Those aren’t my stars at the bottom of that picture, I have KITTENS. I’ve used this tiny image because it was the ONLY one I could find of the cover that I had. There have apparently been six hundred and ninety seven permutations of this book (exaggerations may be exaggerated). Imagine how annoying looking for my cover with this search result was, and that was only a tiny section of it:
Anyways. I’ve heard Scarlett Johansson’s character in my husband’s favorite movie say, “Evelyn Waugh was a man!” then Giovanni Ribisi reply, “Aw come on, she’s nice,” about ten thousand times; but until I picked up Brideshead Revisited I never actually HEARD what Scarlett said.
Okay, so Evelyn Waugh was a man, and there is a really lengthy forward in this book which always puts me off because, who is this guy that is so important and this book is such a gem in comparison to all the other fantastic books out there without forwards that this book one gets one, and a thickly worded self-important sounding one at that?
So I didn’t read the forward. Then there was a letter from the author. Skipped that. Basically guys, this book is boring. It’s been made into at least two miniseries and a movie, wonderfully cast, and no doubt pored over by many an upper classman (classwoman/class-zed?) in English, but it’s boring.
Here’s what it’s about: the main character (name forgotten, rarely mentioned) is a typical college-aged scoundrel who enjoys a life with plenty of money and alcohol, yet something is missing out of life. He finds that ‘something’ when he meets the irascible Sebastian: a lovably erratic, drunk character who comes from an unimaginably wealthy old family with the unfashionable religion of Catholicism and talks to his stuffed bear. This seems to be his most charming quality. Despite the enormous prestige and wealth, all of Sebastian’s family members are imbued with a cynical world-view and a spiritual handicap that puzzles the narrator since he doesn’t believe in that God stuff.
Very exciting stuff to the main character (what IS his name?) who up to now has only met run-of-the-mill, normal atheist upper class families. This brush with the gothic romance and fashionable mystery of the Brideshead family, changes ‘x’ forever.
Waugh wraps most of his words in wonderful long evocative sentences describing youth and an England golden in memory, in those moments the story is a love letter to the world before the war. They really are quite good, but you can’t write an entire book in descriptions of course. When I went back and read (skimmed) the forward, I saw that Waugh believed the flowery vocabulary and precise diction of the English upper class was passing out of the world (it did) and wholeheartedly wrote in that style as a testament to the power that words can have. Waugh would have hated our language today, haha. Lol. Squad goals. Okay, I hate it too.
Well, Brideshead Revisited is an English garden drama without the humor or the well-written characters. Waugh’s greatest failure in my eyes was to connect in any way shape or form to the humans in the novel. It’s a story about early love, a dash of the peculiarly British mostly-platonic man-love, descent into alcoholism, and the power of religion that shapes lives. But the characters remain heavily veiled as if swathed in gauze, even when stripped to their most vulnerable moments, you don’t know who they are. And the story does drag on.
I was unmoved by the love and religion – only alluded to though the main themes of the book, and the dying (just a bit of dying). I’m quite sure it’s a classic and that I’m really missing the real point (I DO know what I was supposed to get out of it, the forward told me so) and that it’s bad form to poo on classics, but there it is: I’m a heathen and I’m moving on.