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1. Scoop
2. Decline and Fall
3. Black Mischief
4. Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the
5. Vile Bodies
6. The Loved One
7. Men at Arms
8. The Complete Stories of Evelyn
9. Helena (Loyola Classics)
10. The Complete Short Stories (Everyman's
11. Charles Ryder's School Days and
12. A Handful of Dust (Everyman's
13. Brideshead Revisited
14. The Sword of Honour Trilogy (Everyman's
15. The Diaries of Evelyn Waugh
16. Black Mischief, Scoop, The Loved
17. The Loved One (Cascades)
18. Officers and Gentlemen
19. A Handful of Dust
20. The Essays, Articles and Reviews

1. Scoop
by Evelyn Waugh
Paperback: 336 Pages (1999-09)
list price: US$14.99 -- used & new: US$5.65
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0316926108
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
In "Scoop, " surreptitiously dubbed "a newspaper adventure, " Waugh flays Fleet Street and the social pastimes of its war correspondants as he tells how William Boot became the star of British super-journalism an how, leaving part of his shirt in the claws of the lovely Katchen, he returned from Ishmaelia to London as the "Daily's Beast's" more accoladed overseas reporter.Amazon.com Review
Evelyn Waugh was one of literature's great curmudgeons and ascathingly funny satirist. Scoop is a comedy of England'snewspaper business of the 1930s and the story of William Boot, ainnocent hick from the country who writes careful essays about thehabits of the badger. Through a series of accidents and mistakenidentity, Boot is hired as a war correspondent for a Fleet Streetnewspaper. The uncomprehending Boot is sent to the fictional Africancountry of Ishmaelia to cover an expected revolution. Although he hasno idea what he is doing and he can't understand the incomprehensibletelegrams from his London editors, Boot eventually gets the big story. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (50)

1-0 out of 5 stars Racist
I love Evelyn Waugh's writing, but I'm giving up on this book at page 88 because the racism is intolerable.

3-0 out of 5 stars Doesn't live up to reputation
A mildly amusing if dated satire on sensational journalism.It is also quite racist in the casual British manner.Our hero William Boot seems to have wandered out of a P.G. Wodehouse story, where he should have stayed, as he would have been a lot funnier."Scoop" does pick up in the second half, and the ending is comically satisfying. Worth reading, though how it makes Modern Library's top 100 list is a bit mystifying.

5-0 out of 5 stars The More Things Change, The More They Remain the Same
This masterpiece of comedy, satire, and farce worked so very well for me because it has a timeless quality about it, mainly due to its subject: the (un)workings of journalism. Don't get bogged down on the politics of the 1930s or the then state of international affairs in Europe or between the European powers and others. I think it helps to keep in mind three things while reading this savagely funny book. First, think of any and all scandals in journalism you can remember. There are so many infamous ones of both recent and vintage variety. Then think of how many times you've seen the press say how important some overseas war story was and how they were going to cover it, only to see them pack off quickly when the next even bigger story hits. Finally, think press Moguls. Obsessed press magnates in search of fame & fortune for their publications, journalistic scandals, and giving short shrift on important stories has been with us since journalism was deemed a career field. But it takes a Waugh to bring out the "fun", which he brillantly does by creating the unforgettable and unforgettably likeable William Boot, lover of all things quaint and rural, and his Addams Family-like disfunctional decaying manor and family. Transposing him by accident to not-so-war-torn East Africa and situating him with unsavory foreign correspondents becomes a sheer delight. The eclectic cast of eccentric characters is a joyous hoot. And unlike the somewhat bleak ending of Black Mischief, the earlier comedic masterpiece set in an Ethiopian-like setting, great characters like Corker and Pigge suffer, are humiliated, but at least they aren't eaten.

Anyone who likes Mike Royko's The Boss, his warts and all journalistic bio on Mayor Richard Daley the First and his beloved Chicago, will love Scoop.

5-0 out of 5 stars News has a kind of mystery
One of Evelyn Waugh's funniest novels, SCOOP is mostly a send-up of the bizarre doings of Thirties Fleet Street, particularly the lavish press empire of one Lord Copper (a thinly-disguised amalgam of Lord Beaverbrook and the Viscount Northcliffe), the imperial autocrat of the most popular British newspaper the Daily Beast. The plot is set in motion by the lovely society doyenne Julia Stitch, who attempts to work a favor for one of her young retainers John Boot by sending him to the African nation of Ishmaelia (for which read: Abyssinia), where war impends. Unfortunately by mistake his distant cousin William Boot, the author of the Daily Beast's country living column ("Feather-footed through the plashy fen passes the questing vole") is sent by mistake, and by any number of mix-ups and coincidences the inept William becomes a celebrated national journalistic hero. This is one of the favorites of all Waugh's comic novels with his fans not only because it is so genuinely funny but also because it reveals itself in its conclusion as so truly a comedy: the good end happily, as actually also do the bad (for the most part). Many of the book's jokes (such as the newspaper title the Daily Beast, and the way Lord Copper's aide-de-camp diplomatically replies in the positive and negative to his boss's assertions: respectively, "Definitely, Lord Copper" and "Up to a point, Lord Copper") have entered the cultural lexicon, but the novel still surprises with its relishable hilarious details.

3-0 out of 5 stars Too Broad a Farce
I'm generally a fan of acerbic British fiction and satire, but haven't taken the time to go back and read any Waugh until I picked up this longtime talisman of foreign correspondents. The story concerns the efforts of rival newspapers to "scoop" each other with regards to a possible war in the fictional East African Republic of Ishmaelia (which appears to be a kind of mashup of Ethiopia and Liberia). The central player in this satire is an impoverished member of the rural gentry named Boot, who pens a soporific "Rural Notes" column for a London paper called The Daily Beast. The book starts in London, where a charismatic society lady arranges to have one her proteges, an up and coming young novelist also with the surname Boot, sent to Ishmaelia by the Beast as a special correspondent (with a commensurately special salary). Alas, through a mixup worthy of P. G. Wodehouse, the paper ends up sending the other Boot, who would prefer to be left to rot in peace in the country, but can't turn down the large salary on offer. This first part of the book is a lot of fun, with lots of great comedy, a wonderfully funny country household, and the society lady, who completely runs away with the show.

Alas, she disappears from the narrative as the wrong Boot heads off by planes, trains, and automobiles to Ishmaelia. From this point on, the story is intent mainly on skewering the news business at every turn, along with businessmen, politicians, innkeepers, and pretty much any one else who comes into contact with the hapless Boot. Some readers may find the portrayal of the Africans to be offensive, although to my mind, they don't come off any worse than the European characters, and if anything, seem a great more clever. Unfortunately, like a lot of comic writing based on exaggerated behavior, the book reads a little too much like slapstick for my taste, than it does nuanced satire. Of course, humor is often a matter of taste, so others may find it vastly more amusing.

On the whole, it's a book that would benefit from a nice ten page introduction to give it some context. For example, the reason Waugh is able to paint these preposterous portraits of foreign correspondents is that he was one himself. Like the first Boot in the book, he was a shiny young novelist whose lifestyle demanded a larger income stream, one which the newspapers could provide. Several times, Waugh held his nose and traveled as a foreign corresponded for the Daily Mail, despite being an apparently indifferent journalist who thought the profession mere hackery. In that context, this book might be interpreted as a work of self-loathing, in which he pillories himself -- since, by all accounts, he really indulged in all the worst behaviors that he satirizes in the novel. In fact, he had a kind of formula, whereby he would get paid to go on a trip as a correspondent, then milk that experience for both a non-fiction travelogue and a work of fiction. His first trip to Ethiopia was the impetus for his earlier novel Black Mischief, while a trip in 1938 to cover the Italian invasion led to a widely panned travelogue called Waugh in Abyssinia and this book.

On the whole, if you like comic fiction it's worth the brief time it takes to read, if only for the opening and some great deadpan stuff throughout. Especially amusing are the cryptic telegrams Boot gets from the head office. But on the whole, it struck me more as a broad farce than a surgical satire, and thus was a little disappointing. ... Read more

2. Decline and Fall
by Evelyn Waugh
Paperback: 304 Pages (1999-09)
list price: US$14.99 -- used & new: US$5.64
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0316926078
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Subtitled "A Novel of Many Manners, " Evelyn Waugh's notorious first novel lays waste the "heathen idol" of British sportsmanship, the cultured perfection of Oxford, and the inviolable honor codes of the English gentleman. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (42)

4-0 out of 5 stars A Thinking Man's Satire
"Decline and Fall" has served as my introduction to Evelyn Waugh, and I am satisfied. This biting satire has deadpan dark humor, a protagonist whose detached observations serve the plot well, and an ending that is depressingly stark in its view of our human nature.
This novel reminds me greatly of Voltaire's "Candide" in its themes, plotting, and characterization. The novel zips along and sweeps the reader into a plethora of events, each more outrageous than the last, until it dumps you at the end with a sad realization about this "ship of fools" we call life on earth. Don't get me wrong, the novel won't depress you, but it will leave you with a lot to mull over once you close it. However, Waugh makes the journey bearable through some of the most outrageously funny lines I have encountered in literature. I laughed out loud often while reading this text.
This is a book that can easily be misread. One could read it on the surface level and get a funny story with a dope of a lead character. You would enjoy it, put it down, and move on. And that is fine. However, this novel is such a text and much more. Waugh has an innate ability to combine biting and relevant observations about society into the most ridiculous conversations between his characters. Read this text for the humor, but stay alert to the nuggets just beneath the surface and you will get a fuller experience.
Some readers may have trouble with the British colloquialisms that Waugh uses, but most can be figured out from context.
I will be exploring more of this writer. I can pay him no higher compliment that that.

3-0 out of 5 stars Somewhat amusing, but not the best.
Well, it's a frothy, surrealistic romp, and had its moments of black humor that made me laugh, but it's hard to believe that it was written by the same person who would eventually give us "Brideshead Revisited". As an admirer of Waugh, I'm glad I read it, but I would definitely never read it a second time. The story would probably work better as a screwball comedy on the silver screen.

4-0 out of 5 stars Satire, Characters, Enjoy!
"Decline and Fall" is British satire at its best.Set in the life of the British Upper Classes, this book makes light of its self importance.It is humorous both in its plot and its wording.Paul Pennyfeather, a Public school man (private school in U.S. terms) lives an improbable life and meets with a host of characters.As readers of my reviews know, the novel is not my main reading genre, but as I discover more novels like this my interest I might grow.

4-0 out of 5 stars The Satirical Rogue
Like PG Wodehouse's mischievous younger brother -- the one who pulls wings off butterflies and fries ants beneath a magnifying glass -- Evelyn Waugh tore into British hypocrisy and human stupidity with something like joyful exuberance. While most of us repent our sins and frailty, Waugh reveled in fallen human nature.

"Decline and Fall," Waugh's first book (he was already a conspicuous talent at 25), is a skewed bildungsroman, that ever-popular genre of fiction wherein a young hero or heroine embarks on a journey of self-discovery. Our hero is Paul Pennyfeather, an affable young student at Oxford who is wrongly (well, sort of wrongly) accused of indecent exposure when he is separated from his trousers in a case of mistaken-identity hazing. Like Nicholas Nickleby before him, Pennyfeather must make his own way in the world and soon lands a position as a teacher at a boys school of questionable repute (Waugh had also taught at a private school). He is assigned to give organ lessons despite having no musical ability whatsoever. "Do the best you can," is the headmaster's helpful advice. Pennyfeather is a quick study; his method for keeping a classful of unruly prepubescents occupied is quite ingenious: a reward of half a crown to whoever writes the longest essay, irrespective of quality.

With PG Wodehouse there is always affection for his characters, however dumb, brutish, vain, or insipid. With Waugh there is only sneering disdain. His Dickensian characters (Lady Cirumference and Lord Tangent, for example) are like medieval allegories of the Seven Deadly Sins: Pride, Folly, Lust, and so forth. They aren't exactly 3-dimensional, but they are certainly vivid. One is grateful that the unforgiving Waugh, though later a Catholic convert, would never sit in judgment of his fellow men except for in his fiction. For as Hamlet said, "Use every man after his desert and who should 'scape whipping.'

Though I prefer to 'scape whipping in my own life, witnessing Waugh whip others can be maliciously amusing. "Decline and Fall" is a lightning fast read--flashy and crackling with energy. Waugh takes aim at so many targets so indiscriminately (British class systems, educational institutions, prison life, brutalist German architecture, conspicuous consumption, and loose society women for starters) that one can't blame him if a few are only glancing blows. Sketchy, scattershot scenes tumble one after the other in a mad cinematic rush, and Waugh is on to the next target before you can stop to assess the damage to the last one.

He would hone his skills as a satirist in the years to come -- "Decline and Fall" is more cudgel than scalpel --but it is a quick and amusing read. As an opening salvo to Waugh's career, it certainly proved loud and attention-getting; a full-frontal assault. No doubt British society felt pummeled by Waugh's brutal Blitzkrieg.

4-0 out of 5 stars "The shadow which took his name"
On p. 163, the 25-year-old Waugh intrudes in the voice of his omniscient narrator, revealing his protagonist Paul Pennyfeather as a hollow man of the Jazz Age: "readers must not complain if the shadow which took his name does not amply fill the important part of hero for which he was originally cast." By whom? The class system? Fate? His deceased parents or uncaring guardian? Oxford's "Scone" college's bullies who frame him and the masters who expel him for "indecent behavior"? The distanced stance taken by the author towards his creation in his début novel already reveals a more complicated tale than the side-splitter full of deadpan one-liners that casual readers of this novel may have assumed.

The satire begins lightly, but as Paul's unfair expulsion shows, there's a serrated edge to this fictional undercutting of post-WWI English society. Having to fend for himself, as did Waugh, teaching in a Welsh college of less than distinguished lineage, Paul's told by the headmaster: "I have been in the scholastic profession long enough to know that nobody enters it unless he has some very good reason which he is anxious to conceal." (15) At a dinner party for his future fianceé and nemesis, Lady Beste-Chetwynde, the Vicar notes how "lay interest in ecclesiastical matters is often a prelude to insanity." (91)

Neither Church nor the gentry can provide direction, let alone education or the prisons, war profiteers or white slavers, as Paul becomes enmeshed in plans he, as the opening passage I cited demonstrates, can never outwit. The central sections of the narration may, however, be the weakest. While amusing, their pace slackens and incidents follow one another without apparent reason here and there. This may well be intended to show Paul's lack of willpower in a frenzied decade, but the novel takes on, from our distance of eight decades, too remote a tone.

