29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
One of Waugh's greatest satires,
This review is from: Decline and Fall (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Having recently read Waugh's BBC Big Read-nominated 'Brideshead Revisited,' I was encouraged by reviews of others that Decline and Fall was as good, if not better, than Brideshead. I found Decline and Fall to have many more laugh-out-loud moments than its predecessor, although I did not feel there was as much depth to the story.
Waugh begins the book by describing a rather subdued young Oxford student, Paul Pennyfeather. By an unfortunate turn of wittily constructed events however, Paul is thrown out of the university for indecent behaviour when a group of rowdy youths strip him of his clothes, and he is forced to run naked around the school grounds. With no choice but to apply for a job, the unlucky character finds himself working as a teacher in a bizarre Welsh school. True to Waugh's wonderfully imaginative style of writing, Paul's colleagues are drunks and/or idiots, and the students irritating half-wits. Paul's series of amusing episodes culminates when he is on the brink of marrying a rather eccentric aristocratic lady, when he is thrown in to prison.
Although Paul's escapades were hugely entertaining, the series of coincidences he encounters eventually left me feeling rather frustrated, as the reader was being asked to suspend his or her disbelief to a ludicrous level. This small negative point, however, was far outweighed by the splendid array of eccentric characters, most notably Paul's fellow school masters Captain Grimes (frequently 'in the soup') and the lovable (yet completely potty) Mr Prendergast, who at one point during a sports day race, accidentally shoots one of the pupils in the foot with the starting gun.
Waugh was undoubtedly one of the greatest satirists of his day, and although written in nineteen twenty-eight, Decline and Fall remains a witty, hugely comic novel to this day. Those who have enjoyed the book may also enjoy 'Vile Bodies' by the same author. Paul and his peculiar friends brightened my evenings considerably. I urge you to give it a read.