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Evelyn Waugh: A Biography (Vintage Lives) Paperback – 30 Oct 1995
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...gripping and thoughtful on every page. -- Mail On Sunday
A brilliant, three-dimensional portrait -- Country Life
Evelyn Waugh was one of the funniest writers in the language. Selina Hastingss book is alive with his humour -- Sunday Express
Her style is supremely elegant and her eye for detail brings dazzle and wit to every page This is a monumental book -- Independent on Sunday
Perceptive, witty and beautifully written -- Daily Mail
'Evelyn Waugh was the most complicated of men-It is the first great virtue of Selina Hastings's splendid biography that she never forgets it. Consequently she has written a sympathetic and highly intelligent book which also - rarity of rarities these days - reads rapidly. It is sympathetic also because, like Waugh himself, the author adores gossip.'Daily TelegraphSee all Product description
Top Customer Reviews
I got a clearer idea when I picked up a book by another writer I had ordered and skimmed a few pages, only to be hit by a familiar weariness.
Too many writers in English fall into one of two categories: their style is too academic or too informal. In both situations the reader is aware of the writer as an uncomfortable presence.
Selina Hastings' writing is absolutely clear: she never uses a difficult word when a simple one will do the job better; it is absolutely graceful: she is incapable of either pretentiousness or vulgarity; she is sometimes laugh-aloud funny, and she is always amusing.
One of her great gifts is to present a short account of each of Waugh's books which such economy and clarity that she arouses one's interest whether one knows the book inside out or has never read it.
Above all, and what a relief this is, she is non-judgmental. She presents her subjects exactly as she finds them, and yet manages to make them lovable. This is particularly useful here, because, as she states in the opening chapter:
"The reputation of Evelyn Waugh rests on two premises: that he was one of the great prose stylists of the twentieth century, and that as a man he was a monster."
I must admit that I was somewhat worried at reading about the personal life of Evelyn Waugh. Having read books by his brother, Alec Waugh, I was aware that he became more difficult with age and I was concerned that he would simply come across as utterly unlikeable . Selina Hastings certainly does not make her subject nicer than he was, but she does give a sympathetic portrait of him as a man and as a writer.
The book takes us from his childhood and the difficult relationship with his father Arthur, who saw his elder son, Alec, as "the son of his soul" and who found Evelyn a difficult and emotional child. Evelyn resented his father, was a bully at school and a priggish, religious child. At Oxford he was, of course, among the Bright Young Things and saw University as the chance for three years of idleness. His failure to achieve a good degree saw him having to take a job at prep schools; one of the most depressing times of his life.
We move through his first, disastrous, marriage to Evelyn Gardner (He-Evelyn and She-Evelyn), the shock and humiliation when he discovered she had been unfaithful and the beginning of his success as an author. Hastings follows his career as a novelist, travel writer and his attempts to annul his marriage and his second marriage to Laura Herbert.Read more ›
And he was a snob - proud of it too. Loved his high quality food and deemed it a necessary not a luxury. I like the story where he met the Queen Mother for lunch at her home. She had two glasses of champagne ready. 'Isn't this a treat' she said. 'Champagne at lunchtime!' 'Is it?' he replied. He took it for granted and the Queen Mother was partial to a drop too but no where near what Waugh indulged in.
For a man who took his religion to the extreme right he lacked a lot of the finer graces of belief and was a most uncharitable man - to those he barely tolerated (most people) and his own children. Charity didn't start at home and went no further either. On the positive side he took his writing seriously when it suited him and Hastings gives us the good, bad and indifferent reviews of this writings at the time. He wasn't held in high esteem by everyone or every publisher. I felt I had met the man on completing the book or rather I knew a man I probably wouldn't like to meet would be more accurate.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a delight. It is beautifully written and packed with detail not only about Waugh but also about his social circle.Published 3 months ago by Peter Richard Henry Moss
The best book not only about Waugh but English Society in the first half of the twentieth Century
Hastings brings a forensic quality to her descriptions but especially on... Read more