It's hard to care much for any satire when the figures are all figureheads. Waugh's aware, young as he was when publishing this. The novel gains gravitas as it follows Paul's further decline and fall. A tremendous passage halfway through articulates the traditional fear behind the modern era's mask of confidence.

Grimes laments: "Our life is lived between two homes. We emerge for a little into the light, and then the front door closes. The chintz curtains shut out the sun, and the hearth glows with the fire of home, while upstairs, above our heads, are enacted again the awful accidents of adolescence. There's a home and a family waiting for every one of us. We can't escape, try how we may." (133) "As individuals we simply do not exist," he continues. We seem like "potential home builders, beavers and ants. How do we come into being? What is birth?" (134)

This reveals far more "The Waste Land"'s despair than a lighthearted send-up of Oxford, boarding school, snobs, or the smart set. Themes that "A Handful of Dust" would deepen in later years, as Alexander Waugh notes in his chronicle of his clan, "Fathers and Sons" (also reviewed by me here), make Waugh deserving of our respect for the care with which even the less-weighty works of his early years are assembled, and how they tackle, glancingly yet bruisingly, the terrors underneath the romps. His Majesty's Prison no worse than a British public school, war mongerers awaiting their investments to be paid off in the next global scrap, the uselessness of journalistic churning of the "news" to the jaded, the haplessness of religious institutions or conventional schooling: these all appear here, as Paul's long shadows.

As the prison warden Sir Wilfrid Lucas-Dockery opines about Paul: "You could see with that unfortunate man what a difference it made to him to think that, far from being a mere nameless slave, he has now become part of a great revolution in statistics." (227) The vocal register here's exact. So is that which to us turns more disturbing, with the Lady's black lover "Chokey." Waugh does play this character close to the vest, but he does show that condescension gives as well as takes-- see the "rood screen" exchange-- in a manner that may prove more subtle and durable despite Waugh also displaying his own racial prejudices. It's a complicated scene, to say the least, with more than may meet the reader too quick to cast calumny then or now. "Chokey" stays elusive to survive.

Authors from around 1930 with more solemn approaches may lodge on college reading lists, but Waugh, in his blend of effortlessly recorded dialogue and accurately rendered blather of all classes, may have brought this combination off with humane compassion, outrage, wickedness, and insight-- better than some of his more ambitious peers. As Alexander Waugh reminds us, Evelyn labored to capture how people talked as well as how they acted, and sentences here beg to be recited as testament to his skill at reminding us that we still wallow in patronizing attitudes, class stereotypes, and cruel behavior. Calling attention to this as Waugh does, he knows he is no less to blame, but at least he has the upper hand, for he expects us to recognize the foibles here and to behave better than those at whose follies we cringe as often as we chortle. That's the mark of satire that has no expiration date.

... Read more

3. Black Mischief
by Evelyn Waugh
Paperback: 320 Pages (2002-08-15)
list price: US$14.99 -- used & new: US$7.20
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0316917338
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
Black Mischief, Waugh's third novel, helped to establish his reputation as a master satirist. Set on the fictional African island of Azania, the novel chronicles the efforts of Emperor Seth, assisted by the Englishman Basil Seal, to modernize his kingdom. Profound hilarity ensues from the issuance of homemade currency, the staging of a "Birth Control Gala," the rightful ruler's demise at his own rather long and tiring coronation ceremonies, and a good deal more mischief. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (10)

5-0 out of 5 stars The Funniest Politically-Incorrect Novel of All Time!!
This is the funniest politically-incorrect novel of all time--OF ALL TIME!!It is the perfect, refreshing tonic to the age of anodyne sterility in which we now live.

4-0 out of 5 stars Furiously Funny But Not for the Faint of Heart or PC Correct
Be forewarned, this is a highly vicious but often outrageously funny satirical novel that skewers both white-Westerners and black-Africans. No one, regardless of sex, race, color, creed, national origin, or social status, is left fully clothed by the time Waugh is done showing how all "emperors" eventually have no clothes.But this is not a novel designed to delve into the inner workings of "real" characters or to discuss philosophical or religious issues like good & evil or the meaning of life. Everyone is a type (e.g., upper crust cad) or used as a necessary foil (e.g.,the paranoid French diplomat who is clueless as to how clueless his British counterparts are), so no character comes across completely as someone who actually could exist in the real world. And even though Waugh did travel extensively in Ethiopia in the 1930s, an experience he used for this novel, this is not a work designed primarily to make the reader feel as if they are getting a detailed, intimate, and realistic portrait of a place now brought to vivid life.

This is the very first Waugh novel I've read. I plan on reading more.My primary loves in 20th Century English literature are K. Amis, A. Burgess, G. Greene, and G. Orwell. Amis can be equally funny ("Lucky Jim") and his characters usually have a greater depth and more vivid life as potential people. Burgess, Greene, & Orwell usually delve deeply into the philosophical or religious issues and can bring a place to life for the reader. If you love this book, read Greene's "Our Man in Havana" or Burgess' "Devil of a State". Both are comic novels set in the 3rd world.

As comic novels go this is a 4 mainly because the last third isn't quite as funny as the first two thirds and the cynical worldview in such concentrated form is a bit wearying by the time the carnage is over and those who survive exit unredeemed and unrepentent.

4-0 out of 5 stars Joseph Conrad Meets Monty Python
"Black Mischief" is not a safe book; it delves into racial and political divides as wide now as then and lets you know its author isn't aboard for any of that 21st-century sensitivity rot. Despite or perhaps because of this it is a good book, perhaps a great book, and worthy of your time.

In the island nation of Azania, just off the coast of East Africa, Oxford-educated Emperor Seth attempts to force his backward, war-torn nation to emulate the West. Help arrives in the form of a British ne'er-do-well, Basil Seal, "a man of progress and culture" as Seth styles him. This of course means Seal is trouble as well.

As I read deeper into "Black Mischief", I was struck by two things. One was how easily it flowed, not only with Waugh's always elegant prose but the plot itself. Waugh isn't ordinarily so clean a scenarist. The other was how like Joseph Conrad's "Nostromo" this is, making the same points about First World meeting Third World. Except where "Nostromo" was clumsy and dry, Waugh sells his message with wit and surreal humor.

He even goes to the trouble of mapping out Azania, which helps a lot given it is a nation entirely of Waugh's own imagining. As the characters cross its expanse, I found myself referring back to the map in front and enjoying how well it matched up with the narrative.

When I picked up "Black Mischief", I was concerned about the obvious racial aspects. Waugh was capable of writing hurtful things about blacks as well as other groups Waugh experienced from a distance. "Remote People," published in 1931 just one year before "Black Mischief", presents Africans in the role of bloody-minded savages.

Well, there are plenty of savages in "Black Mischief", too, only most of the ones we get to know best and like least are European. Seth begins to go wrong when he tries to imitate his imagined betters, picking up and dropping one faddish craze after another, whether it be autogyros or universal contraception. "THROUGH STERILITY TO CULTURE" reads one banner.

"He'll discover every damn modern thing if we don't find him a woman damn quick," an accomplish of Seal complains. Not that Seth's gullible. The West is just too full of bad ideas.

Take a couple of middle-aged animal-rights activists who walk through Azania's impoverished streets throwing scraps for dogs and complain when children try to make off with them instead: "Greedy little wretches."

Not all the jokes go over. Waugh does hit the same points over again, like the dense senior British envoy Sir Sampson and his scheming French opposite number M. Ballon. The notion of Azania as a plaything for Western mediocrities is a worthy one, central to Waugh's point regarding former colonialists suddenly opting to lead their ex-charges on the road of improvement. I just wished he was more subtle at it, or tied that part of the story better to the rest.

But there's nothing really bad in here, at least not anything like I expected, and there's quite a bit good, even brilliant. The first chapter alone packs enough intrigue and suspense for Frederick Forsyth, and the Conradian mood, though limned with humor, stays intact throughout. There are gulp-inducing moments, and laugh-inducing ones, and the marvel is not only how often these come up but how closely together.

4-0 out of 5 stars Extremely funny
BLACK MISCHIEF is the sixth Waugh book I've read, and it's one of his funniest.The plot concerns goings-on in the fictional African empire of Azania (which is supposed to be off the coast of present day Somalia).Civil war has just erupted, and an English educated Azanian named Seth ends up the victor.He gets caught up with the British legation, including frivolous Basil Seal (an acquaintance of the recurring Waugh character - Lady Metroland).Basil is made the Minister of Moderization and has Seth's constant ear.Naturally, things spiral downward from there.BLACK MISCHIEF starts off a bit slow, and the first 75 pages are a bit tedious and confusing.However, things really take off afterwards.Waugh is always funny, but this book has more laugh-out-loud moments than most of his novels.Highly recommended for fans of Waugh and good satirical novels.

5-0 out of 5 stars Exotic Madness!
The only humor today that even comes close to that of Black Mischief, is ironically,that of the outrageous,black comedians- otherwise Waugh rules.
The whole concept of the British in exotic countries is a farce, and when mixed with Waugh's equally lunatic native characters face to face with bizarre and inexplicable Western civilization- whew- anything could and does happen. There are no noble characters, of course, but redeeming fools, which is about as good as one can get in a Wauvian satire.My favorites are the animal rights ladies who come to Africa to see that the natives are treating their livestock well.These ladies, one named Miss Tin, land in the midst of a revolution and have to hit a driver in the head with a brandy bottle to get a ride to the English settlement.They followed a fellow anti-vivesectionist cleric who led the ministry of our `dumb chums.'
There is every kind of European religion stirring up trouble and as usual, the British are completely sequesteredamongst themselves preoccupied with their gardens and other habits in blissful and selfish ignorance. The leader of these Imperialists is described as "a self-assured old booby."One of the titled females is named `Lady Everyman.'

The political relevance is so acute that it seems impossible that this was written in 1932.Waugh even seems to have some political consciousness in this book, certainly, he is gentler, on the whole while being enduringly funny. I would definitely place this as my second favorite Waugh.It has a gripping end and is a statement less of bigotry, (of which he probably was one, but who wasn't,) but also of the need to reevaluate what in the name of God all of the colonizing was about. ... Read more

4. Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead
by Paula Byrne
Hardcover: 384 Pages (2010-04-01)
list price: US$25.99 -- used & new: US$15.87
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0060881305
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description

Evelyn Waugh was already famous when Brideshead Revisited was published in 1945. Written at the height of the war, the novel was, he admitted, of no "immediate propaganda value." Instead, it was the story of a household, a family and a journey of religious faith—an elegy for a vanishing world and a testimony to a family he had fallen in love with a decade earlier.

The Lygons of Madresfield were every bit as glamourous, eccentric and compelling as their counterparts in Brideshead Revisited. William Lygon, Earl Beauchamp, was a warmhearted, generous and unconventional father whose seven children adored him. When he was forced to flee the country by his scheming brother-in-law, his traumatised children stood firmly by him, defying not only the mores of the day but also their deeply religious mother.

In this engrossing biography, Paula Byrne takes an innovative approach to her subject, setting out to capture Waugh through the friendships that mattered most to him. She uncovers a man who, far from the snobbish misanthrope of popular caricature, was as loving and as complex as the family that inspired him. This brilliantly original biography unlocks for the first time the extent to which Waugh's great novel encoded and transformed his own experiences. In so doing, it illuminates the loves and obsessions that shaped his life, and brings us inevitably to the secret that dared not speak its name.

... Read more

Customer Reviews (10)

4-0 out of 5 stars Literature or Queer Studies
Ms Byrne has written an admirable account of the real Bridesheadand the 'other' side of Evelyn Waugh. It is readable, detailed yet tightly structured around its themes.However, I would not know whether to shelve in under 'Literary' or 'Queer Studies' in the library.Honestly, every time another famous character was dropped into the narrative, I found myself saying 'Oh no, not him too.'

5-0 out of 5 stars arizona
Great read.Fluent and easy to follow.Who knew that the Waugh group was so homosexual as well as homophobic.I always suspected the latter.Thanks for putting things in perspective.

4-0 out of 5 stars Mad World:Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead
MAD WORLD is a thoughtful and basically well-researched exploration of the autobiographical features of Evelyn Waugh's novel, BRIDESHEAD REVISTED, and the mostly tragic lives of the aristocratic English family, the Lygons of Madresfield Court, who partially inspired the fictional Marchmain family.

The author is just a bit silly at times, or perhaps overdramatic is a better word - "Ann Fleming killed Evelyn Waugh" is the example that sticks in my mind - and occasionally repetitive. She also refers to Prince Vsevolod of Russia, who married Mary Lygon, as a nephew of the last Tsar, when in fact he was a distant cousin.Ms. Byrne also has the slight tendency to interject phrases such as "he must have been devastated" "it must have been very upsetting" into the narrative, a habit which acts as a intrusion of semi-personal feelings into the story.

I wonder what Evelyn Waugh would have had to say to a biographer who starts her description of how he spent his time after leaving Oxford:"Evelyn hung out with..."

The author also uses the modern term "outing" in respect to what happened to Lord Beauchamp, which I found a little jarring given the time period in which these events took place.His exile from England had deep roots, beginning withresentment felt by his brother-in-law; further dislike and distrust from the very highest people in England, regarding Lord Beauchamp's sexual indiscretions which would eventually result in Beauchamp's loss of prestige, exile from his home and much more sadly, divorce and separation from his family.Realistically I guess what happened to him qualifies as an "outing" (even if Lord Beauchamp's exposure as a homosexual didn't go all-public but was confined to members of the aristocracy).Still, using the term just seems too slight, almost 'throw-away' to accurately describe the complicated planning; the pressures brought to bear and the varied emotions involved in Lord Beauchamp's exile.

Aside from these imperfections MAD WORLD is a very good book.The chapter on Lord Beauchamp's divorce and the people behind his expulsion and exile from England was particularly good (though again the author chooses to use another modern term, "busted" in her chapter heading, which made me cringe).I enjoyed the new (to me) side to Evelyn Waugh that the author discloses (his gift for loyal and tender friendship), and learning something about the autobiographical facets that all his novels have.Waught was a writer who created brilliant and lasting fiction from his own life and from his friends and acquaintances; Ms. Byrne is at her best when describing his books and what inspired them.While not a flawless book MAD WORLD is an interesting and engrossing one.

