Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder Paperback – 30 Mar 2000
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"Waugh's most deeply felt novel . . . "Brideshead Revisited "tells an absorbing story in imaginative terms . . . Mr. Waugh is very definitely an artist, with something like a genius for precision and clarity not surpassed by any novelist writing in English in his time." -"New York Times" "A many-faceted book . . . Beautifully [written] by one of the most exhilarating stylists of our time." -"Newsweek" "First and last an enchanting story . . . "Brideshead Revisited" has a magic that is rare in current literature. It is a world in itself, and the reader lives in it and is loath to leave it when the last page is turned." -"Saturday Review" "Evelyn Waugh's most successful novel . . . A memorable work of art." -from the Introduction by Frank Kermode
The most nostalgic and reflective of Evelyn Waugh's novels, "Brideshead Revisited" looks back to the golden age before the Second World War. It tells the story of Charles Ryder's infatuation with the Marchmains and the rapidly-disappearing world of privilege they inhabit. Enchanted first by Sebastian at Oxford, then by his doomed Catholic family, in particular his remote sister, Julia, Charles comes finally to recognize only his spiritual and social distance from them.See all Product description
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The novel begins when Charles Ryder is billeted on an unknown country estate during WWII, which turns out to be Brideshead, a place he knew well. The story then unfolds of his meeting of the young Lord Sebastian Flyte at Oxford and his coming under the spell of the Marchmain family and of Brideshead itself. As the young promise of Sebastian declines into drink, Charles leaves Oxford and becomes an architectural artist, before finding that his relations with the family are not yet over when he meets Sebastian's sister Julia on a ship returning from New York.
Evelyn Waugh looks at many themes in this novel: love, loss, family and religion all intertwine and interweave in this story. Of course, Waugh was a committed convert to the Catholic faith and religion lies heavily on virtually every page of this book. Divorce, conversion and the pressure of religion are all present. Lord Marchmain, living abroad with his mistress, does not enter the novel for some time, but he haunts the pages and his eventual return to Brideshead and death scene are a pivotal part of the book. This can be criticised for being about the aristocracy (Waugh himself wrote it during the war during a time of restrictions and privations and the glamour and wealth of a past life pour from the pages) or not being relevant, but the themes of disappointment, love, religion and loss are things we have all experienced.
If you are interested in reading more about the family and house on which Evelyn Waugh based "Brideshead Revisited" you might enjoy Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead (although it is now available on kindle, it is a text only version and so I would personally recommend the book, which contains the illustrations) . If you are coming to this book for the first time I envy you - enjoy.
Wherever you are on the religious spectrum of belief, this story creates profound questions whilst leaving the reader to draw their own perspective. The treatment of alcoholism and vulnerability is both poignant and powerful.
A book to read every few years. My reaction to this story in my teens was so different many years later. A real classic.
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