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Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead Hardcover – 20 Aug 2009


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPress; First Edition edition (20 Aug. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007243766
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007243761
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 3.3 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 23,072 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Paula Byrne was born in Birkenhead. Her first book, Jane Austen and the Theatre, was shortlisted for the Theatre Book Prize. Her second book, Perdita, was a Richard and Judy book-club pick and a best-seller. Her third, Mad World:Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead is 'the fascinating story of a great house and a great family.' It was published to rave reviews in 2009 and was another best-seller. She is married to Jonathan Bate and lives in Oxford.

Product Description

Review

'Byrne's gift as a writer is her ability to combine scholarship with turbo-driven narrative power. "Mad World" is vibrant, absorbing, stranger than fiction' Sunday Times

'Paula Byrne has written a highly accomplished book about the family that came to inspire the Flytes of Brideshead … a marvellous book, warm, witty, and enormously readable' Daily Telegraph

'Paula Byrne is the latest to explore the people and the story that inspired the book, and she does so with acuity and panache … a lively introduction to Waugh and to Brideshead' Observer

‘"Mad World" is full of fascinating anecdotes … Paula Byrne has produced a strong and romantic book that is at once a touching story of deep friendships, an astute piece of literary criticism and an important contribution to the canon of Waugh biography" Alexander Waugh, Literary Review

'[A] gripping account of Evelyn Waugh's life' Philip Hoare

‘vibrant, absorbing and stranger than fiction’
'Byrne's gift as a writer is her ability to combine scholarship with turbo-driven narrative power. "Mad World" is vibrant, absorbing, stranger than fiction' Sunday Times

'Paula Byrne has written a highly accomplished book about the family that came to inspire the Flytes of Brideshead … a marvellous book, warm, witty, and enormously readable' Daily Telegraph

'Paula Byrne is the latest to explore the people and the story that inspired the book, and she does so with acuity and panache … a lively introduction to Waugh and to Brideshead' Observer

‘"Mad World" is full of fascinating anecdotes … Paula Byrne has produced a strong and romantic book that is at once a touching story of deep friendships, an astute piece of literary criticism and an important contribution to the canon of Waugh biography" Alexander Waugh, Literary Review

'[A] gripping account of Evelyn Waugh's life' Philip Hoare

‘vibrant, absorbing and stranger than fiction’
The Sunday Times

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Paula Byrne was born in Birkenhead and has a PhD from the University of Liverpool, where she is a Research Fellow in English Literature. Her first book, “Jane Austen and the Theatre”, was shortlisted for the Theatre Book Prize. Her second book, “Perdita”, was a Richard and Judy bookclub pick. A regular contributor to the Times Literary Supplement, she lives in Warwickshire with her three young children and her husband, the critic and biographer Jonathan Bate.


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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By J. Knowles on 2 Jan. 2010
Format: Hardcover
Having been brought up in a working class family in the village of Madresfield during the 1950's until the age of 14,I have been aware for many years of the connection between Waugh and the Lygon family living at Madresfield Court. As a child growing up there and attending the village school, church etc the scandal about the 7th Earl's sexuality was passed down from generation to generation. When I was older and told friends that Brideshead Revisited had been based on the Lygon family, there was a little disbelief as everyone associated it with the TV version and the family from Castle Howard! I have read several books on Waugh and the Lygons, but this one was the most revealing. Perhaps if I hadn't lived there and known a little of the history of the family and their predessors I wouldn't have been so interested, but in saying this the research undertaken by the author from new letters and papers of the 8th Earl's sisters that have now come to light give the book a wonderful insight into the decandant and priveledged life the aristocracy lived during the 19th and 20th Century. It is said that the truth is stranger than fiction, and this book lays no stone unturned!
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By I. Sondel on 19 Nov. 2009
Format: Hardcover
I freely admit to an aversion to most biographies; those half ton tomes stuffed to overflowing with regurgitated facts that so often represent the flotsam and jetsam of the life in question as opposed to actual milestones and achievements. Happily, this is not the case with Paula Byrne's Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead, a biography as witty and amusing as its subject.