4-0 out of 5 stars Method in the Madness
"No writer before the 19th century ever wrote about the working classes other than as grotesques or pastoral decorations.Then when they were given the vote, certain writers started to suck up to them."Evelyn Waugh.

Evelyn Waugh was one of the greatest and funniest writers in the 20th century, beginning with the jokey "Vile Bodies" all the way to the Proust like elegy of the Sword of Honour Trilogy.While this book is interesting and provides insight into Waugh's creative process of people his books with people he knew, it probably is not the final word."Mad World" is Madresfield Court, the home of the aristocratic Lygon family and friends of Waugh for several decades.

The author has done a great deal of admirable leg work in tracking down some of Waugh's inspiration for the celebrated Marchmain family in "Brideshead Revisited."There are some similarities between Lygons and their fictional counterparts.The father was hounded out of Britain under a cloud of scandal and the son indulged in various "Arcadian antics" at Oxford, while one of the sisters was a society beauty. While I had been aware of the Lygons, I was unaware of many of the particulars of their lives and the impact they had on the creation of not just the Marchmains, but other people and characters in other works of fiction by Waugh. Probably the best moment in the book for me was the assertion that Brendon Bracken, a stalwart associate of Churchill was the model of Rex Montram.Certain passages referring to Rex betting his political career on the outbreak of World War Two now make perfect sense.

Where I think the author misses the boat with Waugh is on two small, but significant points. These do not detract from the scholarship of the work as a whole, but I think are worth pointing out just the same.Really the source for a good portion of his art was his reaction to his wife's adultery and desertion of him.This is central and marks a abrupt shift in the light mood of books such as "Vile Bodies" and "Decline and Fall."From "A Handful of Dust" down to "Sword of Honour," most of Waugh's works feature this as a reoccurring plot device. Yet in this book, whose theme is how Waugh turns the events and acquaintances of his life into literature, this important theme is ignored.Waugh believed that traditional institutions like the British aristocracy represented a bulwark against social rot.Tearing down the great London townhouses to put up blocks of flats only provides Brenda Last with a venue for her affair with John Bever.

The other problem is that I wonder just how close Waugh was with the Lygons, really.The author makes a good point that Waugh wrote to at least two of the daughters rather jokey gossipy letters.Of course Waugh did this with everyone he wrote to.While he may have appropriated some details of the biographies of the Lygons, I do not think they are as central to Waugh's inner life as Paula Byrne makes out.

That said, this is an enjoyable meditation on the creative process and well worth reading for any true fan of Waugh's writings

4-0 out of 5 stars Et in Madresfield Court Ego
This one really couldn't miss, and it doesn't. Despite the multiple biographies of Evelyn Waugh and his circle no one yet has really made clear the story of his infatuation in the Twenties and Thirties with the aristocratic Lygon family, the inspiration for the doomed Flyte family of his great work BRIDESHEAD REVISITED. The Flytes are so steeped in wealth, glamor and decay that a biography about their real-life originals is interesting to just about anyone interested in Waugh or his era. Like his narrator in BRIDESHEAD Charles Ryder, the middle-class Waugh first became infatuated with the family's gay and alcoholic second son at Oxford: Hugh Lygon, like Sebastian Flyte, was considered a kind of demigod on campus because of his beauty and gentleness. Eventually Waugh's interest became focused more on Hugh's sisters: the glamorous Maimie, the model for Julia and a girlfriend of Prince George, and the plain but loveable "Coote" who served as the original for Cordelia. Like the Flytes' paterfamilias the Marquis of Marchmain, the head of the Lygons, the Earl Beauchamp, lived in disgrace apart from his pious wife because of his sexual malfeasances, but in this case the Earl had been hounded out of society by his brother-in-law the Duke of Westminster for his homosexual affairs. Paula Byrne unravels the story here of all the Lygons, which has hitherto been alluded to but gone largely unrecorded, and of the family's close relationship for decades with Waugh.

Along the way, Byrne also provides an intelligent reappraisal of Waugh's character. Biographies are often vastly hleped if their authors genuinely feel affection for their biographical subjects; this does not mean they have to ignore their flaws, but rather that they have to make us feel why their personalities are worth our attention. Byrne clearly had an agenda in writing this book of rehabilitating Waugh from his by-now somewhat disreputable public image; she works hard to dispel the notions that he was a cruel crank by pointing out that most of the most truly awful things he went on record as saying were in order to assume a persona for his own (and his friends') amusement. So far, so good: unfortunately, Byrne stretches too far when she tries to argue he is nothing like the toadying hanger-on to aristocracy he has been popularly supposed to be. Despite her efforts to show us Waugh could be critical of his friends in high places it's all too clear from her own compelling narrative that he adored knowing people with titles and did everything he could to be reinvited to the Lygon's seat of Madresfield Court (which was more of the model of the Victorian Gothic pile Hetton Abbey from his A HANDFUL OF DUST that the Baroque palace of BRIDESHEAD REVISITED). Yet given how glamorous the Lygons were--and how they fanned his imagination for not just one but several of his novels--it's impossible to find much fault with this if you're interested in Waugh's writing at all. Byrne is also quite a good writer, and her narrative is beautifully structured; you really become curious as to what will happen to the doomy Lygon siblings as the book proceeds. ... Read more

5. Vile Bodies
by Evelyn Waugh
Paperback: 336 Pages (1999-09)
list price: US$14.99 -- used & new: US$7.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0316926116
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Evelyn Waugh's second novel, "Vile Bodies" is his tribute to London's smart set. It introduces us to society as it used to be but that now is gone forever, and probably for good. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (30)

4-0 out of 5 stars You Can't Go Wrong With Waugh At His Peak
Vintage Waugh: vivid scenes, sharp dialogue (even when spoken by insipid characters - the gift of a true master), highly amusing set pieces. Nobody does spite so well. And the final scene has to be one of the best in all of 20th century lit., up there with the finale to The Trial. Waugh had a knack for turning his tart comedies around for surprisingly haunting endings. Sometimes it comes off artificial, as in his imperfect masterpiece, A Handful of Dust. No such problem here.

5-0 out of 5 stars Oh you pretty and bright young things
Evelyn Waugh's "Vile Body" is probably one of the funniest novels ever. His perception for satire is what keeps the laughing coming. His characters are, most of the time, airheads with few, or none, sense of reality - what make them even more hilarious.

"Vile Bodies" is a book about the 1920's young people, but it still carries a resemblance to today's youngsters - maybe that is because people are people, no matter what or when. Times have changed, but not the human beings.

Waugh wrote "Vile Bodies" through a turbulent period of his life - the ending of his marriage. As a consequence as the narrative unfolds, we can notice a changing of his world view, until the pessimist and visionary end. This is a novel about a civilization that is about to crash, times that are about to cease to exist. Nevertheless, the characters - specially the bright young things - are up to parties, drinking and sex, what does not mean love, at least, not all the time.

If Waugh wasn't so funny in his satire, this could be a forgettable book, but his perception - and sense of humor - are what make "Vile Bodies" unforgettable and unputdownable. At the end he leaves his reader with a bitter taste, and it comes perfectly to close a story about times that are changing - not necessarily for better.

3-0 out of 5 stars Careening, veering, madcap, all over the map
This strange satire of smart-set London in a sort-of early '30s feels as rapidly written as the novels its quondam protagonist Adam feels he'll have to dash off at one a month for a year to gain any income. Waugh anticipates "A Handful of Dust" in its bleak ending, and follows "Decline and Fall" (see my review) in its send-up of mores. It's darker, however, and mostly grim.

"Other prominent people were embarking, all very unhappy about the weather; to avert the terrors of sea-sickness they had indulged in every kind or civilized witchcraft, but they were lacking in faith." (4) The moral censure, however casually or insistently applied, stings through the tawdry trappings that drape this critique of a world where, as Fr. Rothschild warns, "radical instability" looms. The rich cavort, but a suicide in an oven and death by chandelier also enter the frivolity. War threatens to break out again, and beneath the chatter, anxiety lurks.

That Jesuit later opines of the young folks: "They had a chance after the war that no generation has ever had. There was a whole civilization to be saved and remade--and all they seem to do is to play the fool." (183) There's a despair underneath the endless motor-car racing chapters and gambling and drinking that betrays hollowness, and the ending of this novel is one of the oddest I have ever encountered in its evocation of this emptiness beneath the facade of extravagance, consumption, and energy expended as waste.

I felt, given the novel appeared in 1930, that Waugh's aside must have reflected the fate of some episodes he intended to include. You get the impression the more daring scenes suffered on the cutting-room floor. Of an editor: "it was one of his most exacting duties to 'ginger up' the more reticent of his manuscripts and 'tone down' the more 'outspoken' until he had reduced them all to the acceptable moral standard of his day." (32)

There's a madcap series of loosely-linked, if barely so, episodes, but the storyline appears to matter little. I felt frustrated by this lack of cohesion, but Waugh for his second novel does not appear to care much about an intricate, clever plot. This may mirror the insubstantial, flimsy nature of the entire milieu through which his characters careen. Dashing about, falling in and out of bed if not love, the characters are types, but barely recognizable. They yammer and sigh, all the same, as at a late-night party where a dozen of them form "that hard kernel of gaiety that never breaks." (69) Out of this woeful vision, a wake-up call comes-- after many languid mornings after, in a sudden and disturbing manner-- for us and for Adam.

4-0 out of 5 stars `All this fuss about sleeping together.For physical pleasure I'd sooner go to my dentist any day.'
Adam Fenwick-Symes is an unheroic hero. Adam's engagement to Nina Blount is called off when the manuscript of his book is burned by a customs official.Adam's livelihood depends on this manuscript and the customs official's `livelihood depends on stopping works like this coming into the country.'Alas, poor Adam.On the periphery of the Bright Young Things, in that hectic period between World Wars I and II, Adam struggles for success.He is given money, then loses it, obtains a job as a gossip columnist, then loses it.His on and off engagement to Nina reflects his on and off financial prospects.

Life is a whirl of parties, taking place in hotels, houses, at 10 Downing Street (although no-one realised that until the next day) and aboard a zeppelin.It is certainly satirical and sometimes a parody of the times as well.Alas, bright lights both attract and destroy.By the end of the novel, Adam's circle of friends has largely disintegrated and Adam is on a battlefield in Europe an ending which seems curiously fitting.

I have had this novel on my bookshelf for years.I picked it up on a recent rainy day and enjoyed it immensely.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

5-0 out of 5 stars Vile Bodies is a witty look at London's bright young things during the heyday's of the roaring twenties by master satirist Waugh
Vile Bodies is the second novel published by Evelyn Waugh. It saw the light of day in 1930 remaining in print ever since. The novel contains characters who also appear in Waugh's first novel "Decline and Fall."
Waugh's theme is the decadence of Britain in the interwar period. Don't let that dour theme frighten you! Waugh is funny writing a clean prose easy to comprehend and chuckle over at his verbal fireworks of witty and outre chatter and characters.
The leading character is young Adam Fenwick Symes based on Waugh. Like his creator, Adam is a young writer. He is love with the changeable aristocratic flapper Nina Blount. Nina and Adam conduct a long engagement punctuated by breakups and reconciliations. Will they marry? Read the book!
Nina's uncle is a fatuous elderly aristocrat who forgets faces, names and what is going on. He is an enchanting figure who could have stepped out of a Dickens novel! Other weird characters include: a kooky Prime Minister of Great Britain; an Amy Semple-McPherson style evangelist named Melrose Ape and the hilarious but tragic Margot Metroland. There is also a major who wins thirty-five thousands for Adam at the track but is never there to pay off the impecunious young hero of our tale. The novel ends with Adam on a battlefield as the bright young things in London continue to drink, carouse and live life.
The novel shows Waugh's irony and wit in full force. He is one of the best 20th century stylist writing in English. This book has many characters, not many pages and a wild plot. It is a book to enjoy, reread and share with friends.
... Read more

6. The Loved One
by Evelyn Waugh
Paperback: 164 Pages (1999-09)
list price: US$13.99 -- used & new: US$4.48
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0316926086
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
Mr. Joyboy, an embalmer, and Aimee Thanatogenos, crematorium cosmetician, find their romance complicated by the appearance of a young English poet.Amazon.com Review
The prolific Waugh--an English novelist and satirist perhapsbest known for BridesheadRevisited--described this slim, vicious comedy as "a littlenightmare produced by the unaccustomed high living of a brief visit toHollywood." The setting is the L.A. funeral industry, where WhisperingGlades provides deluxe service to deceased stars and their families,and the Happier Hunting Ground does the same for dead pets. (AtWhispering Glades, staff must refer to the corpses only as "LovedOnes.") The industry provides a perfect foil for Waugh's deadpanwit--and an apt metaphor for the movie business. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (167)

5-0 out of 5 stars Mortuary Affairs
I can't recommend this novella enough. Blisteringly funny and biting satire of the United States, really southern California/LA, immediately after WW II. Thankfully Waugh is equally critical of the British expatriate community. Both the subject of death and the funeral home industry could be off putting in the hands of a novice, but in the hands of a master like Waugh the comedy comes through. The name of the main female character, Ms Thanatogenos, is classic: one who produces longing for death! The macabre ending is a comedy classic. Now I need to make a pilgrimage to see Forest Lawn Cemetary, the source for Waugh's Whispering Glades Cemetary and its cousin Happier Hunting Ground pet cemetary!

5-0 out of 5 stars This deserves five stars
I haven't read this recently, but have fond memories of it from years ago.

The main reason I'm writing this is to counter the 15 one-star reviews
that were written by the same person. Check them out: They're all
written by "A Customer", and they all show the same literary style
of a mildly-retarded thirteen-year-old.

5-0 out of 5 stars Unsentimental?
Amazon users' favorite review of Waugh's 'The Loved One' : "...those who read it will uncover a fabulous entertainment precisely because of its total lack of sentiment."

Even after the author seemingly presented himself enough times as dispassionate about Hollywood, the subject is convoluted. I should know, I grew up in L.A. Therefore, I hardly see where the following passage, for example, is demonstration of an author who cares not of his characters, or who despises sentiment and who believes that a true artist must sacrifice sentimentality in order to pursue hard truths, as has been stated elsewhere on the web.

