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55 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic
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...
Published on 24 Jun 2003 by Thomas H. Frandzen

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Don't order Oxford Bookworms Version if you don't want
I think all reviews for this novel appear on all listings. Be sure not to order the "Oxford Bookworms Library: Stage 6" version unless you are looking for an abridged/adapted version for young adult readers. I ordered it by mistake and enjoyed it all the same, but wondered what I was missing out on.
Published on 17 May 2012 by Cara Bennett


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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very, very funny, 7 Oct 2008
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Junius (London, Middlesex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This book is extremely funny and perhaps should not be read on public transport or in po-faced staff rooms. In particular, the scenes in the awful Welsh school are excellent, though perhaps not for the politically correct. The rewording of the famous hymn in a later chapter is also brilliant. A few of the characters appear in Waugh's later work; the name Cruttwell - Waugh's nemesis at Oxford, is first mnetioned here and reappears in subsequent pre-war novels.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Effortless brilliance!, 22 Sep 2008
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This is the first Evelyn Waugh novel I have read and I didn't really know what to expect. I have seen the Brideshead Revisited TV series and so I had an idea of the kind of subjects he dealt with but this book took me by surprise.

The thing that struck me straight away was how accessible it was. I often find that many writers of "literature" are a real chore to read, it can be like drowning in quicksand. But with Decline and Fall I hardly felt as though I was reading at all. It was as though the story was beaming straight into my brain.

In the first half of the book there doesn't seem to be much of a story but it all comes together towards the end. The style and humour reminded me a little of Wodehouse. I love Wodehouse but his stories don't have much of a message, they are mostly just stories. With Waugh there is something deeper, he uses the story to demonstrate his view of mankind. It's a sceptical view and I'm not sure whether I agree with it but I appreciate his style. It's effortless. This seems to me to be the mark of a genuinely great writer.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Waugh At His Best, 11 Jan 2008
By 
James Cameron Howes "jacobs ladder" (Lichfield, England) - See all my reviews
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"Oh I shouldn't try to teach them anything yet"

Decline and Fall is simply one of the greatest novels I have ever read. It is laugh out loud funny whilst also moving the reader to care deeply for these fates of it's bumbling characters.

The story is easily epitomized by the title. Paul Pennyfather is a theological student at Oxford. Unfortunately despite being an inoffensive individual he is "sent down" from Oxford for an incident. The incident in question involves running across the quad sans pantaloon.

When he is cut from his fathers will he has no money and only one option- become a teacher.

The high jinks of his time as a teacher in Wales continue to constitute his fall until he falls prey to a sophisticated seductress and things go downhill from then on.

The brilliance of Waugh's wit shines throughout the novel as it cuttingly attacks and mocks the British Public School, the class structure of the early 20th Century and the scandals the British newspapers thrive upon.

Waugh's wit is augmented by a story that holds together and is fast paced. This keeps the jokes fresh and in abundance.

And the sum total of this narrative is that we learn nothing. Paul reflects that "there was not much to be gained by our knowing each other". Instead the novel is about what life means not "physiological implications of growth and organic change" instead the difference between people who are static and those who are dynamic. This difference Waugh supposes is that Paul was destined to be static and somehow got caught up in this glamorous world completely by chance.

Thus "Decline And Fall" stands as a warning about fame, particularly in this "heat" generation more than 70 years after it's publication. Waugh shows through Pennyfather that fame has a price and one that we may not be able to afford. Not all of us are cut out to be dynamic- that is hanging on to the wheel for dear life.