Mad World follows Waugh's life from cradle to grave. As we trek along we are treated to brief portraits of Waugh's parents and brother Alec, all those Mitford sisters, his annulled first marriage and life-long second, his conversion to Catholicism, as well as pointedly detailed descriptions of his published works, including Vile Bodies, A Handful of Dust and Brideshead Revisited.

The pace quickens (and never flags) once Waugh enters Oxford, where he quickly develops friendships with the likes of Harold Acton and Brian Howard, and embarks upon a series of homosexual relationships, the most profound and lasting with Hugh Lygon, second son of the 7th Earl Beauchamp, and the inspiration for Sebastian Flyte.

Waugh is taken under Lygon's wing, and is introduced to the family, becoming a life-long friend and confidante of sisters Mary and Dorothy, as well as a fixture at the family manse Madresfield (hence "Mad World"). He witnessed, and remained steadfast throughout the family's dishonor and the disgrace of the Earl, who fled the country rather than face charges of Gross Indecency.

Byrne has painstakingly researched her material, and though her finished text is rich in detail and critical observances, it seems never heavy handed or in the least tedious. Indeed, her work reads as though it were a novel, a brilliant modern day retelling of Waugh's classic Brideshead, which is the kindest compliment it could be paid.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By warthog on 22 Dec. 2009
Format: Hardcover
Although I acknowledge he was a great writer, I felt Waugh was a character I didn't like very much after reading various published letters he had written to his friends such as Anne Flemming and also the biographies written after his death. Paula Byrne's account of his time with the members of the Lygon family however was especially jaw dropping because it reveals a more vulnerable side to his character. I could not put this book down. The goings on at Madresfield was especially interesting because I had lived in Malvern for years and had no idea that the gothic pile, up the road, was the scene of an enormous scandal many years ago. I almost started to like Waugh because Byrne wrote movingly about the sadness of the breakdown of his first marriage and his inability to win over women he loved deeply. I always thought he was an horrendous snob and unfortunately Byrne does not convince me that he wasn't . I would recommend this book highly - it reveals so much about the society which Waugh enjoyed being part of and also motivated him to write Brideshaead.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Silverleaf on 13 Aug. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Being in my middle 80s and just touching the hem of this period and in fact knowing one or two of the people mentioned I found this book not only very well and amusingly written but completely fascinating socially and historically with its taboos and customs revealing a vanished class which needs to be recognised as an important influence in the run up to the second world war. Apart from this it shed such a marvellous spotlight on the books of Evelyn Waugh and I rushed to my aged Penguin editions to check them over. My favourite book so far this year!

Evelyn himself becomes the hero of a book and it sheds a glittering light on the workings of his mind - my congratulations to Paula Byrne showing affection for a subject who could become an object of satire himself.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By USB on 29 July 2010
Format: Paperback
It had always mystified me why Charles Ryder was so easily accepted by the Flyte family in the book 'Brideshead Revisted'. He was, after all, from another world and quite a provincial one at that. I think Evelyn Waugh did not invest Charles with the wit and intelligence that Waugh himself possessed though Waugh was clearly writing about himself in the guise of Charles Ryder.

This book 'Mad World', clearly shows the connection between Ryder and Waugh and explains, or at least makes real, so many of the unclear obsessions and relationships described in Brideshead especially those of a religious and sexual kind. It is a splendid read, very well researched and written providing an excellent insight into Waugh himself - his sexuality, intelligence, snobbery, and religious perspective. The book really is easy to read and quite sensational in places (especially the entries in the charge sheet made against the 7th Earl). I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and was sorry when it was finished.

In truth, all of Waugh's books now make sense, not just Brideshead Revisited. If you enjoyed either the book or the television series but like me, could not quite understand the point of view of Lady Marchmont or Sebastian, then read 'MAD' - all the answers will be found there.
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