"Aimee Thanatogenos spoke the tongue of Los Angeles; the sparse furniture of her mind -- the objects which barked the intruder's shins -- had been acquired at the local High School and University; she presented herself to the world dressed in obedience to the advertisements; brain and body were scarcely distinguishable from the standard product, but the spirit-- ah, the spirit was something apart; it had to be sought afar; not here in the musky orchards of the Hesperides, but in the mountain air of the dawn, in the eagle-haunted passes of Hellas. An umbilical cord of cafes and fruit shops, of ancestral shady businesses (fencing and pimping) united Aimee, all unconscious, to the high places of her race. As she grew up the only language she knew expressed fewer and fewer of her ripening needs; the facts which littered her memory grew less substantial; the figure she saw in the looking-glass looked less recognizably herself..."

Romance and sentimentality, the inner depths of a woman's sensual psychology, are not confined to some cheap joke on the Simpsons. They can be part of a complex human psychology that, yes, may unfortunately include the compromise of otherwise vibrant people into cheapened, gullible automatons, especially in America, Vidal's 'farm.' Waugh's perfect little gem is a tragedy, a romantic, sentimental tragedy, more than it is a satire. In fact, it is these former things more than anything else, as I see it, and only uses the literary form of satire because there's no other way to describe this god damned hell hole of a town.

-Peter Reilich

4-0 out of 5 stars A good criticism of America's Hollywood
This book is not a monumental work, nor is it extremely profound, the main character however is a man that the reader cannot fully understand. Once I finished this book I was considerably more puzzled about Dennis' character than I was at the beginning. It is unpredictable from the start and a difficult book to put down. The ridiculous characters created by Waugh are what he might consider "typical Americans", unrefined, overly-dramatic, and confused. A note at the beginning of the book suggests that Waugh wrote the book after a visit to Hollywood in the middle of the 20th century and it is somewhat apparent as you read "The Loved One" that he has a disregard for American "values" or "character" and as an American reader you can see for yourself what absurdities reside in our way of life, both then and now. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in good, humorous literature, maybe not to a casual reader, however.

3-0 out of 5 stars Death Rites in the Cross Hairs
"The Loved One" the novella by Evelyn Waugh caused quite a sensation when it appeared in 1948. This satiric piece which jabbed fun at the Hollywood fascination with the beauties of death at places like the necropolis Forest Lawn spawned a hilarious movie laden with stars, but today the whole enterprise seems rather tame and insipid. The story is a slight one that is simplistic and bare bones in its structure. The same satire written today, I think, would be told with more intensity and would be far more deadly in its sting. Now the ideas have grown passé and well-plowed by any number of writers. Nathaniel West covered some similar territory in "The Day of the Locust" in 1939.
Dennis Barlow is a young Brit living with Sir Francis Hinsley in Hollywood, and he works for an upscale pet cemetery called The Happier Hunting Ground. When Sir Francis finds that he's been canned by the movie moguls, he tops himself, and Dennis becomes acquainted with the activities of the Whispering Glades Memorial Park which elevates death to an art form. Working there with the chief artistic mortician Mr. Joyboy is cosmetician Aimée Thanatogenos, a non-too-bright girl, who develops crushes on Dennis and Joyboy. Thanatos in Greek mythology was the personification of death.
Aimée seeks counsel from a newspaper advice columnist who thinks she is a joke. When Dennis pawns off the words of famous poets as his own work, she falls for it. She loses faith in Dennis when she find out he works in a pet cemetery. Joyboy is more enamored of his mother than he is poor Aimée. He has become an expert at giving corpses a "Radiant Childhood Smile."
This is black comedy and satire that doesn't pretend to present real people in real situations. There is little subtlety, and I wonder if it wouldn't have been done in a more biting and more visceral style if done today.
I have the feeling that Waugh, the compleat Englishman was not only holding up to ridicule America's fascination with death rituals, but was snobbishly sneering at his American cousins.
The characters in the book are caricatures, and the plot can hardly elicit any sympathy from readers. It's a clever plot, but I think the book shows its age. It reads now like a light, breezy story rather than a searing satire. It's a black comedy without a touch of sentimentality or human feeling.
... Read more

7. Men at Arms
by Evelyn Waugh
Paperback: 352 Pages (2000)
list price: US$15.99 -- used & new: US$4.49
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0316926280
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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The first volume of Evelyn Waugh's masterful trilogy about war, religion, and politics. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (20)

4-0 out of 5 stars Standing Orders
"Men at Arms" is the first volume in Evelyn Waugh's trilogy that covers not only war but also religion and politics, popular topics for the writer.It is the tale of thirty-five-year-old Guy Crouchback who feels that in order to make something of his somewhat wasted life he should enter the war effort, which doesn't prove to be an easy task.What Guy finds is not what he expected - a life of monotony and absurdity that make World War II and all its tragedy seem distantly removed from soldierly life as he knows it.

After trying every channel that he can, Guy Crouchback finally finds a placement in a Halbredier brigade, serving as an elder statesmen of sorts for the younger men who call him "Uncle", sometimes affectionately, sometimes not.Guy struggles to make sense of the purpose of all their training and moving about, just as he struggles to maintain his Catholic faith in trying times.He is a lonely, divorced bachelor who always seems to unwittingly find himself out of sorts with his fellow soldiers and commanders.Life in the Halberdier brigade is certainly not what he expected, and when he finally does get a taste of war, Crouchback finds himself under the threat of a court martial.

For a novel about war there is very little actual fighting that goes on, at least in terms of battle, for there are numerous absurd fights among the soldiers.Waugh created a varied cast of characters - the extremely unlikable Apthorpe who clings to yet pushes Guy away and the intentionally funny one-eyed oft-injured Ritchie-Hook, brigade commander - each character filling a stereotype perhaps of why men join in the fight.The novel is definitely dated in places, with Waugh using terms (like "thunder box") which have little or no relevance to today's readers.The novel wraps up rather quickly, but perhaps that is due to its continuance in the next novel, "Officers and Gentlemen".In spite of its humor, "Men at Arms" offers some very touching and insightful commentary on war and those two no-no's, religion and politics.

5-0 out of 5 stars A thoughtful comic veneer on the horror of world war....
Comedy and Tragedy are the two masks of theatre, and so art. Evelyn Waugh's "Men at Arms" is the first volume of his "Sword of Honour" trilogy, and places the tragedy of war squarely in the comical camp. The tale is not as bumptious as "Decline and Fall" or as mannered and arch as "Vile Bodies" and instead invokes a tone of comfortable middle-age where a hero has accepted himself, and chosen a goal in life (to serve in the Army to defeat the Huns) almost as an afterthought to relief from boredom on a sun-dappled golden Italian coast. Hilarity ensues as he discovers what real army life is like, versus the romantic or practical versions of it.

There is plenty of romanticism, however, with scattered passages invoking the brotherhood of men at arms being an ancient and good thing. But the more telling themes are of Catholicism lightly but faithfully adhered to under circumstances that are always temporary, and that the vast majority of military success and failure is produced by random decisions that are either followed with precision or ignored, and therefore spirit, faithfulness, perseverance, and honor actually are the winning elements....not logistics, tactics, force or might. There is an additional theme of minor points of Catholic theology that serve as delightful McGuffins for plot twists and ironic situations.

The volume also contains a passing reference to the hero reading Graeme Greene's "The Heart of the Matter" and contemplating the character of Scroobie, which for buffs of 20th century English Catholic literature is delightful.

Waugh is an excellent writer of subtle and poignant comic wit. You don't even feel the knife going in, until you are laughing so hard you finally tear your sides.

4-0 out of 5 stars Ironic Story of War
In MEN AT ARMS, Waugh writes about the experiences in 1939 and 1940 of Guy Crouchback, the scion of an old aristocratic English family that has lost its money. The backdrop for Guy's experiences is England's dark days at the start of World War II--the Blitzkrieg of Poland, the Twilight War, the Battle of France, Churchill's assumption of power, and the Battle of Britain. In this parlous time, Waugh shows Guy finding a position in the army, training with the Royal Corps of Halberdiers, assuming home guard duties, and then participating in a poorly defined mission in Senegal, as his nation is fighting for its survival. Throughout, Waugh focuses on the small issues of Crouchback's life--the people he meets, the training he receives, the eccentricities and shenanigans of the soldiers--as he tries to do his duty and contribute to the great cause of his country.

In telling this story, Waugh absolutely piles on the irony, which surely culminates in this novel's final few chapters, when Guy finally participates in military action and shows soldierly concern for a hospitalized fellow officer. Ultimately, Waugh's ironies--the huge disconnect between Guy's honorable and decent intentions and his actual experiences--are the true subject of this book, with Waugh showing that, on the soldier's level, war borders on sad and twisted farce.

In MEN AT ARMS, Waugh's primary characters--Crouchback, Apthorpe, and Ritchie-Hook--are soldiers who, within the limits of their personalities, perform their duty. Never do they wonder about soldiering or question the values of the Halberdiers. This is not, in other words, profound literature in which characters grow and question their assumptions. Instead, this is a novel about the absurdity of duty. And, it's probably hilarious, at moments, to Brits, who would be fully attuned to its slightly odd class-conscious characters.

Waugh certainly writes gracefully and with great pace. Further, he is entertaining and manages to keep his story interesting, even though nothing very interesting happens until the very end. While not great fiction, this novel is fun and highly readable and I'm hooked. I believe the next book in Waugh's THE SWORD OF HONOR trilogy is OFFICERS AND GENTLEMEN.

4-0 out of 5 stars The thin line between farce and tragedy
Few authors explore the juxtaposition of tragedy, reality and farce as frankly and yet compassionately as Evelyn Waugh. His everyman heroes - to include Crouchback, the central character of this tale - seem intuitively to understand and uncomplainingly accept that rather than representing points on a continuum, tragedy/reality/farce exist simultaneously, and that the only thing a good Englishman can do in the face of the chaos that inevitably ensues is to strive to do his duty, preserve his dignity, and maintain a stiff upper lip. Could be that Waugh is just an adept social satirist - but I suspect his insight has a lot to do with growing up British. Goodness knows, in 3000 years of history the English have had ample opportunity to observe how often farce and tragedy coexist. This story provides many, many examples of both in the run-up to WW2, embedded in a tale that may leave you - as it left me - simultaneously laughing and mourning.Excellent read.

5-0 out of 5 stars Apthorpe Gloriosus
This is my favourite Evelyn Waugh novel.It is classically perfect and very funny.It is the only one of the Sword of Honour books that is comic, though it has a lot of weight to it.Apthorpe is one of the best characters in literature, funny, tragic sympathetic, annoying, a multi-facetted creation and very memorable.This edition is ideal, with an attractive, decent-sized typeface and printed in black, comfortable and attractive to read.Along with the original hardbacks it is the best edition I have seen. This is Evelyn Waugh with real gravitas. ... Read more

8. The Complete Stories of Evelyn Waugh
by Evelyn Waugh
Paperback: 611 Pages (2000-09-20)
list price: US$19.99 -- used & new: US$10.34
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0316926604
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
Now in paperback, 39 short fiction works by Evelyn Waugh are available in onecomplete collection.Amazon.com Review
Mordant, mirthful, and unrelenting in their lampoon of aristocratic mischief, Evelyn Waugh's novels have earned him a permanent place in the literary pantheon. But this cantankerous master--the scion, by the way, of a decidedly middle-class family of publishers and writers--was no less adept when it came to the short form. Indeed, Waugh first broke into print in 1926 with "The Balance: A Yarn of the Good Old Days of Broad Trousers and High Necked Jumpers," an early story that suggests a modernized and misanthropic P.G. Wodehouse. And he continued to write short fiction throughout the rest of his career, all of which has now been collected in the delectable Complete Stories of Evelyn Waugh.

The first few entries in the collection capture a kinder, gentler author, not yet red at the verbal tooth and claw. But by 1932, when he wrote "Love in the Slump," Waugh's eye for the black-comic detail was firmly in place:

It rained heavily on the day of the wedding, and only the last-ditchers among the St. Margaret's crowd turned out to watch the melancholy succession of guests popping out of their dripping cars and plunging up the covered way into the church.... A doctor was summoned to attend the bridegroom's small nephew, who, after attracting considerable attention as a page at the ceremony by his outspoken comments, developed a high temperature and numerous disquieting symptoms of food poisoning.
Waugh's wit only sharpened throughout the succeeding decades, and the very texture of his prose thickened (although it never took on much in the way of modernist adipose tissue). In "Compassion," a 1949 tale that belies the author's vaunted anti-Semitism, a mere glimpse of some Yugoslavian partisans leads to this superabundant sentence: "He passed ragged, swaggering partisans, all young, some scarcely more than children; girls in battle dress, bandaged, bemedalled, girdled with grenades, squat, chaste, cheerful, sexless, barely human, who had grown up in mountain bivouacs, singing patriotic songs, arm-in-arm along the pavements where a few years earlier rheumatics had crept with parasols and light, romantic novels." Nobody can accuse Waugh of squishy sentimentality--remember, romantic prose is strictly for convalescents. Still, The Complete Stories offers an accurate and stupendously entertaining vision of human folly, no less effective for being administered in smaller doses. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (8)

4-0 out of 5 stars The way things were.
It was a nice collection of his stories.Not quite complete, but a nice collection.

4-0 out of 5 stars An odd but interesting assortment
To lump together the contents of this book as "stories" is a bit misleading. It includes unused or uncompleted fragments from novels, some clever but forgettable quick sketches published in magazines, one or two genuine short stories, and some very unfortunate juvenilia and senilia. Waugh's stories are mostly inferior to his novels, but there are one or two gems here.

The most rewarding discovery for me was two chapters from Work Suspended, a novel Waugh started during the war but never finished. In it he puts aside the broadly satirical point of view of his early novels in favor of the more realistic and subjective style that would find its culmination in Brideshead Revisited and the Sword of Honour trilogy. I can only guess why he didn't finish it -- certainly the difficult circumstances of the war were a primary reason, but the bits included here suggest that he was just on the verge of painting himself into a corner, plotwise. Read it and decide for yourself.

