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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!
Men at Arms is a curiously thought-provoking novel. I enjoyed it tremendously for many reasons, a few of which I shall outline below.
Firstly, despite not being its primary attribute, the characterization is quite evocative. This isn't due to the author's intrusive narrative on motivation etc., but is effected through quite brilliant dialogue. In fact the subtle...
Published on 2 July 2004 by Omar Sabbagh

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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Men at Arms
This is a well acclaimed book, mainly by those who admire Waugh and all his works. It was a little beyond me possibly because I have no experience of war, preparation for war or its aftermath
Published 21 months ago by mr m white


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!, 2 July 2004
By 
Omar Sabbagh - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Men at Arms (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Men at Arms is a curiously thought-provoking novel. I enjoyed it tremendously for many reasons, a few of which I shall outline below.
Firstly, despite not being its primary attribute, the characterization is quite evocative. This isn't due to the author's intrusive narrative on motivation etc., but is effected through quite brilliant dialogue. In fact the subtle humour that pervades this novel, a kind of kind-hearted and sorrowful satire, is produced by the brilliance of the dialogue and the way nuances of tone, character and conflict are secreted therein. There is something very authentic, immediate and alive, natural, about the writing in this book. In these respects Waugh here is a bit like Dickens, Dickens on sedatives that is.
Another thing I liked about the novel was that despite the moments of genuine anger and darkness (bubbling below the surface in characters such as Apthorpe and the Brigadier), there is a general air of comedy or good-feeling that surrounds what must be assumed as dreadful realities to anyone, especially someone such as myself who has never been near a war. In a way, this is suggested by the implicit satire of English schoolboy fantasy, which seems to set the tone for the attitudes towards war in the novel.
Except, that is, for Guy. Guy Crouchback, the main protagonist, is a mystery to me, and all the more real for that. Unlike, say, a character in a Greene novel, where the inner world and its significance is flagged all the way throughout in quite a didactic fashion, the world of Guy Crouchback is somehow more distant and enticing to the reader. We get to know this character as the story progresses, by the way he acts and reacts in the changing situations- not by any interior dialogue. This, in its way, provoked a lot of sympathy in me, and a lot of curiosity.
Finally, and this will be obvious to anyone reading it, the prose is flawless. It is clearly a work written by a master at the height of his powers. At no time does one question the writing itself. It is fluid and rich without in any way being overbearing.
If there is one fault with this novel, it is that it seems to me slightly formless. Loose ends remain unresolved, glaringly so. But then I have not read the sequels in the trilogy, which I will begin doing in a few minutes, so this objection may be mistaken.
I recommend this novel whole-heartedly!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vintage Waugh, 14 Feb 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Men at Arms (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
I can't tell you how much I enjoyed reading Men at Arms, the first book in the Sword of Honour Trilogy. The book revolves around the experiences of Guy Crouchback, a rather tragic figure, who regards the Second World War as an opportunity to fulfil childhood dreams of honour and chivalry - without much luck. The book gives a tremendous insight into the attitudes and atmosphere of wartime Britain, far removed from the 'Churchillian - all for one' image usually portrayed by the present day media.
This book is worth reading if only for an introduction to the delightful Apthorpe and his Thunderbox.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An immensely enjoyable example of masterful prose., 19 Jan 2006
By 
M. S. Bowden (Xiamen, China) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Men at Arms (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
'Men at Arms' is a book which is a pleasure to read, and one is kept company by Waugh's sumptuous prose and exceptionally good characterisations throughout the book. There can be little doubt, that when Waugh wrote this work, he could claim to be one of the foremost masters of English prose of his time. Waugh's effortlessly rich and varied vocabulary helps to make an otherwise rather dull tale come to life.
Waugh achieves what so few writers are able to achieve; the effect of making one feel that one is there, present, beside the main character throughout the book.
One criticism which may be levelled at 'Men at Arms' is that it seems slightly unfinished. The last chapter ends as though tempting the reader with clues as to what is going to happen next. It is perhaps best, in light of this, to read 'Men at Arms' as part of the 'The Sword of Honour Trilogy'. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who appreciates the beauty of the English language in the hands of masters like Waugh.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Men at Arms, 12 Jun 2012
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
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This novel is the first in the Sword of Honour trilogy, followed by Officers and Gentlemen (Penguin Modern Classics) and Unconditional Surrender: The Conclusion of Men at Arms and Officers and Gentlemen (Penguin Modern Classics). When we meet Guy Crouchback he is living in Italy and is returning to England for the first time in eight years with plans to "serve his King", as war has just been declared. Guy comes from an old, Catholic family, now sadly in decline. His father has given up Broome, the family home, and is living (quite cheerfully) in a hotel. As Guy is divorced, and unable to re-marry as a Catholic, and his two brothers are both dead, the only member of his family that has children is his sister. We gradually learn these facts as Guy returns to England and meets up with the various members of his family.

