist. In 1928 he published his first work, a life of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and his first novel, Decline and Fall, which was soon followed by Vile Bodies (1930), A Handful of Dust (1934) and Scoop (1938). In 1939 he was commissioned in the Royal Marines and later transferred to the Royal Horse Guards, serving in the Middle East and in Yugoslavia. In 1942 he published Put Out More Flags and then in 1945 Brideshead Revisited. Men at Arms (1952) was the first volume of 'The Sword of Honour' trilogy, and won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize; the other volumes, Officers and Gentlemen and Unconditional Surrender, followed in 1955 and 1961.

If you enjoyed Brideshead Revisited, you might like Waugh's Vile Bodies, also available in Penguin Classics.

'Lush and evocative ... Expresses at once the profundity of change and the indomitable endurance of the human spirit'

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Product details

  • Paperback: 326 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (30 Mar 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141182482
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141182483
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (116 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,512 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Waugh's most deeply felt novel . . . "Brideshead Revisited "tells an absorbing story in imaginative terms . . . Mr. Waugh is very definitely an artist, with something like a genius for precision and clarity not surpassed by any novelist writing in English in his time." -"New York Times" "A many-faceted book . . . Beautifully [written] by one of the most exhilarating stylists of our time." -"Newsweek" "First and last an enchanting story . . . "Brideshead Revisited" has a magic that is rare in current literature. It is a world in itself, and the reader lives in it and is loath to leave it when the last page is turned." -"Saturday Review" "Evelyn Waugh's most successful novel . . . A memorable work of art." -from the Introduction by Frank Kermode

From the Publisher

The most nostalgic and reflective of Evelyn Waugh's novels, Brideshead Revisited looks back to the golden age before the Second World War. It tells the story of Charles Ryder's infatuation with the Marchmains and the rapidly-disappearing world of privilege they inhabit. Enchanted first by Sebastian at Oxford, then by his doomed Catholic family, in particular his remote sister, Julia, Charles comes finally to recognize only his spiritual and social distance from them. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
'I have been here before,' I said; I had been there before; first with Sebastian more than twenty years ago on a cloudless day in June, when the ditches were creamy with meadowsweet and the air heavy with all the scents of summer ; it was a day of peculiar splendour, and though I had been there so often, in so many moods, it was to that first visit that my heart returned on this, my latest. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
71 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "We possess nothing certainly except the past." 14 Jan 2007
Published in 1945, this novel, which Waugh himself sometimes referred to as his "magnum opus," was originally entitled "Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder." The subtitle is important, as it casts light on the themes--the sacred grace and love from God, especially as interpreted by the Catholic church, vs. the secular or profane love as seen in sex and romantic relationships. The tension between these two views of love--and the concept of "sin"--underlie all the action which takes place during the twenty years of the novel and its flashbacks.

When the novel opens at the end of World War II, Capt. Charles Ryder and his troops, looking for a billet, have just arrived at Brideshead, the now-dilapidated family castle belonging to Lord Marchmain, a place where Charles Ryder stayed for an extended period just after World War I, the home of his best friend from Oxford, Lord Sebastian Flyte. The story of his relationship with Sebastian, a man who has rejected the Catholicism imposed on him by his devout mother, occupies the first part of the book. Sebastian, an odd person who carries his teddy bear Aloysius everywhere he goes, tries to escape his upbringing and religious obligations through alcohol. Charles feels responsible for Sebastian's welfare, and though there is no mention of any homosexual relationship, Charles does say that it is this relationship which first teaches him about the depths of love.

The second part begins when Charles separates from the Flytes and his own family and goes to Paris to study painting. An architectural painter, Charles marries and has a family over the next years.
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101 of 106 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Waugh! What is it good for? Well... 3 Jun 2004
Forgive the flippancy of the title, as this is, without a doubt the greatest novel I have ever read. The central theme is that of stringent religious values and breaking away from, or returning to them. I am an extremely committed atheist and Waugh was a fervent Roman Catholic. This surely proves Waughs sublime vision, insight and, above all, his splendidly non-preachy way of writing. Beyond that, it is one of the greatest love stories ever written. We may not mention Ryder and Flyte in the same breath as Rmeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde, or Dido and Aeneas, but as a study in humanity (in my humble opinion) they exceed them all. The sheer beauty of Waugh's prose which is, at times, scarcely believable (see 'A blow, expected, repeated, falling on a bruise') is coupled with the outright hilarity of many passages (see the Belgian who feels as if it is his duty to oppose the lower classes everywhere). Amazon also sells (at a rather decent price) the 1981 BBC adaptation of the novel, starring Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews, which is unusual in that it is faithful to the letter and the spirit of the novel, and is really rather splendid. The novel, however, remains a towering acheivement, a heart-rending tale of loss and rejection, as well as acceptance and redemption. The finest novel of the Twentieth Century. You owe it to yourself to read it.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Et in Arcadia Ego 24 April 2007
By G.K.C.
First, let me get the myths out of the way: Charles and Sebastian have a very close friendship, and much has been made over whether or not they were lovers. I think not, but that is quite ancillary to the point of this book.

