26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
I couldn't put it down and I never wanted it to end,
This review is from: Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead (Hardcover)
I have just finished reading this book and I found it absolutely enthralling. As Paula Byrne explains in her preface her approach is to look at Evelyn Waugh's relationship with the Lygon family of Madresfield Court and their influence on his great novel Brideshead Revisited rather than attempt another full length biography.So this is the back story to Bridehead.
Paula Byrne begins by contrasting the respective childhoods and schooling of the middle-class Waugh and the aristocratic Hugh Lygon - one of the models for Sebastian Flyte until their paths converge at Oxford. And later as Evelyn Waugh bcomes one of the Bright Young Things of the Twenties. The book charts the relationship between Waugh and Hugh Lygon but even more so the more important one with his two sisters Maimie and Coote who introduced him to their world at Madresfield and became his life-long friends. Evelyn Waugh fell in love with the whole Lygon family and with their home Madresfield Court which had a profound and lasting influence on his life and work. Paula Byrne traces this intricate and multifaceted relationship with sensitivity and explains all the influences for the prototypes of the characters of Brideshead. Woven into the narrative is the impact of his religious conversion to Rome had on his personal life and work.
There are brilliant cameos of other members of Waugh's and the Lygons' circle and a marvellous evocation of the uninhibited party-going and eccentricity of the upper classes in the 20s and 30s which gave Waugh such marvellous copy. Paula Bryne shows how most of Waugh's fictional characters were a composite of two real people so the creation of Sebastian Flyte was inspired not only by Hugh Lygon but also Wuagh's Oxford undergraduate lover Alistair Graham though it is hard to see the rest of the Flyte siblings as other than straight copies of the Lygons.
Paula Bryne writes like a dream and the book is, in turn, funny, outrageous, scandalous and tragic and it perfectly captures the era of the Brideshead generation. Evelyn Waugh's imagination was so absorbed by the Lygons that after the Second World War when age and time had destroyed the joyous abandon of that era and the people he loved Waugh lost himself and his writing failed while he degenerated into an irascible caricature of his former self.
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Initial post: 8 Apr 2010 13:01:47 BDT
Middleman Standing says:
What a fantastic and informative review. Looking forward to reading the book.
Ian, Biggar, Scotland
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