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The Brideshead Generation: Evelyn Waugh and His Friends Paperback – 1 Oct 2009

3.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Paperback: 550 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber; Main edition (1 Oct. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571248330
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571248339
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 3.5 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,016,818 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Humphrey Carpenter was born and educated in Oxford, and attended the Dragon School and Keble College. He was a well-known biographer and children's writer, and worked previously as a producer at the BBC. He wrote biographies of J. R. R. Tolkien, W. H. Auden, Benjamin Britten, Ezra Pound, C. S. Lewis and Dennis Potter. Among his many books for children were the best-selling Mr Majeika series. He also wrote several plays for the theatre and radio. A keen musician, he was a member of a 1930s-style jazz band, Vile Bodies, which was resident at the Ritz Hotel in London for a number of years. He died in 2005.

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By Antenna TOP 500 REVIEWER on 16 Nov. 2012
Format: Hardcover
This biography provides a vivid portrait of Waugh's personality and the factors which may have affected it, but falls short in the method used to include some of the author's influential acquaintances such as Harold Acton, Graham Greene and John Betjeman to name only a few. This involves frequent digressions which make for a read that is often rambling and baggy in structure, particularly in the early chapters. In a book that cries out for a good edit, I was put off by the opening chapter's lengthy imaginary conversation between two horribly precocious young Etonians which, although it may have satisfied Humphrey Carpenter's ambitions as a novelist, seems unnecessary when there is so much "real" information to cover.

Waugh comes across as a witty and articulate man with a keen sense of the ridiculous, but on the negative side also a bully, an appalling snob, irritable, often remarkably rude, which may have had something to do with being frequently drunk. We are told that in World War 2 he was judged unsuitable to command a company of soldiers because he could not relate to junior ranks. All this may have been in some way the result of a lack of affection as a child, a sense of exclusion from the "cosy friendship" his father apparently formed with Waugh's older brother and the humiliation of his first wife, "She-Evelyn" going off with another man.

He also revelled in gossip, exaggerating the misfortunes of others, including so-called friends. He could not resist the barbed repartee as when Graham Greene observed that it would be fun to write about politics rather than God. Waugh rejoined: "I wouldn't give up writing about God at this stage if I were you. It would be like P.G. Wodehouse dropping Jeeves halfway through the Wooster series.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars 2 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Serious and Amusing 6 July 2003
By William Tegner - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is an admirable book, well written, balanced and well researched. After a slightly hesitant start, the scene shifts to Oxford in the early twenties; it comes across as a very dissolute place, with distinct homosexual undertones. The noticeable "public school" backdrop leaves you wondering why anyone should send their child to an English boarding school (at very great expense, incidentally). But they did, and still do. However, at Oxford we are introduced to a veritable galaxy of talent, including Evelyn Waugh, the lead character in the book, Graham Greene, John Betjeman, Osbert Lancaster, Anthony Powell and others. There are some very amusing quotes and anecdotes.
But the book becomes increasingly serious, and whilst not specifically a work of literary criticism, it cites reviews and gives the background to the works of Waugh and to a lesser extent others. It also looks at the curious world of the Roman Catholic convert. At the end I felt a little sad for Waugh and some of his contemporaries. In spite of their achievements, by no means all of them seemed happy.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Break Out the Dinner Jackets 17 Jun. 2010
By Michael Miller - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Highly enjoyable book, though the contemplation of the level of seemingly effortless wit and culture, and by such young people, on display within makes one wonder what went wrong with his own development. I found Carpenter's overall tone towards Waugh a little too reverent at times. He was a fine writer and I appreciate that he was a formidable personality, but there were plenty of occasions when he was ridiculous, or nasty, where I don't feel it was necessary to continue to defer to him on the grounds of his literary genius. I always want some sense that the biographer or historian is on near equal footing with his subject in some area of active or mental life, and I never feel this with Carpenter.

Much is made sometimes of the lack of personal happiness enjoyed by many of the figures in this book, but I don't see them as any unhappier than legions of people of a similar kind of intelligence but far less visible accomplishment and consequently at least equally consuming frustrations. The circumstances of these characters and the license of their statuses and in many instances personalities as artists allowed them to indulge in their depression a little more flamboyantly that the average cubicle sap can permit himself to do, but I do not see them as inordinately unhappy compared to others so much as more elaborately developed in that direction.
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