Brideshead Revisited is Evelyn Waugh's stunning novel of duty and desire set amongst the decadent, faded glory of the English aristocracy in the run-up to the Second World War.
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 Flyte at Oxford, then by his doomed Catholic family, in particular his remote sister, Julia, Charles comes finally to recognise his spiritual and social distance from them.
Evelyn Waugh (1903-66) was born in Hampstead, second son of Arthur Waugh, publisher and literary critic, and brother of Alec Waugh, the popular novelist. In 1928 he published his first work, a life of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and his first novel, Decline and Fall, which was soon followed by Vile Bodies (1930), A Handful of Dust (1934) and Scoop (1938). In 1939 he was commissioned in the Royal Marines and later transferred to the Royal Horse Guards, serving in the Middle East and in Yugoslavia. In 1942 he published Put Out More Flags and then in 1945 Brideshead Revisited. Men at Arms (1952) was the first volume of 'The Sword of Honour' trilogy, and won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize; the other volumes, Officers and Gentlemen and Unconditional Surrender, followed in 1955 and 1961.
If you enjoyed Brideshead Revisited, you might like Waugh's Vile Bodies, also available in Penguin Classics.
'Lush and evocative ... Expresses at once the profundity of change and the indomitable endurance of the human spirit'
In this classic tale of British life between the World Wars, Waugh parts company with the satire of his earlier works to examine affairs of the heart. Charles Ryder finds himself stationed at Brideshead, the family seat of Lord and Lady Marchmain. Exhausted by the war, he takes refuge in recalling his time spent with the heirs to the estate before the war--years spent enthralled by the beautiful but dissolute Sebastian and later in a more conventional relationship with Sebastian's sister Julia. Ryder portrays a family divided by an uncertain investment in Roman Catholicism and by their confusion over where the elite fit in the modern world. Although Waugh was considered by many to be more successful as a comic than as a wistful commentator on human relationships and faith, this novel was made famous by a 1981 BBC TV dramatization. Irons's portrayal of Ryder catapulted Irons to stardom, and in this superb reading his subtle, complete characterizations highlight Waugh's ear for the aristocratic mores of the time. Fervent Anglophiles will be thrilled by this excellent rendition of a favorite; Irons's reading saves this dinosaur from being suffocated by its own weight.