"Decline and Fall" stands the test of time because the strength of this underlying message and leaves one with a feeling of utter joy and a burning compulsion to turn the page and start the whole damn thing again.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decline and fall, 27 Feb 2014
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It took me a while to get into this book, so much so that I nearly gave up on it. But I'm glad I persevered because it gets interesting towards the end and is quite funny in some parts.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Decline and Fall, 15 April 2013
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William Armiger "regimra" (Gloucester UK) - See all my reviews
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Brittle,sharp-edged humour, like sipping Chateau Petrus through fine, chipped Crystal. Thoroughly enjoyable and memorable. A book not to be missed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Laugh out loud funny, 17 Mar 2013
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This book is definitely a 'modern classic'. It is very funny and the satire is still biting after all this time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Decline & Fall - this book does anything but!, 1 Oct 2012
This has to be one of my favourite books of all time. It was the first Waugh book I read and got me hooked onto everything Waugh, from Scoop to Brideshead revisited and yet it is to his first novel that I always return. It never grows old, the characters are timeless from the barmy Captain Grimes who always gets in the soup (how I would love to have been taught by a man like that) to the depressed Prendergast to the mildly optimistic main character Paul. With echoes of Voltaire's Candide Paul undergoes an incredible journey from disgrace at Oxford to rising high in society before plummeting to the very depths of society to returning to a state mildly better than when he first started, having been acquainted with numerous crazy characters. All that is left for me to say is go out and read it and you will not be disappointed.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars By turns cruel, screamingly funny, and completely unforgettable., 27 Nov 2011
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This review is from: Decline and Fall (Paperback)
Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh is a perfect example of a British 'black comedy' - a piece handling extremely unpleasant subjects in an airy tone. I will not give a plot summary to avoid spoiling it, but 'Decline' has both an extremely good absurd story and plenty of unforgettable characters and locations - the Bollinger [Read Bullingdon, a paper-thin skit on the real club, right down to the tailcoats and ivory-and-blue ties] Club, the atrocious Welsh school, the Hon. Mrs Beste-Chetwynde and the 'Latin-American Entertainment Company', Mr Prendergast's 'Doubts', little Lord Tangent getting shot in the foot on the day of the School Sports, Mr Grimes and his 'landings in the soup'(a masterful example of a completely repellent and disgusting character who you cannot help liking) and so on and so forth.

In summary, both in style and in content, Eyelvn Waugh is a sort of 'anti-Wodehouse', whose cast use much the same language in far worse situations - a Bertie Wooster-esque piece on whote slavery for instance. Decline and Fall is a 1920s farce in which the bad men always land on their feet, and everyone is a bounder, but for some reason the reader leaves happy. A must-read, both interesting and amoral fun.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dated, racist, snobbish, cranky, bonkers and incomplete but very funny., 13 Mar 2011
Decline and fall was Evelyn Waugh's first novel and covers the social mores of 1920s England. In that respect it is very like the novels of Nancy Mitford who was also concerned with describing how the upper and middle social classes coped with post-war Britain. Like Mitford, Waugh describes a series of eccentric characters with otherworldly attitudes that exist in a social setting that has long since departed. Money is a central part of their motivation as is their understanding of the difference between people who are gentlemen (or ladies) and the rest of society.

Into this world is parachuted the genteel Paul Pennyfeather, a divinity student at Oxford who gets caught up in the antics of the Bollinger club and is sent down for being caught in the quad without his trousers. As a result he loses his inheritance and is compelled to take a job as a teacher in a Welsh boarding school. Here he meets a variety of broken characters each with a pathetic but humorous back-story. Paul falls in love with one of the boy's parents and takes on a summer tutoring job with her son. What could have been a happy love affair turns to disaster as Paul gets involved in the white slave trade and is sentenced to prison. The plot piles absurdity on difficulty as Paul becomes more and more embroiled in a world he does not understand. Eventually, at the novel's end, Paul is found back in Oxford as a quiet divinity student and finds happiness.

Waugh has a far better grip on his characters and plotting than Mitford and manages to keep his show on the road in a way that she does not. At the same time he is genuinely funny, often in the small details rather than in a set piece joke, although these are also to be found. He seems to have a real affinity for his strange assortment of characters and they are almost recognizably real however absurd they appear. The nature of the plot means that several key characters are discarded along the way although Waugh does make an attempt to reunite Paul with several of them as his life's journey progresses, but in the end this is a road movie not an ensemble piece.

It's almost impossible not to enjoy this book, which although terribly dated (including some uncomfortable racist humour) and somewhat self-indulgent does have a feel good factor that makes it worth reading.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The easiest 'classic' I've read in years, 23 Nov 2007
Great fun and a remarkably quick read. I agree with other reviewers that some of the coincidences in the narrative are a little hard to stomach - at least until one realises that it's to do with the style of the book. Waugh's satire is so naturalistic that things like that stick out - but they're meant to; partly to themselves satirise the 'everybody knows everybody' attitude of the English upper classes at the time.

Interesting also - having read this several years after consuming Tom Sharpe's oeuvre, it's clear that Sharpe was heavily influenced by his fellow Lancing College alumnus.

All in all, an excellent introduction to Waugh's work.
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Decline and Fall (Penguin Modern Classics)
Decline and Fall (Penguin Modern Classics) by Evelyn Waugh (Paperback - 5 July 2001)
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