I read “The Loved One” about a month ago for a seminar I’m taking at U of T. I thought the cover looked pretty cool so I was excited to read it (yes, I am one of those people who judges books by their cover). I had never read anything by Evelyn Waugh, nor had I heard of him before. I was pleasantly surprised by his (yes, his) writing.
He wrote in the 1930s do you’d think that his writing would be old and outdated, but it was fresh and fun.
The story centered around a man (Dennis Barlow) who works in an animal cemetery and writes poetry. His lover, friend, and mentor, Sir Francis, commits suicide after he’s fired from his job at a movie studio. Barlow is then responsible for arranging his funeral and goes to Whispering Glades, an unconventional funeral home that poses “the loved ones” in “happy” poses and once again look like they’re alive (only with their eyes closed). They are forever displayed in glass cases.
It sounds crazy, but it’s hilarious! Whispering Glades is the most unorthodox place from its idea of how to display the deceased (or “loved ones”) to its employees. Aimée Thanatogenos is a young woman who does make up and hair for “the loved ones” and works for Mr. Joyboy who poses the deceased people with smiles on their faces; especially for Aimée. Joyboy soon falls in love with her.
Barlow falls for Aimée, gets engaged after only a few days and has her leave him for Joyboy who still lives with his mother and refuses to help Aimée if his mother needs help with her pet parrot.
There are rumours that Waugh based his novel around Forest Lawn Memorial-Parks & Mortuaries, a Los Angeles cemetery that seemed so ridiculous and over-the-top that he needed to write a book about it.
“The Loved One” is absolutely hilarious and definitely shows how ridiculous this cemetery must be. A definite must read! And bonus for those of you who don’t like long books, it’s just a little over 100 pages.
So what are you waiting for? Grab a copy!