95 of 99 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Waugh! What is it good for? Well...
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...
Published on 3 Jun 2004 by Richard Hart
7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful look at the English aristocracy
Despite the fact that Evelyn Waugh was about as pompuos as a man can be, (one writer describing him as having "Died of snobbery") one cannot fail to be drawn into the world he desribes so vividly in the book. His dissection of the English aristocarcy during the inter war years, using Charles Ryder cleverly as the outsider looking in, gives a sharper insight...
Published on 21 Sep 2000
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95 of 99 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Waugh! What is it good for? Well...,
This review is from: Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder (Paperback)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.
66 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "We possess nothing certainly except the past.",
This review is from: Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder (Paperback)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. A chance meeting on shipboard with Julia, Sebastian's married sister, brings him back into the circle of the Flyte family with all their religious challenges. Three of the four Flyte children have tried to escape their religious backgrounds, and this part of the novel traces the extent to which they have or have not succeeded in finding peace in the secular world. "No one is ever holy without suffering," he believes.
Dealing with religious and secular love, Heaven and Hell, the concepts of sin and judgment, and the guilt and punishments one imposes on oneself, the novel also illustrates the changes in British society after World War II. The role of the aristocracy is less important, the middle class is rising, and in the aftermath of war, all are searching for values. A full novel with characters who actively search for philosophical or religious meaning while they also search for romantic love, Brideshead Revisited is complex and thoughtfully constructed, an intellectual novel filled with personal and family tragedies--and, some would say, their triumphs. Mary Whipple
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Et in Arcadia Ego,
This review is from: Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder (Hardcover)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. His famous description of Oxford - the meals, where the very tables must groan beneath the weight of the food - his remarkable evocation of Brideshead itself - and perhaps above all Julia's truly haunting break-down in the garden, where she vividly remembers her own childhood and Christ's Passion - these are scenes which will sear themselves in a reader's memory, and which lose none of their luster for the passage of years. They glitter like diamonds on the page.
To conclude, Brideshead Revisited is a story about the Catholic faith, which in England, at least, has always had a unique story to tell, given its own 'fall from grace' and the rise to dominance of Protestant Anglicanism. That is said not to turn away non-Catholic readers: perhaps they will be given a truer portait of this ancient faith by reading such a sublime account of its practitioners. The Marchmains, however, are not saints. They are bracingly sinful, sometimes stupid, and often irreligious. Waugh gives the Church no quarter in this book - no angels appear in any dream, and no holy hermit chastises a sinful character into repentance. To Waugh at least, the Church did not need such tricks to support herself: she had converted him, at least. Though he denied it, Brideshead is in many ways his autobiography - the story of a convinced agnostic who falls in among ordinary Catholics, not saints, and is forever - forever - changed by the experience.
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Waugh at his most lyrical,
This review is from: Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder (Paperback)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!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brideshead Revisited,
This review is from: Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder (Penguin Classics) (Kindle Edition)A novel which the author himself referred to as both his 'magnum opus' and, on re-reading it, 'appalling' is intriguing. Having read this novel several times, I always come back to it as Charles Ryder returned to Brideshead - with a host of memories and a feeling of great warmth. This was the novel which made me fall deeply in love with literature and is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful books ever written.
The novel begins when Charles Ryder is billeted on an unknown country estate during WWII, which turns out to be Brideshead, a place he knew well. The story then unfolds of his meeting of the young Lord Sebastian Flyte at Oxford and his coming under the spell of the Marchmain family and of Brideshead itself. As the young promise of Sebastian declines into drink, Charles leaves Oxford and becomes an architectural artist, before finding that his relations with the family are not yet over when he meets Sebastian's sister Julia on a ship returning from New York.
Evelyn Waugh looks at many themes in this novel: love, loss, family and religion all intertwine and interweave in this story. Of course, Waugh was a committed convert to the Catholic faith and religion lies heavily on virtually every page of this book. Divorce, conversion and the pressure of religion are all present. Lord Marchmain, living abroad with his mistress, does not enter the novel for some time, but he haunts the pages and his eventual return to Brideshead and death scene are a pivotal part of the book. This can be criticised for being about the aristocracy (Waugh himself wrote it during the war during a time of restrictions and privations and the glamour and wealth of a past life pour from the pages) or not being relevant, but the themes of disappointment, love, religion and loss are things we have all experienced.
If you are interested in reading more about the family and house on which Evelyn Waugh based "Brideshead Revisited" you might enjoy Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead (although it is now available on kindle, it is a text only version and so I would personally recommend the book, which contains the illustrations) . If you are coming to this book for the first time I envy you - enjoy.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book ever written,
This review is from: Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred And Profane Memories Of Captain Charles Ryder (Essential Penguin) (Paperback)This is an absolutely fantastic story, which draws the reader in from page one, and keeps you gripped until the last word. The book covers the fortunes and misfortunes of one family over two generations, and is a times hilariously funny and immensely sad. This is Waugh's finest work - every time I finish reading it, it leaves me with an empty feeling, and I miss the characters like old friends.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Here where power is no longer beautiful,
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brideshead- A Book To Revisit,
By A Customer
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly enchanting,
The writing is beautifully crafted, as in most Waugh books, but here you have the bonus of a compelling story. As usual the author's style will carry you dreamily along in an enchanted haze, before bringing you up short with some barbed comment to wake you from your reverie. The fist in the velvet glove.
If you saw the TV series you know what to expect..i just hope the forthcoming film does it justice...but neither can ever hope to match the scenes which are painted in your imagination with such vivacity.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely brilliant,
This review is from: Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder (Hardcover)How has it come to pass that I've never read this before? It's one of the richest, most thought-provoking, yet thoroughly readable novels I've ever encountered. Glorious writing, heartbreaking in parts and hilarious in others ('Marquis's son unused to wine' headline and Bridie's engagement announcement were among my laugh-out-loud moments) this is a story that works on so many levels. It certainly demands to be read again - and soon.
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Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred And Profane Memories Of Captain Charles Ryder (Essential Penguin) by Evelyn Waugh (Paperback - 7 Oct 1999)
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