According to Waugh himself, the book was intended to show the operation of Divine Grace - 'that unmerited and unilateral action by which the Lord draws souls to himself.' This book is no second-rate miraculous conversion experience story - it is not a badly redone version of the Road to Damascus. But this is a religious (not a merely spiritual) book, and to take it as something else is to refer to a different text.

Other reviewers have stressed (too much, perhaps) that this is a social elegy, which it is. Waugh wrote B.R. during WWII, a time of great privation, and he describes in mouth-watering detail the luxuries which were denied him in combat. (He did see military action.) This book mourns the passing of an age of "Great Houses," for lack of a better term - an age of remarkable splendour, and of Roman beauty. Say what you like about its merits vis-a-vis the world which replaced it, after the war - no one can deny that it was beautiful.

That, in turn, leads to perhaps the strongest affirmation which can be made of this book. It is one of the most singularly well-written novels to grace the English language. To call it prose is to do Mr Waugh a disservice.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Waugh at his most lyrical 15 July 2004
By Omar Sabbagh VINE VOICE
This is Waugh at his most lyrical and sentimental. At times reminiscent of another post war writer, Lawrence Durrell, especially in the final love scenes. Charles Ryder, the narrator, stresses that it is memory and the past that is the novel's central theme. And there is a definite sense, from the first paragraph onwards, that the passage of time and the effects of change and growth in the human personality is what is being dealt with throughout. And yet, ultimately it is the catholic aspect of the novel that resonates loudest. A close reader of the novel will note that happiness, equivalent to being at peace, is the prime issue of this novel. All the characters, in this most subjective and romantic of Waugh's novels, are struggling with themselves to achieve peace of mind, including the narrator himself. There is the dissipated Sebastian, a holy character, beset by guilt. His sister Julia, living in sin, yet still drawn back finally by that thread of religion sown into her in her childhood. The narrator himself, whose intense relationship with the Flyte family eventually lead him to the Faith. And of course the relapsed catholic, Lord Marchmain, who returns to his faith very movingly on his deathbed. For all the sensual richness and lushness of the surroundings, this is, curiously, a pious novel. A timeless classic, accessible and stylish at the same time, this is one of my favourite novels of the twentieth century. A must read for those interested in the last days of the English aristocracy, and of course for those interested in a tale of passion and essential humanity. A landmark in the literature of the twentieth century! Read it!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book, bad copy
The last chapter of the copy I received (Penguin Classics, Evelyn Waugh nr 15, hardback) was incomplete: at least 30 pages missing. Read more
Published 10 days ago by Atticus
3.0 out of 5 stars book
fanced the box, fances the story, something to read, New book, took a lot of getting into. may resale later
Published 2 months ago by jeph62
5.0 out of 5 stars Joy to read ...........again!
This has to be my favourite novel had a copy almost 30 years ago and re read it so many times it actually fell apart. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Denise
5.0 out of 5 stars Evocative
Loved this book,beautifully captures an age of a certain decadence, of lives lived in isolation from reality but most of all the power of religion to determine the... Read more
Published 2 months ago by willow
4.0 out of 5 stars One Of The Classics
The story is written from the perspective of Charles Ryder, an Englishman who reflects upon his life from the time he started university, and when he was on intimate terms with the... Read more
Published 2 months ago by mrsgillies
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic Novel to Revisit Time & Again
Possibly one of the best novels written. Evelyn Waugh shows a fine talent for conveying abtract principles which a lesser writer would find difficult to put into the concrete... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Christina
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read
Liked this book, though had difficulty sometimes with the way the author expresses himself. Definitely a classic, takes a little effort though.
Published 3 months ago by KarenM
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent.
One of the great novels of our time. A must read. Superbly well written and a great story. Get hold of a copy.
Published 5 months ago by BBC
4.0 out of 5 stars Deserves its rating
This is an exceptional book. Evelyn was lucky, observant and well positioned, enough to record the decline of a great house and family, to coincide with war and misfortune. Read more
Published 5 months ago by edward cole
5.0 out of 5 stars Waugh appears to write so effortlessly; a pleasure to read
When Captain Charles Ryder finds himself unexpectedly posted at Brideshead during World War II, his memories of pre-war visits to the palatial country home and park suddenly come... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Malcolm Shearmur
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