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Brideshead Revisited, The Sacred & Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder is a novel by English writer Evelyn Waugh, the life and romances of the protagonist Charles Ryder, most especially his friendship with the Flytes, a family of wealthy English Catholics who live in a palatial mansion called Brideshead Castle. Ryder has relationships with two of the Flytes: Sebastian and Julia. The novel explores themes including nostalgia for the age of English aristocracy, Catholicism, and the nearly overt homosexuality of Sebastian Flyte's coterie at Oxford University. A faithful and well-received television adaptation of the novel was produced in an 11-part miniseries by Granada Television in 1981.
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.