It is fair to say that Guy has great plans when he first arrives back in England, but with typical English cynicism, is quickly disabused of his necessity. He is informed he is too old and men who have managed to obtain a uniform are quick to put him down. By pure luck, he manages to be invited to join the old corps of a Major Tickeridge, who is friendly with his father and who has billeted his wife and daughter in the same hotel for the duration of the war. The book then follows Guy's career in the Halberdiers, a corps with pride, history and prestige and populated with characters that only Evelyn Waugh could invent. Two in particular that will long stay with you is Brigadier Ritchie-Hook, who enjoys 'biffing' the enemy and the glorious Apthorpe, whose 'thunder box' will perplex an Italian spy.

During this book Guy Crouchback learns that glory is hard to find, as his corps is moved to locations as diverse as Scotland and Southsand-on-Sea. They board ships, only to disembark again and sleep on trains all night only to find they have not left the station in the morning. There is a real sense of the early months of war, when England is unsettled but stoic and only one officer realises that Churchill is the man that can stop them losing a war none of them had contemplated could not be won. The book ends with a rather abortive attempt to land in Africa before Guy is sent back to England to continue his adventures. He is an elusive man, "respected but not loved", who has an inglorious meeting with his ex-wife Virginia which leaves him slinking back to camp, but who always tries his best and that you will certainly warm to as you get to know him. His Catholicism is central to his character and this is often an important theme in Waugh's books, which I am delighted to see are now on kindle. If you have not discovered Waugh before, I envy you - he is a master of his art.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Waugh at war, 9 Aug 2011
This review is from: Men at Arms (Paperback)
This trilogy is not only beautifully written and a good read, but shows a side to the last war that I was unaware of, and I lived through it. I picked up the last two books at a jumble sale and found that the triology is not available in e-version for my Kindle, so I have had to resort to buying a paper copy of "Men at Arms". Men at Arms (Penguin Modern Classics)The three books show Waugh at his best and deserve to be revived. Waugh is not just "Brideshead".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Ironic Story of War, 29 Sep 2009
This review is from: Men at Arms (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
In MEN AT ARMS, Waugh writes about the experiences in 1939 and 1940 of Guy Crouchback, the scion of an old aristocratic English family that has lost its money. The backdrop for Guy's experiences is England's dark days at the start of World War II--the Blitzkrieg of Poland, the Twilight War, the Battle of France, Churchill's assumption of power, and the Battle of Britain. In this parlous time, Waugh shows Guy finding a position in the army, training with the Royal Corps of Halberdiers, assuming home guard duties, and then participating in a poorly defined mission in Senegal, as his nation is fighting for its survival. Throughout, Waugh focuses on the small issues of Crouchback's life--the people he meets, the training he receives, the eccentricities and shenanigans of the soldiers--as he tries to do his duty and contribute to the great cause of his country.

In telling this story, Waugh absolutely piles on the irony, which surely culminates in this novel's final few chapters, when Guy finally participates in military action and shows soldierly concern for a hospitalized fellow officer. Ultimately, Waugh's ironies--the huge disconnect between Guy's honorable and decent intentions and his actual experiences--are the true subject of this book, with Waugh showing that, on the soldier's level, war borders on sad and twisted farce.

In MEN AT ARMS, Waugh's primary characters--Crouchback, Apthorpe, and Ritchie-Hook--are soldiers who, within the limits of their personalities, perform their duty. Never do they wonder about soldiering or question the values of the Halberdiers. This is not, in other words, profound literature in which characters grow and question their assumptions. Instead, this is a novel about the absurdity of duty. And, it's probably hilarious, at moments, to Brits, who would be fully attuned to its slightly odd class-conscious characters.

