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Put Out More Flags (Penguin Modern Classics)
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Basil Seal, familiar to readers of Black Mischief (1932) as the man hired by the ruler of an African nation, an Oxford friend, to modernize it, has returned to England, his ludicrous efforts for naught. It is the autumn of 1939 (in this 1942 novel), just as war is breaking out, and Basil, one of the "bright, young things" on whom Waugh casts his satiric eye and biting wit, is bored. Penniless, he accepts his sister Barbara's suggestion to help her to place urban children with rural families to protect them from the incipient bombings. Soon he has turned this in to a typically profitable business--country house residents are more than willing to pay Basil NOT to bring three especially monstrous children, to live with them.

Strong on character, grim humor, and satire, and short on overall plot, Waugh has created in this novel characters who represent the worst of upperclass young people--their shallow interests, indifferent education, frivolous behavior, lack of long-term goals, and seeming absence of any values except pleasure. Basil has had a long affair with Angela Lyne, but dallies with other women. Angela's cuckolded husband Cedric enlists in the war effort, while she, lonely, turns to drink. Ambrose Silk, half-Jewish and openly gay, works to establish a literary magazine until he runs afoul of the censors (in the person of Basil). Two writers, Parsnip and Pimpernel, reputed to have been modeled on W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, run off to the States to avoid the war completely.

As the novel moves from autumn, 1939, to the summer of 1940, when the mobilization is fully underway, Waugh skewers the naivete of his subjects and their universal desire to use the war to get ahead. None of them take the war seriously, nor do they realize that the very fabric of their country is at stake. Basil and friends want to be among "the hard-faced men [of 1919] who did well out of the war." Image is more important than reality, which they seem determined to ignore.

The last of Waugh's satiric novels (since his later novels become far more serious), this one is full of ironic humor directed at the (usually) wealthy young people who allow life to happen to them, assuming that they will always be able to make lemonade from lemons. In the course of the novel, all will come to new understandings, and when France falls, the scene is set for reversals and revelations. Fun to read and historically important for the attitudes it records among this group, Put Out More Flags is classic Waugh satire. n Mary Whipple
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 26 June 2014
This is my first Evelyn Waugh novel and I didn't like it.

The dog days of the Bright Young Things and the venom aimed at Auden and Isherwood seemed to have more appeal to the author than reader. Thankfully the book picked up pace, spice and humour with the adventures of Basil and the Connelly family.

This is billed as 'satire' but it sailed awfully close to indulgence and then tacked across into bitterness. This was typified by the ambiguity of the closing line. I will not 'spoil' but suffice to say my reading of it and that of the 'Notes' were diametrically opposed.

The tone and style just didn't gel to bring any added value to yet another novel about the antics of the British Upper Class.

There are some splendid Amazon reviews by better read Waugh afficianados who suggest this is not his top work. It would have been better to have listened to them and started elsewhere with Mr Waugh.
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Had it with pseudo-literary novels about WWII? Fed up with cheap Blitz sentimentalism? Tired of crowd-pleasing tales of popular heroism? Put Out More Flags is for you. I moved to it straight from Kate Atkinson’s Life after Life, and boy was it refreshing. If the novel takes place during the phoney war, or the 'bore’ war as it was apparently nicknamed at the time, there is nothing phoney about it. Put Out More Flags describes a bunch of bumbling aristos taking Britain to the very brink of ruin. Swagger, ineptness, and repeated misjudgements are their lot. Basil Seal, though his ageing mother dearly wishes him to join in the war effort, finds a better racket in forcing rowdy evacuees on helpless cottagers back in the shires. Then he gets involved in an information bureau, his womanising goads him into denouncing a poet friend and fellow Sohoite as a fascist conspirator, and he ends up smuggling the man out of the country as a disguised Irish priest. Unlike our modern armchair heroes, Evelyn Waugh actually had battle experience, and he fought in the British armed forces throughout WWII. His novel also describes early combat scenes, in Norway. But modesty, stiff upper lip, self-deprecation: these were the weft to the moral fibre that was going to be called for as they prepared to face 'their finest hour’. Put Out More Flags says more than a thousand bomb-filled costume dramas. This is one of the best Waugh novels, beside being the funniest.
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Evelyn Waugh was detested by many of his contemporaries because of his arrogance and waspishness. But it is these very qualities which gave him his satirical sting. This is still one of the funniest books about World War II, but has no heroics in it. It satirizes the chaotic conditions at the War Office, the stupidity of much military thinking up to 1942, and the way in which the dishonest capitalized on the war to line their own pockets. It's not a book which glamorizes the war or the Home Front, but it does give a rich flavour of what the early years of the war were really like for those at home.

Highly recommended.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 4 February 2008
I first met the character of Basil Seal in Waugh's 1932 novel "Black Mischief". I thought he was a hilarious, drunken, upper class rogue...and I followed him happily from London to a troubled African state, where he attempted to set up his own crazed government - but ended up unwittingly eating his own girlfriend in a cannibalistic stew.

But in "Put Out More Flags", I found Basil almost entirely unendearing. The way he uses child evacuees to put a few quid in his own pocket...the way he betrays his old friend Ambrose Silk so he can move into his lavish Bloomsbury flat...in fact, Basil's entire profiteering attitude in this wartime offering struck me as less and less funny as I went on.

