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Decline and Fall (Penguin Modern Classics) [Paperback]

Evelyn Waugh , David Bradshaw
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
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Book Description

28 Aug 2003 Penguin Modern Classics
Sent down from Oxford in outrageous circumstances, Paul Pennyfeather is oddly surprised to find himself qualifying for the position of schoolmaster at Llanabba Castle. His colleagues are an assortment of misfits, rascals and fools, including Prendy (plagued by doubts) and Captain Grimes, who is always in the soup (or just plain drunk). Then Sports Day arrives, and with it the delectable Margot Beste-Chetwynde, floating on a scented breeze. As the farce unfolds and the young run riot, no one is safe, least of all Paul.

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Decline and Fall (Penguin Modern Classics) + Vile Bodies (Penguin Modern Classics) + A Handful of Dust (Penguin Modern Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (28 Aug 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141187484
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141187488
  • Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 18 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 12,279 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


* ...a corking production. Rik Mayall displays a finely tuned enthusiasm and a range of voices that convey, one imagines, just the effects Waugh was after. The Sunday Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Evelyn Waugh was born in 1903 and was educated at Hertford College, Oxford. In 1928 he published his first novel, Decline and Fall, which was soon followed by Vile Bodies (1930), Black Mischief (1932), A Handful of Dust (1934) and Scoop (1938). In 1945 he published Brideshead Revisited and he won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1952 for Men at Arms. Evelyn Waugh died in 1966.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
'I think you ought to find some work,' said his guardian thoughtfully. 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
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Curmugeonly Comedy 14 Oct 2010
Evelyn Waugh was a grumpy old so and so. In his lifetime he was very vocal about his dislike of all manner of things particularly those which he considered 'modern'. In this, his first novel, he takes every opportunity to mercilessly satirise such diverse subjects as prison reform, architecture, psychology, the behaviours of modern women and with a little less subtlety... The Welsh. In the hands of lesser authors some of this could be a little clumsy and offensive but Waugh's wit, literary dexterity, lightness of touch and ability to reflect the attitudes and mores of his time easily pull him through. There are some fantastically funny passages. The section detailing the inadequate clergyman Prendergast's musings on marriage for example, is comic genius as is the description of the school sport's day.

However, unlike Wodehouse, Waugh was always about more than knockabout comedy and he ably makes some serious points about the changes fast occurring in England between the wars. Perhaps the most powerful impression he conveys is that of the powerlessness of his main character Pennyfeather. All manner of malign influences come to bear on his life at one time or another and he seems incapable of doing anything about them. He drifts from the aristocratic buffoons at Oxford to the pseudo-scholarliness of the pubic school headmaster to the self-serving cruelty of a wealthy woman to the ludicrous pseudo-psychology of a prison warden. He is indeed a feather, blown helplessly from one powerful person to another.