The other delightful surprise is the last story, Basil Seal Rides Again, in which we rejoin the memorably cynical antihero of the early novels for one last escapade on the threshold of old age. If only Waugh had returned to that vein a little earlier, but alas, the rest of the postwar stories seem to reflect only his undisguised bitterness at the (for him) dystopia of the British welfare state.

Those who like A Handful of Dust (which I consider his masterpiece) might want to read the two alternative endings Waugh wrote, The Man Who Liked Dickens (published separately as a short story), and By Special Request, a decidedly inferior version.

There's also Charles Ryder's Schooldays, a sort of prequel to Brideshead Revisited, which seems not to have been published at all until the success of the TV series caused it to be unearthed.

But if you're new to Waugh, don't start with this book. Read one of the early novels first -- I especially recommend Decline and Fall, but Vile Bodies or Black Mischief would also be a good choice.

4-0 out of 5 stars Mockery and Company
Besides the fact that many think he's a woman, Evelyn Waugh is one of those greatly misunderstood writers. With the slapstick humor of P.G. Woodhouse, the subtlety and irony of E.M. Forster, the sarcasm and mockery of Oscar Wilde, the eloquence of English of Henry James, and the social criticism of Swift, Waugh's stories are delightfully filled with attributes all of.

His stories are prevalently snapshots into a marriage or some aristocratic relationship between two either ignorant or vile parties. His characters are not likable, but somehow it's so seductive to go on reading about these awful people. My personal favorite story is about a husband who, worried about his wife's fidelity, buys her a dog named after him to remind him of her while he travels to Africa on business. She, however, begins an affair with another man, only to end it not because of her husband, but because of the dog. This relationship mirrors her marriage, and in turn, she `dumps' the dog for another one. The rejected dog goes on to bite the nose of his former owner. In another story, a newly married couple is accidentally separated on the night of their honeymoon. The husband, somewhat not in the throws of love, decides to visit on old college buddy. This instigates a trail of incidents, all unfortunate, that prevents the couple from uniting for a week. The wife, realizing that she doesn't particularly miss her new husband, decides it might be better not for them to ever meet again.

Sit down for 10 minutes at a time with these unabashed comedies. If you like to smirk, you will love these.

4-0 out of 5 stars Like Bathing In Bubbles And Acid
Meanness to your fellow man is no virtue unless you write fiction, especially the kind perfected by the 20th century's most celebrated malcontent, Evelyn Waugh. Then it can be quite fun, especially when offered small but pungent doses like you get here.

A collection of Waugh's shorter fiction, including several novellas and some pieces written while a child and college student, "The Complete Stories Of Evelyn Waugh" is an entertaining, satisfying demonstration of both the breadth and wit of one of English fiction's finest stylists, not to mention a place to get to know Waugh better after reading his better-known novels like "Handful Of Dust" and "The Loved One."

You don't think of Waugh as a punchy writer, at least I didn't from reading the above novels and especially his "Sword Of Honor" trilogy. When your most successful film adaptation runs 11 hours, a writer isn't expected to shine in short sprints. But all his novels have their sharp dramatic moments, sudden reversals and even shock endings. Waugh was best known for his dialogue and descriptive prose, but "Complete Stories" drives home the point that Waugh could spin a yarn and cap it off with the best of them.

Take perhaps the two best-known stories here, "Bella Fleace Gave A Party" and "Mr. Loveday's Little Outing," both of which showcase Waugh's celebrated misanthropy with stories that are not only keenly realized but carry you along at a brisk pace before dropping you on a dime. You feel for sad Bella, especially, yet Waugh's satirical send-up of social mores leaves a delicious aftertaste, however cruelly presented, because of the cleverness of his invention.

Other stories work that way, too. "Incident In Azania," with its story of a young woman kidnapped in Africa, could be an O. Henry story, namely "The Ransom Of Red Chief." "The Sympathetic Passenger" reminds one of Stephen King, a story of picking up the wrong hitchhiker that is frightening, funny, and gallops along to a quick jolting conclusion.

As a dog lover, my favorite story has to be "On Guard," a gentler tale about a suitor who buys his ladylove a dog named Hector and instructs it to keep any other likely Romeos away until his return from sea, a "commission" the pup takes very seriously. "He understands everything," the woman coos, not realizing how right she is as he barks at and pees on every male who walks through her door.

There's also a couple of forays into science fiction, not to mention a prequel to "Brideshead Revisited," and an alternate ending to "Handful Of Dust" worth reading for those who liked those books at least. Even the less successful works, of which there are a few, are entertaining most of the way through, not to mention illuminating of Waugh's singular mindset, which could look compassionately one moment upon the plight of Jewish refugees in the Balkans and serve up a farcical matrimonial murder the next.

The biggest drawback to this volume is the lack of any secondary material. No introduction, no footnotes, not even headers above each of the stories telling you when they were written or why. It's a sizeable omission, especially for the juvenilia, where spelling mistakes are about the only clue you get as to the author's age.

But there's no better place to get Waugh in his most concentrated form, a perfect companion for a trip to idle away an hour under the sun, pondering life's arbitrary cruelties from multiple vantage points in the company of a cheerful, fascinating cynic.

5-0 out of 5 stars For Wauvian Worshippers
Evelyn Waugh is the author of my favorite book, "Decline and Fall" and I am also extremely positive about most of his other novels. This volume would have been better named the Complete Short Fiction as it is more a study of starts, new endings, periods, etc. and some short stories. This must be part of a Waugh-obsessed person's library, and I consider myself one of that distinction. ... This collection is like a lost treasure map for his familiars.It includes a story which can only be an attempt to subvert a considerable anti-semetic theme in his work.It provides a time and place coincidental with the failure of his marriage that his fictional marriages carry sinister, if comedic overtones.He even wrote self-parody, in the characters that were bloated boors, alchohol reddened old men, undeniably like himself.

Frankly, I can't imagine a world without the old impossibly wicked, toad. ... He was gallingly honest when it came to intolerance for silly, selfish theater of human beings. He skewered irresistably, an African royal celebration desperately trying to seem European. And the book adds to his best known cruelty toward the champagne swilling beautiful young things, lacking in the most basic human instincts, especially towards children, passion for others or ideals.(He was not considered a loving parent, by any means.)
These are great boons to those of us who want more, having been through everything else so often. Waugh's work is shocking and hilarious. I only wish he could return briefly and leave us something on the politically correct.But as that will surely not come to pass, I must say, that this volume is a great footnote, to the god of caustic disdain, to be read in bits and pieces- forever. ... Read more

9. Helena (Loyola Classics)
by Evelyn Waugh, George Weigel
Paperback: 239 Pages (2005-02)
list price: US$12.95 -- used & new: US$7.15
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 082942122X
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Helena is the intelligent, horse-mad daughter of a British chieftan who is suddenly betrothed to the warrior who becomes the Roman emperor Constantius. She spends her life seeking truth in the religions, mythologies, and philosophies of the declining ancient world. This she eventually finds in Christianityóand literally in the Cross of Christ. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (12)

4-0 out of 5 stars An oddity for Waugh -- but well worth reading
This is an oddity for Waugh -- but well worth reading.

I was impressed by his historical research to begin with. The author admits where he filled gaps in the known facts with his own inventions. It has all the mastery of writing that Waugh was known for and is full of wit but not the biting sarcastic wit of much of Waugh. Altogether it's a heartfelt and gripping read.

3-0 out of 5 stars Helena not his best
"Constantius [Caesar of the West] ruled sedately in Gaul. Constantine [his son by Helena] followed the fortunes of Galerius [Caesar of the East] and the Eastern army. Beastly Maximian [Emperor of the West] bullied the Italians and Africans. The work of the empire prospered, frontiers everywhere restored and extended, treasure accumulated, but out of sight on the shores of the Propontis [where the emperor Diocletian ruled], where the vested chamberlains stood like dummies, motionless as the stuffed thing that had hung in the Persian court [the emperor Valerian, whom they had captured and killed and displayed stuffed], and the eunuchs scuttled like pismires when a soldier passed them; in the inmost cell of the fetid termitary of power, Diocletian was consumed by huge boredom and sickly [he] turned toward [the thought of] his childhood's home."--p. 96.

This paragraph is a sample of the best of Waugh's artistry in "Helena," and a fair sample of the momentary difficulties the reader will perhaps encounter. The characters I name as a convenience will be familiar to the reader. Where I have added emphasis you will note the strong counter-indications undermining the notion that the empire is doing very well. The eunuchs scuttle like noisome ants; Diocletian, central to the vast power of the empire, is like a termite in a cell of termites. Far from glorying in his successful struggle to power, and enjoying it, he finds himself powerless over his own boredom. From this perspective he can only look back to his childhood, enthralled by the empty reality of the lifelong ambition and the excitements which drove him, when realized.

The story of Helena is not biography. It was in large part Evelyn Waugh's to invent. Because of this I don't think it represents his usual very high level of accomplishment. The story of her finding true cross follows a version of the myth. I don't mean that it is untrue, but that it is by no means true fact it in all of its details. Helena (Loyola Classics)

5-0 out of 5 stars A Lesser Known Waugh Classic
Helena is one of Evelyn Waugh's lesser known works, but it deserves to be more widely read.It is a fictional biography of St. Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine. She is supposed to have discovered the True Cross and identified the sites of Calvary, Jesus' Tomb, and other episodes in the life of Christ.

Helena is a good example of Waugh's ability to write clearly and wittily and also of his deep Catholic faith.Most of Helena's life is clearly legendary, but nevertheless Waugh does an excellent job of bringing her to life and giving her a definite personality while demonstrating her (and his) deep religious devotion.

4-0 out of 5 stars Interesting take on Constantine
An unsettling view of the period and characters.Helena was Constantine's mother.Her story as told by Waugh was sad, mostly unfulfilled, with her true worth never revealed until her old age.

Full of different takes on a well known subject.

4-0 out of 5 stars Who knew the fourth century was so humorous?
This book is not exactly what one might expect from historical fiction. Most books of that genre spill much ink filling in extra details of important historical events. Waugh, however, has a different purpose: he would like the reader to view sainthood in a different light by seeing the path to sainthood that St. Helen trod. As such, he glances over some seemingly important details: he doesn't even try to recreate the events surrounding Helena's conversion to Christianity, and he introduces her desire to find the True Cross practically as an aside. I found Waugh's focus in this book a bit quixotic; most of the book is focused on Helena's pre-Christian life, and the chapters on her life after converting seem an afterthought.

Yet reading this book is thoroughly enjoyable; Waugh's humor runs throughout the book. In fact, "Helena" is worth its price just for Fausta's speech to Helena after Helena arrives at Rome. It begins with a discussion of Pope Sylvester:

"Sylvester? Oh yes, of course you'll have to meet him. It's only polite. And of course we all respect his office. But he's not a man of any personal distinction, I assure you. If he's ever declared a saint they ought to commemorate him on the last day of the year."

(For those not aware, St. Sylvester's feast day is celebrated on December 31st)

Fausta's speech continues for some pages and is laugh out-loud funny at many points. These type of humorous interjections make this book, if nothing else, the funniest historical fiction you'll read. It will also make you think a bit more about what it means to be a saint; Waugh's contention is that the saint must do that "one thing" which God has called him or her to do - nothing more, nothing less. There are worse definitions of saints than this, to be sure.
... Read more

10. The Complete Short Stories (Everyman's Library)
by Evelyn Waugh
Hardcover: 595 Pages (2000-09)
list price: US$25.00 -- used & new: US$14.90
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375404309
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Evelyn Waugh's short stories are the marvelous, concentrated riffs of his comic genius, revealing in miniaturized perfection all the elements that made him the greatest comic writer of our century. We find in them Waugh's almost superhuman technical skill as a writer and his quicksilver attentiveness to the minutiae of human absurdity, as well as his worldly knowledge, his tenderness, his perceptive compassion, and his sophisticated, disabused, but nevertheless forceful idealism.

The thirty-nine stories collected here include such small masterpieces as "Mr. Loveday's Little Outing" and "Scott-King's Modern Europe"; an alternative ending to Waugh's novel A Handful of Dust; a "missing chapter" in the life of Charles Ryder, the hero of Brideshead Revisited; and two linked stories, remnants of an abandoned novel that Waugh considered his best writing.

This edition contains the original illustrations to "Love Among the Ruins," as well as more than thirty graphics produced by the author as an Oxford undergraduate in the 1920s.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars Waugh. As always, superb.
Evelyn Waugh cannot be outdone. He can never cease to please. His style is sly, it is witty, and of course contagiously beautiful, which I will make no effort to explain.Just read him. One cannot have an expectation too high to be fulfilled.

4-0 out of 5 stars Some Golden Oldies Here
"The Complete Short Stories of Evelyn Waugh," major, British writer of the twentieth century, who tended to comedy, is certainly the product of thorough editing, including, as it does, several of his short short juvenile, and Oxford, pieces.It also includes several fragments of novels excised from the final, or never completed, and, of course, the many stories Waugh published in magazines during his lifetime.

The earliest work, dating from the 1920's, shows Waugh as the skillful, amusing and witty social commentator we see in the novels then published, such as, "A Handful of Dust," and "Decline and Fall." "Bella Fleace Gave A Party," published in "Harpers' Bazaar," U.K., and U.S, is an amazingly brief masterpiece of social detail, as an Irish landowner sets about giving her last ball.If you've never given a ball, you could follow the instructions Waugh gives -- though, thankfully, we don't have to lick stamps anymore -- and give one successfully.Mind you, though, success will require mailing the invites. "The Man Who Liked Dickens," substantially expanded, became the ending of "Handful;" that novel's alternate ending is also published here.Two chapters of an unfinished novel give us an entertaining closeup of the wealthy bohemian social life of the period.