Yes, Basil Seal is a satirical figure - and yes, people will always try to profit from some sort of tragedy...but all of the characteristics that previously made Basil so fun (gallavanting abroad, drinking for four days on the trot, becoming the royal adviser of an African king) seem to be seriously lacking here. I simply found him spiteful and mean-spirited, feeding off others and behaving like a true wastrel at a time of national crisis.

Waugh is an accomplished satirist and I admire much of his work, but he is so utterly damning of the British military - and makes the British look so generally flippant and stupid - that it's a wonder this book sold at all, seeing as it hit the shops in 1942...when war was still raging. I do wonder, with so much death on the battlefields abroad...and patriotism at an all-time high...how this sort of satire could have been palatable to the public at all.

It's funny now, with 50 years of hindsight...but at the time, this novel could easily have been judged grossly offensive. Give it a try if you're a Waugh aficionado. I think, however, there's a clear reason why this book is considered one of Waugh's less successful works. It's simply not as good as his social comedies from the 20s and 30s.
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Not the most popular of Waugh novels, but being a bit of a scoundrel myself, I identified with the Basil Seal character. As usual, Waugh demonstrates exquisite use of the modern English language that puts all modern authors to shame. I read a lot, and a very broad spectrum, but this is my favourite book, one I come back to time and time again, not just for the story, which I always enjoy, but for the sheer pleasure of the quality of writing.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 8 March 2014
I recently read, and very much enjoyed Sword of Honour, like this book, Sword of Honour is a satirical novel about the Second World War.

The books that comprise the Sword of Honour trilogy were written in the 1950s and 1960s when Evelyn Waugh was able to put the Second World War into some kind of perspective. Sword of Honour also happens to be one of Evelyn Waugh's masterpieces.

Put Out More Flags, an earlier war novel, opens in the autumn of 1939 and all takes place during the twelve months of the war. It was published in 1942.

I have read most of Evelyn Waugh's major works now, and, as usual, the quality of the writing is a pleasure. The story follows the wartime activities of characters introduced in Waugh's earlier satirical novels Decline and Fall, Vile Bodies and Black Mischief.

The uncertainty and confusion of the so-called "phoney war" are brilliantly evoked, and - as is so often the case - the satire and humour are very black. Basil Seal, who readers may recall from Black Mischief, is the star of the show. His opportunism creating all manner of mischief for those he runs into, and his scam involving a troublesome family of evacuated children sums him up perfectly. To suggest this book is full of humour would be misleading: one scene involving the troubled and tragic Cedric Lyne visiting his estranged wife Angela, with their son Nigel, for once impressed by him in his army uniform, is absolutely dripping with sadness and melancholy, and demonstrates Waugh's extraordinary skill.

Overall the book felt slightly uneven and a bit rushed. There is much to admire and enjoy, however I conclude this is one of Evelyn Waugh's less successful novels (against his exceptionally high standards). It's of most interest to Waugh completists (of whom I am definitely one) and should not be prioritised ahead of his key works: (Brideshead Revisited, Sword of Honour, Decline and Fall, and A Handful of Dust.
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on 15 May 2013
A classic,this started life as a satire about ,mostly, appalling people muddling through a national calamity. It still works because Waugh's characters are multi-dimensional. You believe in them, very nearly care about them. He had a supreme gift for being very funny about deadly events and, of couirse, wrote like a dream.
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on 13 February 2014
Waugh has the mixture of wild imagination and biting satirical wit to make a masterpiece of comic writing, in this case about the Second World War in Britain
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38 of 59 people found the following review helpful
on 15 November 2000
Evelyn Waugh (1903-66) possesses the inestimable advantages of being the best writer in English of the twentieth century and not being attractive to the EngLit crowd. He was a conservative Catholic snob, after all, and though many people come to him because they are one or another of those things, or all three, I'm not one of them. I love him because he writes so well - so cleverly and, often, so cruelly.
But he is still famous and so I prefer one of his more obscure books, published in 1942 and rarely mentioned with the inevitable Brideshead Revisited (probably one of his weaker books) and Vile Bodies (certainly his weakest one, after Helena) when his work is summarized. The first few pages have probably convinced many people that it's justly obscure, but if you can get beyond them you find POMF one of his funniest books - and the quality of those opening pages will be plain on the re-reading of the book I'm sure you'll undertake if you finish it.
Quotation from POMF would be difficult and I don't intend to try: Waugh was not only a consummate prose stylist but also a Grand Maître of literary cabinetwork, and detaching individual sentences or paragraphs would be rather like wrenching a leg or handle off a Louis Quinze appliqué table and exhibiting it for isolated admiration. Suffice it to say that the book is Waugh in excelsis: snobbish, malicious, and extremely funny, and Basil Seal, the returning anti-hero of Black Mischief, is the primum mobile of the novel's two great comedic set pieces: the peculatory exploitation of a trio of gruesome evacuee children called the Connollys, and the enforced exile of Ambrose Silk...
Like almost all of Waugh's characters, Basil Seal is a character à clef too, but the sting of any possible offence caused by him to the models in real life was drawn by what Waugh said was one of the great literary truths. He once said that it is possible to ascribe the most rebarbative behaviour and morals to a character based on a friend or acquaintance and cause no offence so long as one also makes the character attractive to women. Basil is ...completely self-centred, almost completely selfish, and also something of a bore. He is, however, attractive to women. By all accounts this prophylaxis worked, and all facets of his character are on dazzling display in this best-kept secret of an unsurpassable œuvre.
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