A wonderful book and a great starting point for anyone wanting to get to know one of England's finest writers a little better.
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57 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic 24 Jun 2003
This is one of the books that made me love english litterature. It is so wonderfully absurd and at the same time accurate in it's description of british society and education around 1930. When I sometime tires of Wodehouse and the constant mix-ups of his (otherwise wonderful) tales about Jeeves & Wooster, Psmith or Blandings Castle, Waugh is my choice. It is down to earth, but extremely funny.
Young man Pennyfeather is expelled from Oxford due, through no fault of his own, to indecent behaviour. He becomes schoolmaster at a school in Wales which, frankly, is not very good. He falls in love, and the rest of the plot is for you to find out.
I can tell you, however, that in this book Waugh covers so diverse subjects as prisons, religion, education, architecture (at this point, one might rightly wonder if it's Bentham I'm reviewing instead of Waugh, but no!), glamour, greed, insanity, worldwide cooperation, Welsh music, teenage boys and alcohol. And even if you like or dislike some, or most of these things, Waugh makes them seem so absurd that you can't help but smile at his descriptions of everyday life in those very specific circles.
Go on and read it - it's cheap, it's a classic and it is one of the most entertaining and clever books I've ever read.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read 4 Dec 2003
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a book I read many years ago and was inspired to take up again following the BBC’s Big Read quest; in this they included others of Evelyn Waugh’s works but overlooked this gem. The tale follows the hilarious misadventures of one Paul Pennyfeather. Sent down from Oxford though no fault of his own, Pennyfeather begins his decline and eventual fall in to the depths, encountering along the way a series of incredible characters and unbelievable situations ranging from murder to white slavery but somehow throughout it all seeming to retain his innocence. Despite being written in 1928 Waugh’s writing still remains fresh and his wit sparkling. A truly clever and very funny book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars earliest and best 11 Aug 2009
Evelyn Waugh was for a long time my favourite writer and I still think this [early] book is his best. The taut, brittle humour is consistent from beginning to end, and the pace never lets up.
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
To anyone who has been to a prep school at any stage in their life, whether as pupil or as teacher, this is the essential reading for them, and for those who have not, it is the still going to be one of the best reads they have ever had. Paul Pennyfeather, sent down from university due to an unfortunate encounter with a drunken member of the Bollinger Club (whose yearly meetings are often forbidden because of their lunatic antics such as destroying one student's grand piano and grinding his cigars into the floor - incidentally, the club is still going, although its real name is the Bullingdons Club) consults a job agency and is sent to a small prep school in North Wales, called Llanabba Castle, run by an aged eccentric, Dr Fagin. The teachers in the school are the archetypal prep school figures, reminiscent of Geoffrey Williams and Ronald Searle creation's teachers at St Custards: Captain Grimes, the one legged cad who has an unhappy love affair with Dingy, the daughter of Dr Fagin; Mr Prendergast, an elderly teacher who made the mistake of wearing a wig on his first day and could not take it off without incurring more laughter from the boys; and Philbrick, the dogsbody, conman, and jewel thief. The boys are no better, but the parents are certainly worse: Lady Circumference, mother of little Lord Tangent (who is shot in the foot by a drunken Mr Prendergast at the start of one of the races at the disastrous sports day, which is one of the most amusing single events in the novel) is an awful woman, very, very upper-class, and very full of herself. Paul finds himself falling in love with a mother of one of his pupils, Mrs Beste-Chetwynde, and it is this love, innocent and trusting, that leads on to the exciting and tragic tale of the decline and fall of a public school boy... Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A very good book, arrived without issue.
Published 3 days ago by taylor73
2.0 out of 5 stars Decline & Fall Evelyn Waugh
I accept that this was an early book and I love his later books, but this was slightly disappointing. Read more
Published 5 days ago by Don Sharpe
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Dismal indictment of the British upper classes but excellent writing.
Published 21 days ago by GB Dobosz
5.0 out of 5 stars Clipped and trimmed to perfection!
5 stars? The novel's funny! Paul Pennyfeather's escapades in Llanaba as a teacher are Waugh at his best. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Crispin Allan
5.0 out of 5 stars A more certain time
I enjoy this book more each time I read it. The place to start reading Waugh. Biographies fall into place.
Published 2 months ago by alanlocoman
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
A must read
Published 2 months ago by susie
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
fine thank you
Published 2 months ago by Rose Raben
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic must-read
Hilarious book which takes the mick out of class and society not to mention education from a bygone era. Well worth a read.
Published 3 months ago by mr m alexander
3.0 out of 5 stars Waugh's first published novel - there are better ones to come
Paul Pennyfeather is one of Nature’s natural and uncomplaining victims. He is sent down from Oxford for what was done TO him by the appalling members of the Bollinger (Bullingdon)... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Ralph Blumenau
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed Feelings
Initially very funny as a disgraced Oxford student acquires a job in a dubious boarding school in North Wales. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Mike K
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