From somewhat later in his career, World War II and afterwards, we find"Charles Ryder'sSchooldays," excised from Waugh's masterwork, "Brideshead Revisited."The level of detail and dialogue in this is such as to lead a reader to think the young Waugh must have been keeping voluminous diaries before he could spell properly."Compassion" is a bitter World War II story about the wartime treatment of Jews: his characters did not always seem that fond of the race."Love Among The Ruins," set in the post-war period, is apparently Waugh's only stab at science fiction, and not too successful."Scott-King's Modern Europe" is hilarious, and witty too.Consider his resonant description of air travel:

"He had left his hotel at seven o'clock that morning; it was now past noon and he was still on English soil.He had not been ignored.He had been shepherded in and out of charabancs and offices like an idiot child; he had been weighed and measured like a load of merchandise; he had been searched like a criminal; he had been cross-questioned about his past and his future, the state of his health and of his finances, as though he were applying for permanent employment of a confidential nature.Scott-King had not been nurtured in luxury and privilege, but this was not how he used to travel.And he had eaten nothing except a piece of flaccid toast and margarine in his bedroom.... voice said: 'Passengers for Bellacita will now proceed to Exit D,' .... while, simultaneously, the conductress appeared in the doorway and said: 'Follow me, please.Have your embarkation papers, medical cards, customs clearance slips, currency control vouchers, passports, tickets, identity dockets, travel orders, emigration certificates, baggage checks and security sheets ready for inspection at the barrier, please.'"

After all that, the man's got to sneak back into the country.If this sort of thing is your cup of tea, then it'll be your cup of tea. ...
Read more

11. Charles Ryder's School Days and Other Stories
by Evelyn Waugh
Paperback: 292 Pages (1982-09-30)
list price: US$16.99 -- used & new: US$5.88
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0316926396
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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A collection of short fiction by 'the only first-rate comic genius that has appeared in England since Bernard Shaw.' ... Read more

Customer Reviews (3)

3-0 out of 5 stars Limited interest
Mainly of interest to avid Waugh fans or scholars. These are juvenilia in which some seeds of the later Evelyn Waugh can be seen. Some of the short stories are amusing in the way of Saki or Roald Dahl, with ironic twists in the tail,sharp satire, and dark humor. The longer title story could be read as autobiographical. You'd need to be familiar with the terminology of English boarding schools to understand some of it. It seems unfinished.

4-0 out of 5 stars Brideshead Revisited fans will want to read the title story
The title story in this collection will be of interest to those who found Brideshead Revisited a good book. It won't make you any clearer on the difficult Mr. Ryder, who is as muddled and vindicative a teenager as any of us, but it is a good sort of Prologue to Brideshead. Of course it's available in the Complete Stories of E.W. as well.

3-0 out of 5 stars Interesting
The first story, "Loveday's Little Outing," is possibly the best story Waugh has ever written.The rest is interesting at best, but none of it reaches the level of biting wit that he usually exhibits. Unlike PGWodehouse's short stories, which are only about half as good as hisfull-length novels, Waugh's short stories are actually quite enjoyable andsharp. Somehow acquire "Loveday's Little Outing" and leave therest be. ... Read more

12. A Handful of Dust (Everyman's Library)
by Evelyn Waugh
Hardcover: 225 Pages (2002-04-09)
list price: US$20.00 -- used & new: US$8.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375414207
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Evelyn Waugh's 1935 novel is a mordantly funny vision of aristocratic decadence and ennui in England between the wars.

It tells the story of Tony Last, an aristocrat who, to the irritation of his wife, in inordinately obsessed with his Victorian gothic country house and life. Bored with her husband's old-fashioned ways, Lady Brenda begins an affair with an ambitious social climber. Faced with the collapse of his marriage and a sudden family tragedy, Tony is driven to seek solace in a foolhardy search for the fabled El Dorado in the wilds of Brazil, where he finds himself at the mercy of a jungle that is only slightly more savage than the one he left behind in England.

Here is a sublime example of the incomparably brilliant and wicked wit of one of the 20th century's most accomplished novelists.Amazon.com Review
"All over England people were waking up, queasy and despondent."

Few writers have walked the line between farce and tragedy as nimbly asEvelyn Waugh, who employed the conventions of the comic novel to chip awayat the already crumbling English class system. His 1934 novel, A Handfulof Dust, is a sublime example of his bleak satirical style: a mordantlyfunny exposé of aristocraticdecadence and ennui in England between the wars.

Tony Last is an aristocrat whose attachment to an ideal feudal past isso profound that he is blind to his wife Brenda's boredom with thestately rhythms of country life. While he earnestly plays the lord ofthe manor in his ghastly Victorian Gothic pile, she sets herself up in aLondon flat and pursues an affair with the social-climbing idler JohnBeaver. In the first half of the novel Waugh fearlessly anatomizes thelifestyles of the rich and shameless. Everyone moves through an endlesscycle of parties and country-house weekends, being scrupulously politein public and utterly horrid in private.Sex is something one does torelieve the boredom, and Brenda's affair provides a welcome subject forconversation:

It had been an autumn of very sparse and meagre romance; only the mostobvious people had parted or come together, and Brenda was filling awant long felt by those whose simple, vicarious pleasure it was todiscuss the subject in bed over the telephone.
Tony's indifference and Brenda's selfishness give their relationship asort of equilibrium until tragedy forces them to face facts. Thecollapse of their relationship accelerates, and in the famous finalsection of the book Tony seeks solace in a foolhardy search for ElDorado, throwing himself on the mercy of a jungle only slightly moresavage than the one he leaves behind in England. For all its bitingwit, A Handful of Dust paints a bleak picture of the Englishupper classes, reaching beyond satire toward a very modern sense ofdespair.In Waugh's world, culture, breeding, and the trappings ofcivilization only provide more subtle means of destruction. --SimonLeake ... Read more

Customer Reviews (68)

4-0 out of 5 stars Mid-20th Century Decadent English Society Exposed
This novel of English upper-crust society in the 1930's is a true classic of early 20th century literature. For those who have not yet purchased a copy, I would recommend the Everyman's hardbound edition because it contains an excellent introduction, an extensive time-line of Waugh's contemporary period, and an "alternate ending" which is explained in the introduction and is an absolute "must" for a better understanding of how Waugh came to write this novel. I had previously read "Brideshead Revisited," which I liked even better (the BBC television series with Jeremy Irons is also well worth seeing).

"A Handful of Dust" is a scathing rebuke (with tongue in cheek) of the anachronistic upper class society that continued to exist in England between the World Wars as a continuation of the same hypocritical, immoral lifestyle led by this same class of inherited wealth during the Victorian age.Oscar Wilde and Noel Coward -- to name a couple of other novelists and playwrights of that same decade -- were more humorous and less accusatory than Waugh, but he was drawing from his own painful biography of that period.

During the past year I have also read "The Kill" (Zola), "Nana" (Zola), and "Anna Karenina" (Tolstoy). They each portray the same kind of immoral, decadent upper class society in France and Russia a full century before the events of this novel. They are all timeless literature because "everything changes, but nothing changes."The same "high society" of inherited wealth exists in contemporary Europe andAmerica today, also often populated by people who adhere to rigid "codes of conduct" that are actually meant to be broken.

If you have enjoyed this novel, be sure to read "Brideshead Revisited" as well.

5-0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Social Satire
Embarassingly, I had not really even heard much about Evelyn Waugh prior to reading this book.Now, _A Handful of Dust_ ranks as one of my favorite novels.This dark, satiric social commentary on British high society in the early 20th century is biting in its wit and totally charming in its execution.Nearly all of the characters are wholly unlikeable, which gradually elevates the humor of the situations throughout.With exquisitely written dialogue, certain passages are truly laugh out loud funny.Two-thirds into the book, events take a drastic turn ultimately leading to an extraordinary, uniquely strange ending.Highly recommend this book.

5-0 out of 5 stars "A Pocketful of Wry"
Listen Attentively, Former Colonials!

Yes, it's you I mean, Americans! Certain misconceptions need to be addressed before you are primed to read "A Handful of Dust".

1) "Waugh" is not the sound a laborer makes when he swings a sledge hammer; it's a respectable British surname. Use your browser and investigate "The Waugh family name in history."

2) "Evelyn" is a name borne proudly by many males in the United Kingdom. It's not an automatic provocation of playground dust-ups among public school boys.

3) The characters protrayed in this novel are only moderately exaggerated. All of them would have been recognizable to readers in 1934, the year of this book's publication, and acceptable as dining companions. Such readers might have been perplexed, had they been informed that Mr. Waugh was widely perceived to be satirical.

4) In fact, Evelyn Waugh was a fervent Catholic, a staunch conservative, and a man of retiring habits. Some scoffers have rudely attempted to paint him as a religious troglodyte, a hide-bound reactionary, an overt racist, and an abuser of chemical substances, but even those who disdained his notions relished his stylistic grace. George Orwell declared that Waugh was "about as good a novelist as one can be while holding untenable opinions." One critic declared him "the supreme writer of English prose in the twentieth century, even though so many of the wrong people said so."

5) There is a persistent urban legend that Waugh (1903-1966) was the reincarnation of Oscar Wilde (1854-1900). An undeniable similarity of literary manner might make such a supposition plausible, but note that the three-year lapse between Wilde's death and Waugh's birth would be inexplicable under any known rubric of the transmigration of souls. Besides, Oscar Wilde was a man of unpardonable skepticism and scorn for all things sacred.

6) The adulteries portrayed in A Handful of Dust are in no way prurient or titillating. They are referenced in the narrative merely because of Waugh's meticulous concern for and commitment to accurate commemoration of the manners and morays of the British upper classes, whose cultural hegemony seemed in his time perilously threatened by vulgar change.

7) The dashing adventures of Sir Tony Last, the protagonist of A Handful of Dust, in the headwaters of the Amazon River are indeed based on the memoirs of the American President Theodore Roosevelt, but any further resemblance must be discounted. Mr. Roosevelt had a notoriously unpleasant speaking voice - twangy and nasal, after the general manner of his countrymen - and it would have been quite out of keeping for him to have read aloud from the works of Charles Dickens to the satisfaction of even the most barbarous auditor.

With those caveats in mind, I should think that most readers of an intellectual bent will derive not a little satisfaction from the title under review herewith.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Dark, Satirical Masterpiece
A Handful of Dust is the apex of Evelyn Waugh's signature acid satire and, except for those who prefer the broader and more ambitious Brideshead Revisited, his masterpiece. It is one of the all-time greatest satirical novels and one of the twentieth century's best overall. Quite entertaining, it pulls us in quickly and keeps us engrossed until the end. Along the way we get much insightful commentary about class; marriage, the family, and other domestic issues; and even a starkly thought-provoking contrast between modern Western society and the developing world. Waugh's vision was dark, and A Handful of Dust is irredeemably bleak - so much so that American publishers insisted on a new ending. This last has thankfully been relegated to an almost literal footnote, letting Waugh's stunning vision shine - not brightly but, as it were, dimly.

Like much of Waugh, the novel deals primarily with the British upper classes' early twentieth century decline. Waugh saw the storied aristocracy, the backbone of British society and culture since before the Modern era, crumbling around him and dramatized it vividly and memorably. Its passing was the death knell not just of a class but of all it stood for; its tastes in politics, art, religion, and even things as fundamental as speech were being ushered out in favor of the middle class ethos that has since dominated. Waugh was somewhat ambivalent about this, lamenting the demise of what he saw as many positive values but also well aware of the class' weaknesses. It was also obvious to him that the upper classes had sown the seeds of their own destruction and made it inevitable by perverse stubbornness; much as he hated to see them go in some ways, he essentially thought they deserved it.

All this comes across in the novel. Waugh's unadorned style lets the downfall more or less speak for itself; liberals may be offended that his depiction is not celebratory, but he was too aware of the tragic in life not to show this angle. A Handful of Dust is thus a curious mix of "you had it coming" mockery that rubs in the plight at least as harshly as a Marxist would and a sentimental, near-Romantic longing for a fabled institution's passing. The appropriately named Last family leaves little doubt as to why the upper classes perished. Vain, selfish, and parochial, they are close-minded and insular to a fault, refusing to let go of an inherited pride distinctly out of place in the twentieth century. They can almost see destruction rushing toward them, but their almost natural arrogance makes them think they will somehow survive. Living a lifestyle that even they know is outdated, they are practically a walking self-parody. Perhaps more significantly, their private life is in shambles. The broken marriage - indeed, the broken family - at the book's center is a bleak portrait of just how miserable marriage can be when partners are incompatible, especially with class issues thrown in. The book runs us through an emotional gamut ranging from pathos to cynical chuckling, moving us and provoking more than a little thought.

This is all the more remarkable in that, as often with Waugh, there is no conventionally likable character. The young John Last is sympathetic, but his role is so minor that he is really little more than fodder for tragedy and underscoring other characters' despicableness. Patriarch Tony Last is sympathetic because he is more sinned against than sinning, but even he is overflowing with vanity and pride. The other major characters - his wife Brenda, her lover John Beaver, family "friend" Jock Grant-Menzies, and the mysterious Mr. Todd - are far worse, though this is not immediately clear with the last two. This makes Tony seem far more decent, but the depiction of him as so naïve as to be fatally manipulated by those he does not even suspect is more pathetic than sad. His relatively minor faults certainly do not warrant his punishment, far less his tragic end, but his fate comes off more as depicting the generally tragic human condition than a tear-jerking individual downfall.

Sharp as they are, satire and social comedy thus do not keep the book from being extremely dark; A Handful of Ashes, the title Waugh wanted, would have been far more appropriate. The last section is one of the bleakest imaginable - dark enough in itself but far more so if taken symbolically as a contrast between supposedly civilized, all-powerful Western society and the mysteriously foreboding rest of the world. If not exactly fatalistic, there is a strong sense that, however powerful and proud the Western world becomes, it will never overcome the dark forces at human nature's heart as personified by Mr. Todd. The satire is thus in a sense double-edged; if true that Waugh feels for what he mocks, it is even truer that he is unafraid to mock everything. His wit is vicious and should be a warning to all.

There are no real complaints; the novel is very tightly written and readable. Some find the closing section a bit forced, specifically thinking Tony's drastic solution uncharacteristically impulsive. This probably comes from the fact that Waugh adapted it from a prior short story. The transition is not perfectly smooth, but the section is in my view written extremely well and put forth convincingly; Waugh certainly gets his point across at any rate. As for style, Waugh is in my view one of modern fiction's great stylists, his conciseness, straight-forwardness, relative lack of allusion, and general avoidance of Modernist techniques making him stand out in an era when literature became ever less accessible. He may lean toward overly simple for some, but he has the great virtue of clearness that I value highly and that is so sorely lacking in much post-nineteenth century literature. That said, what was concise and clear seventy-plus years ago is not exactly so now. Waugh is formal and, in contrast to much subsequent fiction, especially the popular kind, somewhat stiff. He was not really pretentious but can easily come off as such to those not prepared to take him on his own terms. It should also perhaps be pointed out that Waugh was uber-British; the country's culture and history infuse every aspect of the novel, though the themes are universal. This is of course not a bad thing, but those unfamiliar with British culture and literature - or who dislike it - may be somewhat averse to the novel. My advice to them and all others not immediately taken with the book is to stick with it. It is a satirical masterwork that should be read by all fans of that genre as well as anyone interested in English or twentieth century fiction generally. Readers should not let this dust slip through their hands.

