Selected by Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of the century and called "Evelyn Waugh's finest achievement" by the New York Times, Brideshead Revisited is a stunning exploration of desire, duty, and memory.
The wellsprings of desire and the impediments to love come brilliantly into focus in Evelyn Waugh's masterpiece--a novel that immerses us in the glittering and seductive world of English aristocracy in the waning days of the empire.
Through the story of Charles Ryder's entanglement with the Flytes, a great Catholic family, Evelyn Waugh charts the passing of the privileged world he knew in his own youth and vividly recalls the sensuous pleasures denied him by wartime austerities. At once romantic, sensuous, comic, and somber, Brideshead Revisited transcends Waugh's early satiric explorations and reveals him to be an elegiac, lyrical novelist of the utmost feeling and lucidity.
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.
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Enjoyable read, but over praised
A very good read with sharp writing and cutting witticism even after all these years. But the Anglo-Catholic bent and the slavish fawning to an even then antiquated classism of the 1920's British realm shows its age. If you're a devotee Downton Abbey, you'll enjoy Waugh's arch perspective.