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Customer Review

on 19 November 2001
To anyone who has been to a prep school at any stage in their life, whether as pupil or as teacher, this is the essential reading for them, and for those who have not, it is the still going to be one of the best reads they have ever had. Paul Pennyfeather, sent down from university due to an unfortunate encounter with a drunken member of the Bollinger Club (whose yearly meetings are often forbidden because of their lunatic antics such as destroying one student's grand piano and grinding his cigars into the floor - incidentally, the club is still going, although its real name is the Bullingdons Club) consults a job agency and is sent to a small prep school in North Wales, called Llanabba Castle, run by an aged eccentric, Dr Fagin. The teachers in the school are the archetypal prep school figures, reminiscent of Geoffrey Williams and Ronald Searle creation's teachers at St Custards: Captain Grimes, the one legged cad who has an unhappy love affair with Dingy, the daughter of Dr Fagin; Mr Prendergast, an elderly teacher who made the mistake of wearing a wig on his first day and could not take it off without incurring more laughter from the boys; and Philbrick, the dogsbody, conman, and jewel thief. The boys are no better, but the parents are certainly worse: Lady Circumference, mother of little Lord Tangent (who is shot in the foot by a drunken Mr Prendergast at the start of one of the races at the disastrous sports day, which is one of the most amusing single events in the novel) is an awful woman, very, very upper-class, and very full of herself. Paul finds himself falling in love with a mother of one of his pupils, Mrs Beste-Chetwynde, and it is this love, innocent and trusting, that leads on to the exciting and tragic tale of the decline and fall of a public school boy...
Evelyn Waugh carries this story off with his customary excellence: indeed, this is one of his comic masterpieces. We can identify with the characters, who are so well depicted that we can see them, imagine that we have met them before, sympathise with their numerous problems and delight in their successes. My cousin recommended this book to me, and I enjoyed it so much that I have not only read it several times since but also read most of his other novels, and I consider him the finest author of the last century.
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