4-0 out of 5 stars good communication, nice vintage product
seller communicated problem in shipping time and was quick to resolve problem. my book arrived just when she said it would. the protective slip cover on the book was a little damaged but the hard cover book itself looks great and matches the image seller provided. ... Read more

13. Brideshead Revisited
by Evelyn Waugh
Paperback: 368 Pages (2008-06-23)
list price: US$14.99 -- used & new: US$5.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: B00375LMGQ
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Charles Ryder, a lonely student at Oxford, is captivated by the outrageous and exquisitely beautiful Sebastian Flyte. Invited to Brideshead, Sebastian's magnificent family home, Charles welcomes the attentions of its eccentric, aristocratic inhabitants. But he also discovers a world where duty and desire, faith and earthly happiness are in conflict; a world which threatens to destroy his beloved Sebastian.Amazon.com Review
One of Waugh's most famous books, Brideshead Revisitedtells the story of the difficult loves of insular Englishman CharlesRyder, and his peculiarly intense relationship with the wealthy butdysfunctional family that inhabited Brideshead. Taking place in theyears after World War II, Brideshead Revisited shows us a part ofupper-class English culture that has been disappearing steadily. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (137)

5-0 out of 5 stars Perfection
ONe of the finest novels written in the English Language.Waugh transports you to the world of Brideshead.I was constantly startled to look up and find myself in 2010.Impeccable language and masterful storytelling are just some of the hallmarks of this treasure.I will read it again and again.

5-0 out of 5 stars "my theme is memory"
There is little to add to the excellent reviews on this book.Nearly seventy years after its first publication in 1944 Brideshead Revisited continues to exert its spell over readers. The PBS series that aired during the 1980s was a routine topic at the "water cooler." In fact, the office eventually organized group viewing sessions so we could drink while we watched the program.It is not possible to ignore the role that Catholicism plays in this novel, but too much can be made of it as well, reducing the scope and importance of Charles Ryder's recollections.What Brideshead accomplishes at the end of the novel is, in my view, quite remarkable.To be sure, Book II of the novel can seem quite distinct from Book I, at least in that Waugh seems not to have laid the groundwork for the novel's fast moving ending.And yet, there is, throughout Brideshead an emphasis on ritual, at Oxford, at the mansion, in the community and within the family.At the end of the novel, it is ritual that forges ahead of belief -- the ritual of last rites for the family patriarch that seems to pull him to belief, not long after he (Alex) had told the attending priest:"I am not in extremis and I have not been a practicing member of your church for twenty-five years."All that past hate did, in the end, turn out to be, as Cara, Lord Marchmain's mistress earlier told us, "something in [himself that he hated] (p 103).Whatever one thinks of the outcome, Brideshead Revisited endures, not for the solution to which it points, but for the questions it raises.Thus it remains relevant from WWII to the present.

5-0 out of 5 stars All roads lead to faith
"Brideshead Revisited" is a novel that can be read on so many levels. It is peopled with real characters that leap of the page in all of their complexity, it is a fervent convert's exuberant praise to his recently realized God, it is a glimpse of the fading aristocracy of England, and it is a story of a few people and their journey to find their faith and proper place in the world.
This book is vastly different from Waugh's satirical earlier works. There is still satire and humor in this text, but it is dryer and less central to the plot than in some of his previous novels. Also, unlike his previous efforts the characters in this novel are not caricature, but well developed human individuals. It is also rather episodic in plot and we follow the characters from their late teens to early thirties, a rather formative time in one's life.
I think that reading this novel will be a fuller experience if the reader has a religious background, and some personal experience with faith. But it is not necessary to enjoying (and getting something) from the text.
The novel deals with a close circle of friends, and depicts how they all in their own ways come to God. I feel that Mr. Waugh was trying to write a great novel of faith (my personal opinion) and to that extent I think he left religion, and the Catholic Church in particular, open to some criticism, which I don't think was his intent. However, one could read the same sections that I think expose the weakness of the church, and see them as plot details that strengthen the argument for faith. Waugh was much smarter than I, and I am going to assume that was his goal. What makes the text so layered is that one can read the novel and see a great testament to God and Church, and others can read it and just as easily argue for the destructive power of religion on individuals.To me, that is one of the greatest assets of "Brideshead Revisited".
This novel got under my skin, in a good way, and has been knocking around in my head since I finished. To me, that is high praise. I will be revisiting this text again. Probably again, and again...
Read it with a group of friends, there will be lots to digest, and the vastness of reactions this novel will be sure to engender will make the process all the more enjoyable and richer.

4-0 out of 5 stars Still Good
I first read Brideshead Revisited at the University of Wisconsin in the mid-1960s. Then I read it for its wonderful characterizations and dialogue and for the fascinating, to me, glimpses into the mores of pre-war England, as well as for its elegiac view of traditional English culture. (I also wondered frequently what, exactly, was going on between Charles and Sebastian!)

All of those aspects remain interesting, but this time I concentrated on the theme stated by Waugh himself in his preface--'the operation of divine grace on a group of diverse but closely connected characters'. I don't want to give away the plot because it's a good one. Left to myself, I would have guessed that the theme had to do with the many varieties of love, but can see, after re-reading the book, what Waugh meant to do. There are many varieties of love among the group of people who populate this story, and Waugh considers them all to be precursors, or 'forerunners' of love for their Christian god. Waugh himself, like many midcentury English intellectuals, was a convert to Roman Catholicism.

I certainly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the English novel. It's more serious and more philosophical than Waugh's satires but has its own charms.

This is Waugh's revised 1959 edition of the book originally written in 1944 during an army furlough. Critic Frank Kermode has written an introduction and there's a brief preface by Waugh for the new edition. Also included is an interesting chronology of Waugh's life, paralleled by corresponding literary and historical events. There's also a bibliography of his works.

This Knopf Everyman's Library hardcover edition is quite attractive, with shots from the movie tie-in on the dust jacket. I had one small complaint about the physical book--the inner margins are quite narrow.

A postscript--The main character, Charles, has two children, Caroline and John. His wife insists on calling the son Johnjohn, much to Charles's dismay. This is curious, no?

I received an advance review copy from the publisher.

4-0 out of 5 stars Good, but not as good as I expected
With 127 reviews already posted here, I know I can't add much that is new.However, I've just concurrently read the book and watched the BBC miniseries on DVD, and feel moved to leave a rating.

This book was not excellent, but it was good.I feel that the miniseries is even better than the book, and if both are unfamiliar to you, I recommend doing what I did - watch an episode of the series then read that portion of the book, then move on to the next episode.The film follows the novel so closely that this is easy to do.The miniseries brings the characters and atmospheres to life for your imagination, when you are reading the book.If you only have time for one, go for the miniseries (about 13 hours in total, but it goes quickly).

I liked the fact that all of the characters have flaws and are mainly unsympathetic.I feel I've known people like all the characters, which I think is due to the fact that I lived in the UK a long time.It's quite a British story (obviously).Much of the content of the novel is in what goes unspoken and undescribed, and the meanings of those things.I know enough about what I don't know about British society to realize that some of these things in the book escaped my attention, and that even more would escape the modern American reader not familiar with the UK.Again, this is where watching the dvd can help a little (you can at least watch the faces of the characters while they are not saying all they are thinking), and where repeating the story twice (doing book/film together) deepens one's understanding.But a lot of what Waugh thought he was conveying is probably only conveyed clearly to a certain segment of the audience, which is much smaller now than it was in the mid 20th C.

This is not an inspirational or feel-good story.It was depressing, because everything was gradually falling apart and people were constantly letting each other down and behaving selfishly and cuttingly, which feels lifelike and inevitable.

The religious content of the story was not what I imagined it would be.I am not Catholic, so it didn't appeal to me in that way, but if Waugh meant to show Catholicism in a good light or convey the romantic nature of it or show the eternal truth of it or whatever he was trying to do, it didn't work for me at all.In fact, the message I got was that religious belief is personal, it can't be explained very well to others, and it's mainly formed when one is young; from then on, it can mess with your mind especially if you don't want to live your life the way others expect you to.I'm not saying that is my pronouncement on Religion, I'm just saying that's the message that I got from the book about it.

The ending was particularly abrupt and bad. The narrative was going along slowly and normally, and then it's as if Waugh suddenly decided he was done with the whole thing, so he pounded out the last couple dozen pages and left it at that.

What I did like was how two of the half-in, half-out foreigners were shown to be more honest and direct than the Brits - Sebastian's father's mistress and the Italian stuttering Oxford classmate - a couple of their monologues helped to define what was really what, though sometimes unkindly. I also liked the gentle and delicate depiction of Sebastian's and Charles' relationship (which I took to be entirely and actively gay, physically and emotionally, and I think this is what was certainly being implied by Waugh, but I understand how some people don't want to read it like that).Gay relationships were and are an accepted part of British life, especially amongst the upper classes in their teens/early 20s.

The miniseries has given me a good insight into how a certain kind of British man can romanticize his time at Oxbridge and the late teens/early 20s generally, which the whole society is kind of geared towards idealizing.(Of course, idealizing that stage of life is normal in the US, too, but I think Americans are more likely to look forward more, and expect their futures to also be interesting and fulfilling, whereas the Brits (the more privileged ones, anyway) are more likely to feel that the highpoint of their lives was during their early 20s and that only larger or smaller waves of disappointments can be expected afterwards.)Combining what Sebastian's father mistress said (which I agree with), that British boys mature late emotionally as compared to boys of other countries, with the amazing experiences of being raised well-to-do, being taught you are better than others, going to such gorgeous universities, being cushioned and coddled up to the age of 22 (at least), it's no wonder that many idolize their halcyon days, the present never lives up to their memories, and the future is left to muddle itself up.

I wish that I had loved the book, but I didn't. I wouldn't call it a masterpiece, but it was a good book.I haven't read anything else by Waugh, and I confess that after reading this, I will push Vile Bodies and A Handful of Dust further down on my to-read-someday list, but I'll keep them on it. ... Read more

14. The Sword of Honour Trilogy (Everyman's Library)
by Evelyn Waugh
Hardcover: 760 Pages (1994-05-10)
list price: US$25.00 -- used & new: US$50.42
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679431365
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)

This trilogy of novels about World War II, largely based on his own experiences as an army officer, is the crowning achievement of Evelyn Waugh’s career. Its central character is Guy Crouchback, head of an ancient but decayed Catholic family, who at first discovers new purpose in the challenge to defend Christian values against Nazi barbarism, but then gradually finds the complexities and cruelties of war too much for him. Yet, though often somber, the Sword of Honour trilogy is also a brilliant comedy, peopled by the fantastic figures so familiar from Waugh’s early satires. The deepest pleasures these novels afford come from observing a great satiric writer employ his gifts with extraordinary subtlety, delicacy, and human feeling, for purposes that are ultimately anything but satiric. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (10)

5-0 out of 5 stars To understand the mental failures
I think this explains the failures due to the mentallity of the British "Cast System". It appears that the "good old boy's network" did not change much in hundreds of years.Waugh is one of the greats..... He writes without ranting or raving, just letting it flow. If you are somewhat aware of this period and the "system" you will enjoy

5-0 out of 5 stars Engaging and rich
I read this after it was listed in the Wall Street Journal as one of the five best novels about World War II.I'd have to agree.

Guy Crouchback, a bit too old for service, nonetheless manages to obtain a commission and become an officer at the beginning of the war.The stories wander from England during the Blitz to Greece and the Balkans.During this time he experiences the frustrations of dealing with the Army bureaucracy and the sometime futility of its actions.This is painted against a background of Crouchback's Catholicism and his need to see things through that particular lens.

Waugh's prose is, as always, wonderful.The structure of these novels is not as tight as some of his others such as 'Brideshead Revisited', and the humor isn't as darkly biting as 'The Loved One', but it's an immensely satisfying read nevertheless.One minor cavil:the references to historical and political events will eventually date this novel.I'm fairly well read about WWII and wartime England, but many of the allusions escape me.A series of this caliber really cries out for an annotated edition.

This Everyman's Library edition is nicely laid out and is quite readable.The introductory essay and time-line are helpful, but a footnoted edition would be even nicer.

5-0 out of 5 stars Delightful
It's delightful to read real literature, and Evelyn Waugh is deliciously witty.My only complaint is the miniscule print; but I understand that at nearly 800 pages, it would've been too thick and unwieldy had the print been larger.I recommend this book to anyone with a love of the English language and an appreciation for sardonic wit.

4-0 out of 5 stars Well written if you can stand the snobism cynicism and prejudice
Like Waughs other books this is a black Comedy dripping with cynicism, cruelty, sarcasm, racial prejudice and snobism. It is not just many of the characters who are this way but the author too who clearly identifies with the books anti-hero the aristocratic, pious and somewhat depressed Guy Crouchback. He is a descent sort of course, and the working class lads who want to succeed such as Trimmer are not but how could it be otherwise in a Waugh book?

Having said all that the book works, it is very funny and a refreshingly cynical look at the British war effort which has tended to be somewhat romanticized. If you are starting with Waugh then I would go for one of the shorter novels first to see if he is your cup of tea. If you know and like Waugh then this trilogy will not disappoint you....

5-0 out of 5 stars A War to Make the World Free for Mediocrity
Waugh, is an acquired taste. The Trilogy, now just published as one book was originally made up of the following

"Men at Arms" -- here we are introduced to Mr. Guy Crouchback, the Catholic survivor of an old, disgarded, and increasing impoverished patrician family in England at the beginning of the War. Guy is not so much interested in getting into the war as he is in finding his own place in this war. He's 35 and too old for the line regiments and not of the right "stuff" for the special guards regiments. By a fluke he ends up in the mythical Royal Halbedier Regt. as an officer cadet.In his entire time here we find the class system transposed more or less intact into the army, where incompetence and pure idiosyncracy is rewarded and individuality discouraged.

