Monday, December 22, 2008
Evelyn Waugh - Brideshead Revisited
Although I found it to be inconsistent, I enjoyed this book. It was so poignantly moving and emotionally honest at moments, but occasionally forayed into long descriptions and discussion that were distracting and didn't really add to or improve the story.
I also feel it is unfortunate that there is no clear conclusion about Sebastian, since I think we was one of the more interesting and potentially important characters in this work.
I found Waugh's habit of introducing the reader midway through the story to be somewhat disorienting and unsettling at times. While I've encountered this convention before, and I do appreciate his efforts to recapitulate what has occurred in the time since the last chapter or event and how they connect, I might have enjoyed it more without this occasional breaking of fluency (although I wouldn't change the overall perspective of the book as having taken place in the past for a man who is revisiting Brideshead in the present. That I did enjoy- it was simply the various smaller diversions- such as the unexpected introduction of Julia at parts out of context and the progression of their relationship being expressed primarily through vague flashbacks and conversations- that really irked me.)
I particularly enjoyed the subtle humor and wit of Waugh's in phrases such as the following: "'Give him time. I've known worse cases make beautiful deaths'" (311).
Furthermore, I found Lord Marchmain's deathbed conversion to be somewhat contrived (much like the ultimate unexpected and anachronistic endings that were often stuck on the end of the Marquis de Sade's work and seemed utterly unsuitable for his entire stories but were nevertheless attached, I presumed, to please the Church, government and society that still refused to endorse his writing). I would have felt this work to be much more cohesive and integrated if Marchmain had not repented [and for Charles not to have changed his mind at the last moment about Marchmain's conversion, for that matter] with no discernable explanation or rationale.
Ultimately, I like the book but I hope his other works entail the best styles and themes from this one, and a minimum of the cluttered and inexeplicably fragmented writing that I feel damaged this text and made it much less readable and enjoyable.