Customer Reviews


132 Reviews
5 star:
 (90)
4 star:
 (25)
3 star:
 (15)
2 star:
 (1)
1 star:
 (1)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


73 of 76 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "We possess nothing certainly except the past."
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...
Published on 14 Jan 2007 by Mary Whipple

versus
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
Couldn't get past arrogance of this, have read widely but could not take to this. If I was not reading for a book club would not have finished it
Published 3 months ago by Pen Name


‹ Previous | 1 214 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

73 of 76 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "We possess nothing certainly except the past.", 14 Jan 2007
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


104 of 109 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Waugh! What is it good for? Well..., 3 Jun 2004
By 
Richard Hart (St. Andrews, Fife United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Et in Arcadia Ego, 24 April 2007
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Waugh at his most lyrical, 15 July 2004
By 
Omar Sabbagh - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
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!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable, 1 Sep 2007
This review is from: Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder (Paperback)
Fiction about the lives of the upper classes doesn't tend to be my thing, but I did enjoy this book. Waugh effortlessly captures the atmosphere both of 1920s Oxford student life and of life in the country houses of the highest echelons of society.

Ryder is revisiting Brideshead as an officer in the Second World War - the house has been converted into army barracks and has lost much of its former glory. This springs Ryder off on a reminiscence of how he first came to visit Brideshead, starting with his friendship and love for Sebastian, the Marchmain's second son and going through his involvement with the family until finally he starts an affair with Julia, Sebastian's younger sister.

Much of the book is pre-occupied with Catholicism, i.e. what it means to be a Catholic and how the non-Catholic Charles finds this a barrier to ever truly being part of the family. Waugh really ramps this up as a theme in the last third, which details Julia and Charles's affair and whilst Waugh writes about it intelligently, it wasn't something that particularly interested me as a subject. In fact, for me the section detailing Julia and Charles's affair lacked much of the 'life' that characterised the sections where Sebastian was prominent - even those scenes showing Sebastian's descent into alcoholism and despair - I felt that the book lost a vital spark when he eventually disappeared off the page. Much is made of the homo-erotic subtext of the relationship between Sebastian and Charles. I didn't personally feel as though it was subtext so much as it's blatantly there on the page and it's part of the reason why those sections are so interesting to read.

Waugh peppers the text with other interesting characters - the stammering and blatantly homosexual Anthony Blanche is a great character, offering Charles a real insight both on the Marchmains and himself. Rex Mottram, a Canadian social climber who pursues a connection with the Marchmains is also well-drawn and is used to offer a commentary on the political and social conditions of the time.

What's interesting is also how much humour there is in the book. Waugh had a great eye for farce, from the japery of the Oxford Colleges to a wonderfully observed battle of wits between Charles and his remote father during the summer holidays, I was surprised at how much made me laugh. Much of this humour is missing from the last third of the book as Charles takes a more contemplative look on his life and again, I think this was part of the reason why I found it less interesting.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brideshead Revisited, 1 Nov 2012
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 10 REVIEWER)   
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brideshead- A Book To Revisit, 2 Jan 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder (Paperback)
This is Waugh at his most brilliant. He once said that "A novel to me is not a psychological exercise, but a combination of plot, drama and description", and in his most famous work he intricately weaves characters and locations to produce an effect quite breathtaking. There are so many sub-plots within this plot that you can draw into it: regret at the end of the aristocracy, the terrible austerity of war, the results of an unusual childhood, friendship through all , and perhaps even closet homosexuality (Sebastian and Charles are very close, and have moments that in a novel featuring a man and woman would be romantic). And there is a teddy bear. A wonderful story combined with ideas that improves the more times you read it. Perhaps the best British novel of the 20th century, and one in the eye for anyone who tells you the only good 20th novelists were American. Read it and love it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book ever written, 5 April 2001
By 
Miss B Roche (Chester, Cheshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Class, religion, family and repressed sexuality, 21 Feb 2003
BR mixes Waugh's stunning ability to create amusing, quirky characters and plotlines with an added sympathy in which many of his former books lack. BR charts the demise of the Flyte family and their seat at Brideshead in pre-WW2 English aristocracy.
The subtle relationship between our Narrator, Charles Ryder, and his first contact with the Flyte family, Sebastian, is an understated and mature study of love and although their sexual status is refuted (at the time any such "scandal" would have rendered the book unprintable) it remains that their love for each other is the strongest thing in the book. Ryder, in fact, falls for Julia, Sebastian's sister partly because of the resemblance of him.
Catholicism plays an important part in BR but it is never difficult to read for those who are unfamiliar with that faith's practices. The sense of sin, demise and values that permeate the story complements its religiousness atmosphere.
The Flyte family are the greatest assent to the menagerie of characters- bossy, upright Lady Marchmain, the absent Lord Brideshead, stuffy eldest Brideshead, camp and alcoholic Sebastian, thoughtful, spiritual Julia and pious little Cordelia. Ryder becomes part of this family and the lack of his own means he sees these eccentric people through fresh eyes.
The pace of the novel is often inconstant- the main events of the first part taking place over just a few weeks and the rest stopping at points over the subsequent years. There is also a perceptible split between the story about Sebastian and the story about Julia. However, these points are only nitpicking and BR remains one of the finest works on twentieth century aristocracy and declining religious and family values.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Always Worth Revisiting, 19 Jan 2008
By 
Ford Ka (Edinburgh, Scotland) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder (Paperback)
The purchase of Brideshead Revisited is one of sure investments in your library. You will revisit it very often because it is one of the books that keep you in their thrall forever. Actually, I have a copy in my desk in the office and pick it up to read a few pages when my students are late for meeting.
This is a book which can be read in many ways - most of which open up a new perspective on its contents and some of which may help you understand yourself and those you choose to share it with. It may be read as a Christian treatise (Waugh took this quite seriously) and a memoir of studies at Oxford in the 1920s. A story of a misplaced homosexual affection and story of decline of British aristocracy. Whichever way you choose you will not be disappointed.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 214 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder
£6.29
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews