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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 18 April 2017
I was drawn to this book following another Waugh book, Decline and Fall, being aired on the BBC. I am glad I took the time to read it, excellent. A fictionalised account of Waugh's wartime experiences it is darker in tone than Decline and Fall but none the less enjoyable for all that. Anyone who has experienced pen pushers, office idiots and chance encounters will identify with this story.
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on 30 March 2013
I have read this trilogy many times but each new time I enjoy it at least as much as the previous time. Waugh "gets" the British Army brilliantly. And he gets the futility of war brilliantly too. It is one of those books that has you laughing out loud and almost crying with sadness later on. If you have never read this book, rectify the situation immediately! You will not regret it.
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on 4 February 2013
Waugh's comment on war and the idiocy and futile waste. Dreams of glory and honour turn to a tired and mutedly cynical reminiscence of life in teh class-ridden British army of the 1940s.
Waugh's lapidary prose is a joy. He has a sublime ability to capture the zeitgeist of the upper classes, revealing their faults and passion and yet evoking a sympathy for the characters.
His style has been used as a template for so many TV costume dramas (other than the ones based on his novels) that it almost seems like parody. A wonderful trilogy written by an observer who was actually there at a pivotal time in western history. Great stuff.
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on 23 May 2017
Based on Waugh's own experiences, this is a classic. Few writers can match Waugh's unique style and understated humour.
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on 17 August 2017
A good book but not a great one. As with most books of this era can be a bit daunting but keep with it.
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on 15 August 2017
A good read.
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on 22 June 2017
Another enjoyable work from this master of prose.
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on 6 January 2016
This is one of my favourite books (indeed my 'comfort' book) and Evelyn Waugh one of my favourite authors. It being a trilogy the three books trace the slow progress of a man in his thirties desperate to serve his country during the second world war. He's crippled by self doubt and his Catholic faith (Waugh being a convert to Catholicism often touches on this, as in Brideshead). His progress, despite his abilities and hard work are dogged by unfortunate misunderstandings and events beyond his control. The story is full of dry understated humour, poignancy and gives a slightly different slant to war. If you a good entertaining grown up read, let me recommend this 'book'.
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on 10 April 2017
It's been many years since I last read this book, it is one of my all-time favourites. My original copy was stored somewhere when we were having alterations to the house and simply vanished, I tried a good few years ago to buy a new copy but was told "Out of print". I then moved on until, that is, I saw an episode, April 2017, of Decline and Fall (also by Evelyn Waugh) on TV. It made me think of Sword of Honour, I checked Amazon and YES! hardback, paperback and Kindle editions all available. I bought the Kindle edition. I read the rather learned introduction and when characters and situations were mentioned it felt like sitting on a comfortable chair in a cosy room and meeting old friends. When I started the book, itself I was delighted that I still found it to be an exceptional work, I was worried that with age my tastes may have changed in fact I find I appreciate some aspects of the writing that previously I missed completely. The story is a (much embellished) dramatised account of Waugh's own WWII experiences and these were neither heroic or particularly exciting but very entertaining in the way they are presented. The upper-class origins of nearly all the protagonists allows for many eccentric idiosyncratic characters to be presented the greatest of which is Apthorpe, a great comic creation (forever Donald Sinden who played him in the original TV series back when the world and I were much younger.) If this is truly how the British Army recruited its officers via, old boys network, being in the right place at the right time, buggins turn etc. it is not surprising that it performed so poorly in the early parts of the war both in Europe and the middle and far east. The main protagonist is Guy Crouchback a not very sympathetic, rather detached, humourless and diffident character with strong religious beliefs (Roman Catholic) and as an atheist I find this fascinating, the concept of doing bad things that are then wiped away and forgiven by muttering a few words of gibberish is odd and confirms my disbelief. Guy means well and tries very hard but ends up usually, by circumstance, doing few things properly and it is his (mis)adventures that the book relates. The first part of the trilogy is lighter hearted than the remainder which darkens as it progresses. When I first read the trilogy, it was the humour that appealed now I find the more serious passages are of equal interest and that the slightly off colour characters such as Virginia, Trimmer, Hound and Ludovic are quite complex and convey more of the strange things that can happen in war. I must also mention Brigadier Richie-Hook a true (if barking mad) warrior Had there been more of his type the early humiliating defeats would have been much less likely to have happened. I can only see him as Patrick Troughton in the original TV series
I cannot recommend this book enough it is simply one of the best reads ever.
Incidentally if you have seen the C4 Sword of Honour then don’t be put off it is but a pale shadow of the book that skips too much that is, for me, interesting and integral to the overall enjoyment. Daniel Craig, as Guy, does a good job but is seriously miscast being much too heroic and rugged. Not the aesthetic, weak-chinned wonder I created in my imagination.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 29 December 2013
Through Guy Crouchback, the detached observer and would be knight, who thought his private honour would be satisfied by war, Evelyn Waugh perfectly captures the bureaucracy, pettiness, absurdity, humour, and confusion of war. It all rings true with numerous little details that make this book so satisfying. It's everything that great literature should be - beautifully written, evocative. poignant, funny, tragic and profound.

I wonder how many of the great characters are also based on real people. I really want Jumbo Trotter, Apthorpe, Ludovic, Box-Bender, Trimmer Virginia, Peregrine, and - of course - Brigadier Ritchie-Hook to be real characters, as I do, the denizens of Bellamy's club.

In April 2013, I finally read Brideshead Revisited and was captivated from start to finish. You probably don't need me to tell you it's a masterpiece. Before embarking on Sword of Honour, I would never have believed that Evelyn Waugh could have written two masterpieces. He has. Brideshead Revisited and Sword of Honour. That's in addition to all the other wonderful fiction and non-fiction.

Epic and extraordinary. You really should read Sword of Honour. A wonderful book. 5/5


Sword of Honour was originally published as three separate volumes Men At Arms (1952), Officers and Gentlemen (1955), and Unconditional Surrender (1961), however Waugh extensively revised these books to create a one-volume version "Sword of Honour" in 1965, and it is this version that Waugh wanted people to read.

The Penguin Classics version of "Sword of Honour", contains numerous informative and interesting footnotes and an introduction by Angus Calder, each time Waugh changed the text there was a note. Most of these are notes about sections that Waugh has removed with a view to ensuring that his "hero" Guy Crouchback is perceived as more worldly and experienced than was the case in the original version of the books. I can see why Waugh would choose to change the emphasis in this way and I think it makes the overall narrative more convincing and effective.
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