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Definitely not one of Waugh's best works
on 26 May 2007
I chose this book for my reading group as I am a great fan of Waugh (this is the sixth book of his that I have read). What a mistake! I should have listened to my son (another keen fan) who warned me that this is one of his most difficult and, it has to be said, boring books, and that it would not endear Waugh to new readers. He was spot on. I read it with mounting disappointment - and found it an excellent cure for insomnia (on four consecutive nights I didn't get further than the same page). However I dutifully read it to the end and can't say I laughed once. Worse, though, is that the other members in my book group also found it deadly dull and most of them couldn't get through it, short though it is.
If you are new to Waugh don't start here! Read Decline and Fall first (Waugh's first novel) or Scoop which is really funny, or The Loved One, a delicious satire on the American funeral industry (and the first Waugh book I read, that made me want to read more).
This book to me is an interesting period piece, and does say something about the inter-war era, and even has parallels with today's cult of celebrity, but it is rather unfunny, and lacks the style and wit of Waugh's other works.
If you want to know what it's about without suffering the boredom of reading it, get the DVD of Stephen Fry's film version, "Bright Young Things", which manages to inject interest and fun into the story. I shall be arranging a showing of that to my fellow book club members so that they won't feel the book was a wasted exercise. Incidentally this must be one of the few instances where the film is actually better than the book!