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Customer Review

75 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "We possess nothing certainly except the past.", 14 Jan. 2007
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
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Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 10 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 25 Nov 2010 22:29:55 GMT
Peter Byrne says:
Any chance the reviewer can just write a comment on this book without having to give the plot away?

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Nov 2010 14:39:09 GMT
Mary Whipple says:
It seems to me that two brief paragraphs in which the themes are related to a very generalized plot summary for a classic novel, which is discussed in detail in virtually all "great books" collections, is not out of place. Though the plot is very good (and explicated in FAR more detail than anything I say here), I don't think that's why most people read this book. Mary

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Aug 2011 12:05:46 BDT
Michael says:
Peter, if you don't want to find out about plots before reading a book then you shouldn't read any reviews at amazon first - for they practically all give something of the plot away..

Posted on 3 Jul 2012 11:14:48 BDT
Last edited by the author on 3 Jul 2012 11:15:04 BDT
The expected thing to do is add a clear 'spoiler alert' warning before imparting said spoiler(s).

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Jan 2014 14:31:42 GMT
Kyoto Martyn says:
Mary Whipple gave an overview of the structure and the themes but she didn't give away the plot.

And anyway, this is literature so the pleasures are far greater than merely finding out what happens next. Otherwise nobody would read Ulysses (Dublin Jew goes for a walk, eats a cheese sandwich and rescues a drunken medical student), Finnegans Wake (pub landlord has multilingual dream about the cyclicality of world history), In Search of Lost Time (Parisian recalls his childhood, adolescence and adulthood in forensic detail), Lucky Jim (chap called Jim gets lucky), Madame Bovery (bored wife has affair, ends badly), The End of the Affair (ditto),The Old Testament (bronze age tribe decides to worship a god that has abandoned them), The New Testament (God becomes Man to show bronze age tribe - now somewhat older - that he has not abandoned them), Flaubert's Parrot (not one but 50) , Great Expectations (dodgy bloke grooms boyish social climber), The Trial (shy man becomes paranoid), Pride and Prejudice (couple meet, hate each other, love each other, get married), Diary of Bridget Jones (ditto), Tristram Shandy (distractions prevent man from telling his life story), The Dambusters (dams get busted), Don Quixote (man becomes figment of his own imagination), The Third Policeman (dead murderer discovers Hell is living in Ireland forever).

In reply to an earlier post on 23 Jan 2014 02:42:32 GMT
Last edited by the author on 6 Feb 2014 04:44:07 GMT
Hal Cogger says:
Thanks, M. G. Absolutely loved your plot summaries!

In reply to an earlier post on 29 Jan 2014 23:38:33 GMT
Kyoto Martyn says:
Glad you liked them. That's the trouble with these replies - there's nobody to say "enough already".

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Mar 2015 09:49:09 GMT
Last edited by the author on 4 Mar 2015 09:49:36 GMT
Count Arthur says:
Mr M. G. Page I love your reviews of some of the great novels and some not so great (Bridget Jones) and some not even novels (The Bible, Season 1 & 2). I especially love your 'dittos'.

ps is the novel 'The Dambusters' that opaque or do I mean transparent?

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Mar 2015 22:29:27 GMT
Kyoto Martyn says:
"The Dambusters" - title rather gives away the ending. What on earth was the author thinking of?

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Mar 2015 19:38:48 GMT
Very, very amusing.
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