Evelyn Waugh's complex 1944 novel "Brideshead Revisited" defies easy description. On one level, it is the bittersweet recollections of middle-aged British Army Captain Charles Ryder, whose unit is to be garrisoned at the vacant estate of Brideshead during the Second World War. On another level, the bulk of the novel is Ryder's narrative of his life before the war, and his involvement with the wealthy Catholic family that owned Brideshead.
At university, the young Ryder is befriended by his fellow student Sebastian, who is flamboyant, hard-drinking, and infatuated with Ryder in a way that he does not quite recognize. He is introduced to Sebastian's dysfunctional family, the Marchmains. Ryder's relationship with Sebastian, and his later and very different relationship with Sebastian's sister Julia, make him both observer and participant in the family's fortunes.
The plot is a bit of a slow-roller. The reader is likely to be carried along by Waugh's most excellent prose, alternately funny and sad. The plot makes a significant jump half-way through, to a married Ryder returning from a stint in South America to a series of tragedies wrapped around the Marchmain's Catholic faith. The principal characters are drawn as fully rounded humans with their distinct flaws, and their humanity.
"Brideshead Revisited" is highly recommended as a classic novel of an England now gone but brought to life through Waugh's undoubted gifts as a writer.
This book has everything to make a good book: good writing, deep and well described characters, well depicted scenes, hooking plot but... when I closed the book I felt confused. What's the author trying to tell?
It's strange: I enjoyed while reading but, after closing the book I felt that all was kind of hollow.
Unfortunately, I can't connect with this author's style at this point of my life. I will give it a try at some other point.
Saw the BBC series of this when I was growing up, but never read the book. In retrospect the TV series was a very accurate representation of the book, and the images from it haunted me throughout my reading.
Really enjoyed the first 2/3 of the book, which compared well to the best F. Scott Fitzgerald works. But the religious conflict in the final third was dull and involved a lot of fatuous dialogue.