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Vile Bodies [Paperback]

Evelyn Waugh
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)

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Book Description

30 Nov 1977

Evelyn Waugh's acidly funny and formally daring satire, Vile Bodies reveals the darkness and vulnerability that lurks beneath the glittering surface of the high life. This Penguin Modern Classics edition is edited with an introduction and notes by Richard Jacobs.

In the years following the First World War a new generation emerges, wistful and vulnerable beneath the glitter. The Bright Young Things of twenties' Mayfair, with their paradoxical mix of innocence and sophistication, exercise their inventive minds and vile bodies in every kind of capricious escapade - whether promiscuity, dancing, cocktail parties or sports cars. In a quest for treasure, a favourite party occupation, a vivid assortment of characters, among them the struggling writer Adam Fenwick-Symes and the glamorous, aristocratic Nina Blount, hunt fast and furiously for ever greater sensations and the fulfilment of unconscious desires.

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 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 Vile Bodies, you might like Waugh's A Handful of Dust, also available in Penguin Modern Classics.

'The high point of the experimental, original Waugh'

Malcolm Bradbury, Sunday Times

'This brilliantly funny, anxious and resonant novel ... the difficult edgy guide to the turn of the decade'

Richard Jacobs

'It's Britain's Great Gatsby'

Stephen Fry, director of Vile Bodies film adaptation Bright Young Things

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books (30 Nov 1977)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316926116
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316926119
  • Product Dimensions: 2.3 x 12.7 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,252,742 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description

About the Author

Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966) was born in London and educated at Oxford. He quickly established a reputation with such social satirical novels as DECLINE AND FALL, VILE BODIES and SCOOP. Waugh became a Catholic in 1930, and his later books display a more serious attitude, as seen in the religious theme of BRIDESHEAD REVISITED, a nostalgic evocation of student days at Oxford. His diaries were published in 1976, and his letters in 1980. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb follow up to Decline and Fall. 18 May 2000
By A Customer
This is a Waugh masterpiece. A deeply satirical novel, it should not be viewed as merely a chronicle of 1930s hedonism. It is, rather, an often extremely sad text as it chronicles the frustrations of inter-war Britain and Europe and the Old World's struggle to discover a new role. Ideally one should read Decline and Fall first, not simply for the integration of characters, but because Vile Bodies is in many respects the natural successor to Decline and Fall in its carrying through of the themes of the age. Do not be sucked into a superficial spin through the facade of the jazz age, this novel has, whilst being short and exhilharating, a darker subtext. This novel proves that there is so much more to Waugh than 'Brideshead'. I thoroughly recommend this novel, but suggest Decline and Fall is read first, and if anyone is curious enough compare the two to Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and Tender is the Night which share many common themes and make a fascinating comparison.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
I first read this book when I still lived in London years ago, and laughed until tears rolled down my face. I still like to dip into the time worn pages of my Penguin book and chuckle over the antics of the "bright young things." The descriptions of "flapper" and air balloon parties, stupid politians, machevalian clergy, film making, sports car racing and love affairs are funny, funny, funny. The writing style is sparse, well thought-out and easy to read. The characters are engaging, the situations are absurd and I highly recommend Vile Bodies as a great way to spend a dull, rainy evening. It will liven you up!
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58 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars By far the best of Evelyn Waugh's canon 13 Nov 2001
By A Customer
There are four types of people in the world. Those who have never heard of Evelyn Waugh, those who think he's a woman and those who know him only as the author of Brideshead Revisted. The very rare fourth type knows Evelyn Waugh is one of the most brilliant satirists of all time and that in fact, Vile Bodies is his best effort. The second of 40 novels, Vile Bodies is his most characteristic work, brilliantly witty, stuffed with farcically brilliant characters who drink cocktails, go to costume parties, ride in motor cars and do little else. It was this novel that spawned the expression "bright young things" and is an excellent starting point for a love affair with Waugh. If you try it and love it, read Waugh's Put Out More Flags next.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vile bodies that intrigue... 12 July 2008
When I read Brideshead Revisted I had begun to wonder why Evelyn Waugh was so highly regarded. Vile Bodies answered the question perfectly. His creation of characters is beautiful and effortless and he handles humour and pathos with great skill. The narrative style is simple, and varied, keeping the reader interested throughout. What I found most compelling about the book was how Waugh excellently balanced the frivolous and vacuous lives of the Bright Young Things with the serious issues of their lifestyle and the world which they lived in. I enjoyed the novel from beginning to end, grew to love the characters whilst despairing of their shallow partying lifestyles, seeing what was ahead of them and pitying them.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I loved the Ending! 31 Jan 2010
I'm not one to read classics on a regular basis, but I like the period and it was well worth it. The style does not feel like an 'old' book, far more like something you could read in a new release, the decadence and spontaneity, yet the closeness of the bread-line was startling in these characters but that was what it was like at the time, so this book feels like a window into their lives that seem so much more fun than our own.
In my copy Evelyn Waugh writes that during the writing of the book, he underwent some bitter experience, that effected the entire tone of the novel. I could not ascertain the exact point where he does that but he his quite right. The end is so bleak yet beautiful with such heavily ladled sarcasm I think it is a work of masterpiece. Ok slightly over the top, but well worth a read!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Vile Bodies is an the personification of all that Waugh perceived to be inherent in the 1920's; a decade when double standards and the pure oppulence of the Jazz age was open to all who desired it. In many ways, the comparison between Vile Bodies and 'This Side of Paradise' by Scott Fitzgerald is welcomed. Both manage to give a true picture through unfettered eyes of the roaring '20s. Waugh has the ability to make you laugh whilst making a point, and is more subtle than his American contemporary. An excellent book, worth the money it costs and the time it takes to read. Extremely useful for students and all people who wish to understand history but do not desire reading dusty volumes of archaic literature.
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Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Some critics rate Evelyn Waugh among the top five English language writers of the 20th century. On the basis of Vile Bodies, and other books by EW, I wouldn't disagree with that, although such claims are always contentious. To be frank, much as I enjoyed the book, I thought the opening was rather rambling and didn't quite capture the interest. But once I'd got a handle on the main characters, the pace picked up with sharp lively dialogue that epitomised the wit and snobbery of the English upper middle classes of the early 1900s. Some of the writing is very modern, but other parts are curiously dated. From time to time Waugh throws in an authorial observation that is almost Victorian. But overall the writing flows pleasantly with an engaging storyline that focuses on bittersweet romance between Adam and Nina and the numerous outrageous scams that flow past them almost unnoticed.