We find a gallery of both lovable and boffish rouges. We find the classic British Army hard-man psychopath Brigadier Hook. And we find the taudry and often tragic relationships shaped by a system they may be able to hide from, but from whose moral sanction they cannot escape.

Guy gets selected for the ill-fated Dakar expedition. He makes a name of himself by secretly raiding the coast held by the Free French. He does so under Brig. Hook's mischevious order. After he and Hook return to be court-martialed, Guy finds himself once again a perrenial outsider. (Also please note the absolutely hillarious chapter where Guy attempts to seduce his divorced wife).

"Officers And Gentleman"

Guy is back and he and Brig Hook are promoted for audicity "in the face of the enemy" -- by Churchill and posted to a new Commando type group training on a remote island in Scotland. Guy and friends get into more trouble than training and find themselves all geared up for Crete and land just long enough to find out that they are defeated and need to be withdrawn.

"Unconditional Surrender"

Where Guy is landed to support the Tito's partisans. He finds out that people he is supporting, appear to be little different in their extreme methods than the fascists he is trying to overthrow.

Through all the books there is the slow pervading rot of the English class system fighting it last battle against fascism. A battle that must be faught, but one whose hard cynical questions Guy is already asking himself -- what about Stalin... he appears to be a frightful rotter, killing people because of their class, constantly getting screwed the class system, Guy advances by luck, and incomptence seems to reign and strategy made on according to what comes to mind in the heads of the brass hats... All the while his Catholicism is also hanging on for dear life... ready to take a plunge off the cliff of aetheism.

Since Waugh actually faught in most of the campaigns he describes, we need to take him seriously. But he is ultimately not a more accurate source for the events of WWII, but rather a anti-hero, cynical view of the events -- more a counter balance to the guts and glory stereotype, but not necessarily more correct or accurate.

For those who are not so familiar with pre-war British speech and do not know what a Bangalore Torpedo is, or what it means to "blot your book" there may be a few problems. I can see some American readers having a bit of a time with the vocabulary. At its most brilliant however Waugh offers us a great view of life and people, with all their problems, in a way that we perhaps would rather not think of them. It is a tour-de-force of a book... stays with you for a rather long time. ... Read more

15. The Diaries of Evelyn Waugh
by Evelyn Waugh
Paperback: 832 Pages (1995-06-05)
list price: US$20.65
Isbn: 185799244X
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Product Description
Travel in Africa,the English aristocracy,the bungling and courage of military life,post-1945 America, all these are favourable sites for the diaries of one of the harshest and funniest English novelists of this century. ... Read more

16. Black Mischief, Scoop, The Loved One, The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold (Everyman's Library Classics & Contemporary Classics)
by Evelyn Waugh
Hardcover: 688 Pages (2003-08-05)
list price: US$26.00 -- used & new: US$15.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1400040779
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)

In honor of the hundredth anniversary of Evelyn Waugh’s birth, four of the master’s most wickedly scathing comedies are here brought together in one volume.

Black Mischief is Waugh at his most mischievous–inventing a politically loopy African state as a means of pulverizing politics at home. In Scoop, it is journalism’s turn to be drawn and quartered. The Loved One (which became a famously hilarious film) sends up the California mortuary business. And The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold is a burst of fictionalized autobiography in which Pinfold goes mad, more or less, on board an ocean liner.

Here in four short–very different–novels are the mordant wit, inspired farce, snapping dialogue, and amazing characters that are the essence of everything Waugh ever wrote. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars Love His Works
I first read Snoops years ago, then after Brideshead Revisited was aired on PBS I ran out and read that.I find the work of Evelyn Waugh highly entertaining and engrossing.His works are well written.Waugh and Graham Greene are two of my favorite writers.I would recommend anything by Evelyn Waugh.

5-0 out of 5 stars brilliant brilliant satire
i have only read black mischief and am halfway through scoop but they are absolutely hilarious. totally incorrect politically but so on the mark funny. the plots seem quite similar but waugh never seems plot driven anyway. i have read many of his books and love them all. it is really good to have 3 in one hardback edition for this excellent price. ... Read more

17. The Loved One (Cascades)
by Evelyn Waugh
 Hardcover: 128 Pages (1994-01-05)

Isbn: 0003300927
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Evelyn Waugh's famous satire on American life and death. ... Read more

18. Officers and Gentlemen
by Evelyn Waugh
Paperback: 352 Pages (1979-03-30)
list price: US$15.99 -- used & new: US$6.47
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0316926302
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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This is the second volume in the 'Sword of Honor' trilogy. The other volumes in this trilogy include: 'Men at Arms' and 'The End of the Battle'. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (11)

5-0 out of 5 stars Terrific
Waugh divides OFFICERS AND GENTLEMEN into two books, a seven-page interlude, and an epilogue. The first book, "Happy Warriors", begins with the Nazi bombing of London and captures the effects of war and mobilization on, mostly, upper class civilians. In addition, this book explores the oddly inept training received by the troops of Hookforce, where Waugh's earnest protagonist Guy Crouchback is an officer, and the shenanigans of Captain Trimmer, who seeks petty gain through his wily army service. The message of this book is that life, even in war, occurs as a polite farce, where good intentions never shape the big picture.

Meanwhile, the second book, "In the Picture", captures the experience of Hookforce as it lands in Crete in May 1941 after the Nazi invasion. Hookforce is too-little, too-late, and joins the battle after it has become a disastrous rout and the Commonwealth troops, while showing patches of bravery, mostly behave like a defeated and leaderless mob. In this chapter, Waugh is absolutely sensational as he journeys with the cowardly Major Hound toward safety and shows Captain Crouchback attempt to restore communication within the broken army. As this occurs, Waugh also offers a range of minor characters who represent different aspects of escape and bravery, with the comical heroism of Captain Trimmer raising the spirits of Brits at home. Wikipedia, by the way, says that Waugh actually fought in Crete and escaped capture "by crashing through German lines in a tank."

In OaG, Waugh writes with great pace and elegance. He also spots his writing with wonderfully descriptive or insightful paragraphs, which never slow his narrative or blur its focus.Here's one example, which describes officers retreating in car:

"For a time no one spoke except the wounded man who babbled in delirium. Fatigue had brought the Brigadier to a condition resembling senility, in which comatose periods alternated with moments of sharp vexation. For the moment his effort of decision had exhausted him. One tiny patch in his mind remained alive, and with this he steered, braked, changed gear. The road ran zigzag and the darkness deepened."

This is my second installment in THE SWORD OF HONOR TRILOGY. My first, MEN AT ARMS, was about the absurdity of duty. In OFFICERS AND GENTLEMEN, the absurdity of action also exists. But in moments of true peril, Waugh's absurdity drops away and there is, in the soldier's mission, subtle heroism and admirable purpose.

BTW: My favorite moment in this terrific novel captures Crouchback and some random soldiers, perilously adrift in the Mediterranean, encountering dreamlike nighttime seas occupied by moaning whales and turtles, where, "after the moon had set, Guy saw the calm plain fill with myriads of cats' eyes." Highly recommended.

5-0 out of 5 stars Relishing "Officers and Gentlemen"
I only regret that I am so late in discovering the joys of Evelyn Waugh.Having read Men at Arms, I could not wait to get to Officers and Gentlemen, which is equally gripping and amusing.I look forward eagerly to the final volume in the war trilogy, End of the Battle.I will order it through Amazon, of course.

5-0 out of 5 stars A memorable second installment in Waugh's Sword of Honour trilogy
OFFICERS AND GENTLEMEN is the second in the "Sword of Honour" trilogy by Evelyn Waugh, a trio of novels that some have acclaimed the best fiction produced by World War II (I personally would not go that far) and others have stated represent Waugh's best work (with which I tend to agree, although I haven't yet read everything by Waugh).The protagonist is Guy Crouchback, the last in the male line of an upper-class English family that proudly traces its heritage back for centuries but in recent generations has seen its fortunes dwindle. Still, as World War II opens, Guy finds meaning and comfort, and a guide for life, in the traditional values.

The first in the trilogy was Men at Arms ("MA"), and OFFICERS AND GENTLEMEN ("O&G") begins where MA ended, without any appreciable pause or break.Indeed, those who have not first read MA might find O&G somewhat bewildering.But the character of O&G, for the first two-thirds of the novel, is markedly different than MA.The satire has a keener edge, and the humor is more frequent and less subtle.There are places where it approaches the "laugh-out-loud" sort of P.G. Wodehouse.The novel is elaborately plotted (again like Wodehouse), with a number of remarkable incidences of coincidence.Most of the novel could easily be classified as comedy, much of it surrounding the army's bureaucratic muddles and messes ("order, counter order, disorder").In a sense, it is a British forerunner of "Catch-22".(I would be very surprised if Joseph Heller had not read O&G; published six years before "Catch-22", it most probably influenced Heller and the later novel, even if subconsciously.)

But everything changes about two-thirds of the way into the novel when Guy and his army group, Hookforce, arrive in Crete to help defend the island against the German invasion.The British forces are woefully disorganized and under-supplied, and by the time Hookforce is landed, the British army is being thoroughly routed. Guy's disillusionment becomes complete, and the novel becomes somber, with what humor there is of the black variety.

If anything, the pace of O&G is even more rapid than that of MA, with even heavier reliance on dialogue to carry portions of the narrative.O&G also is more British; it assumes in the reader greater familiarity with the British military organization and with British society and culture, so that many small points are unknown to at least this American reader 50 years later.Still, O&G is superbly written, and it is Evelyn Waugh's masterly command of the English language and English narrative that most commend the novel.

As between O&G and MA, I find it difficult to decide which is the better novel.Just as I did with Men at Arms, I round up a few fractions of a point and aware five stars to OFFICERS AND GENTLEMEN.

5-0 out of 5 stars Causing trouble without much hope of advantage = war
Guy Crouchback feels the London scene resembles a Turner Painting.This is the second book of a trilogy, but it works well as a stand-alone literary offering.Guy is under a cloud.He has been recalled from Africa.One of the things he has come to realize is that the concept of honor has changed.If someone were to challenge him to a duel, he would laugh.

Guy's father is at Matchett.Mr. Crouchback is puzzled by some snacks received from America from his grandchildren who are spending the war there, for safety.Miss Vavasour has cherished a chivalrous devotion to Guy's father since settling at Matchett.Guy feels he has been sent from Africa to London like a package.The Brigadier has advised that he would be hearing from him.Jumbo Trotter is dispatched to hand over Guy's orders.His destination is Matchett, the default address Guy provided.Miss Vavasour tells Jumbo that Major Grigshawe, the quartering commandant, is seeking to remove Guy's father.When Jumbo has a word with the major, the problem disappears.Guy is instructed to report to Marchmain House.

Subsequent to going to Marchmain House, Guy proceeds to the Isle of Mugg to join theB Commando forces.(The laird is called Mugg, and seeks dynamite to carry out some of the projects on his estate.)He encounters Colonel Tommy,and he marvels at howeasily permanent officers make the transition from equality to superiority. Jumbo Trotter joins the group, although when it is time to be dispatched to Egypt he, (Jumbo), is left in Scotland.

B Commando has draconic private law.It is claimed in Cairo that there is no place in the service for private armies.Near Alexandria Guy is tasked to locate Ivor Claire who had been absent from duty for two weeks.Guy finds him in a private nursing home.B Commando is on the verge of mutiny over the training regime at this point.

Waugh shows the forces of war as a mixing of classes, nationalities, roles, perspectives, and even means of transport.Metaphors change.Painters no longer use pictorial representation but the planning staff does.THE DAILY BEAST seeks to make an issue of the fact that a supposed creator of military glory has been drummed out of the regular services on grounds of snobbery.(The individual is a hair stylist.)Guy's part in the war played out in Crete.It was not the place of a Halberdiers officer to get his name in the papers.

Imagine first that war readiness takes place in England and Scotland, and next that events of actual war are transacted by means of an international cast on Crete, and, then, consider that the descriptions, comic and effusive, are supplied by a modern-day Dickens and the achievement of Evelyn Waugh may be brought into focus.Bravo.

4-0 out of 5 stars An English "Catch-22"
Evelyn Waugh's "Officers and Gentlemen" is a often satirical look at the British Army in the often disasterous early years of the Second World War."Officers and Gentlemen" is the middle volume of a trilogy on the career of the fictional everyman Guy Crouchback, an overage junior officer in the equally fictional Royal Corps of Halberdiers.Waugh picks up the story in this volume with Guy's return from an aborted mission in Africa to experience the London Blitz.Guy ends up assigned to a commando training base in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. The Commando will be assigned duties in Egypt and end up participating in the struggle for Crete.

Waugh is a superbly gifted writer whose capture of the absurdities of the British class system and the bureaucratic foolishness of the British Army is often spot-on for humor.The narrative arc concerning Guy's successive and almost random Army assignments will be sidesplitting to those who have experienced that process in any army in real life.At the same time, and much in the manner of "Catch-22", Waugh captures the degradation of combat for individuals, even in successful battles.The description of the failed campaign in Crete is as heart-breaking as the commando training at the Island of Mugg is hilarious.

This book was first published in 1955, and some of the nuances of the humor may be lost on those without background in the history of the Second World War or British society.This volume of the trilogy can be read by itself but may make more sense when read in the sequence of the Sword Of Honor trilogy.

This book is highly recommended to those seeking some entertaining insights into the Second World War. ... Read more

19. A Handful of Dust
by Evelyn Waugh
Paperback: 224 Pages (1988)

Isbn: 0140111506
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (1)

4-0 out of 5 stars Nothing New
Waugh's take on English upper society in the 1930's. The characters in this novel live on the surfice. They construct their lives around what will not last. Tony, the central character, lives for Hetton,his deteriorating mansion
in the English countryside. His wife and the other characters live day by day without meaningful direction or accomplishments.

This is a satire. Social commentary in narative form. It is written crisply and the humour is often understated. None of the characters are loveable and it is hard to feel empathy for any of them. "A Handful of Dust" is a line from TS Elliot, the English poet. Waugh's novel is TS Elliot's poetry in prose. ... Read more

20. The Essays, Articles and Reviews of Evelyn Waugh
 Hardcover: 662 Pages (1984-08)
list price: US$40.00 -- used & new: US$351.55
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0316926434
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Near Fine copy of this hardcover. ... Read more

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