Waugh certainly writes gracefully and with great pace. Further, he is entertaining and manages to keep his story interesting, even though nothing very interesting happens until the very end. While not great fiction, this novel is fun and highly readable and I'm hooked. I believe the next book in Waugh's THE SWORD OF HONOR trilogy is OFFICERS AND GENTLEMEN.
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5.0 out of 5 stars 20th Century Classic, 8 May 2013
This review is from: Men at Arms (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
This has got to be the best book written in English about the Second World War. It can be read as a humorous book or as one which describes the frustration and futility of war. In this reading I focused on the book's more serious side and it really is a masterpiece in its portayal of the different characters Waugh himself must have come across in his wartime experience: opportunists, flops, lunatics, cowards and the downright bloody-minded.

Judging from the small number of reviews on this site, this is one of the most under-rated books ever!

My personal Waugh favourite is A Handful of Dust (Penguin Modern Classics).
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5.0 out of 5 stars Men at Arms by Evelyn Waugh, 18 Feb 2012
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This review is from: Men at Arms (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
A story of its time but great wry humour. Part one of a trilogy and am looking forward to reading the other two in the series.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Men at Arms, 1 Sep 2010
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This review is from: Men at Arms (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Thoroughly enjoyable read. Only thing I have ever read of Waugh's. Indeed, leaves me wanting more. I may well read the remaining volumes in the trilogy.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Listen to this - please do, 15 Jun 2001
Evelyn Waugh's Men at Arms is a novel set in Europe during World War II. It is about how a man deals with his life and its changes brought about by the war. The main character is a self-imposed exiled English Catholic aristocrat in Italy from a deeply religious family. He joins the British army after the non-aggression pact between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia is signed. Guy Crouchback, the main character, finds his chivalric notions altered in the face of monotony of war life. According to one critic, The book is mainly concerned with a study of how gentlemen behave before the challenge of modern war. Readers see how Guys religion and morals affect his outlook and his relationship with his mates.
By looking at the life of Evelyn Waugh, one can see how this novel seems so real and authentic. Evelyn Arthur St. John Waugh was born on October 28, 1903 in London. He studied at Oxford and converted to Roman Catholicism in 1930. The majority of his life was spent traveling and writing books about his travels. Many of his travel books show his variety of adventures. In 1939, he joined the British armed forces. In 1945, he returned to London and civilian life and began to seriously write novels. In 1952, Men at Arms, the first volume in the Sword of Honor trilogy, was published. Waugh suffered a mental breakdown in 1954 and began writing again in 1955, when he wrote the second volume in the trilogy, Officers and Gentlemen. He wrote other novels and travel books and finished the trilogy in 1961 with Unconditional Surrender. Evelyn Waugh died on April 10, 1966.
The Sword of Honor trilogy has gradually won recognition as the most distinguished British novel to come out of World War II . The first book of the trilogy, Men at Arms, is a prewar setup. It begins with a hero inspired by illusion. The book follows Guy Crouchback and his excitement and anticipation for the coming war. At first, Men at Arms was not seen as a great book, perhaps due to the fact that readers had just experienced a war and their attentions were turned elsewhere. Also this book is a satirical view of the army and many readers were not amused at Waugh ís scenes of soldiers standing around and doing nothing. Since then, it has received favorable criticism not only as a work of fiction, but also as a social commentary on the time. It is an authentic account (Waugh was in the armed forces) and view of how men behave when faced with the reality of war. The novel also shows relationships and interactions of officers, soldiers, and their surroundings. Waugh also writes about the importance of religion (his Catholicism played a key role in his life).
Nearly all of Waugh's novels about World War II are antiwar novels, but the note of protest is rarely supported. Its hard to tell if in fact Waugh is upset about war-- maybe he is like Guy, whose view of war changes when he actually experiences it. We believe that Waugh misinterprets men and war. Perhaps he doesn't understand that there are both positive and negative aspects of war, and why men act certain ways during wartime. Whatever the case, Men at Arms is a very interesting novel that shows firsthand how men are at arms in several ways.
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Men at Arms (Penguin Modern Classics)
Men at Arms (Penguin Modern Classics) by Evelyn Waugh (Paperback - 31 May 2001)
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