The Penguin edition has a lot of notes on the text: which some might find helpful but which I found rather laboured and dull.
However they did not detract from my enjoyment of the book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Vile bodies
Well-packaged and in excellent condition.
I wasn't familiar with Waugh's early novels until I
happened to read "Scoop" (not really politically
correct by... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Spike Beszant
4.0 out of 5 stars Vile thoughts.
Styish and witty; I thoughroughly enjoyed Waugh's satire. I read it first twenty years ago and almost forgot what a pleasure it was, I can't wait to re-read the rest of his books.
Published 3 months ago by James Macdonald
5.0 out of 5 stars Very witty.
Evelyn Waugh at the top of his form. An amusing insight into the activities of the Bright Young Things. Recommended.
Published 5 months ago by Mrs E Wood
4.0 out of 5 stars Zany take on The Bright Young Things
Waugh bleak satire on life in the 1930s still tickles the ribs; it's quite absurd and always entertaining. Read more
Published 5 months ago by P.A.,Fanning
5.0 out of 5 stars A most excellent copy
A beautiful crisp book, excellent ...... I am very pleased indeed, thank you - I shall add this to a collection of beautiful books .... I am pretty picky about books ....
Published 7 months ago by Morais
4.0 out of 5 stars not so vile at all
this book is a real oddity, illuminsated by moments of pure, delicious silliness. the scene with the cigarette in the pit lane of the motor race is wonderfully wacky. Read more
Published 9 months ago by david medcalf
4.0 out of 5 stars Ephemera
Vile Bodies is a study of the upper echelons of young society just before the outbreak of war. Vain, insipid, egocentric and lacking in purpose the bright young things trip from... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Calypso
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable read
An enjoyable read although not as humorous as The Loved One, Scoop or Decline and Fall. However I admire Waugh's work and feel inspired to read more.
Published 10 months ago by Mrs C R Polley
5.0 out of 5 stars Declaring Waugh
I have read several of Evelyn Waugh's novels and this is equally entertaining. It takes you back to a bygone era.
Published 12 months ago by Fogerty
1.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't get past the first chapter or two
It was so hard to know who anyone was, or who was saying what that it's almost impossible to follow a story - if indeed there is one. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Mrs. C. Watson
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