So this is another book I read for my seminar. I didn’t like it so much when I started reading it, but after reading three of Waugh’s novels (“Decline and Fall,” “The Loved One,” and “Brideshead Revisited”) I realized that many of his works have a slow start and only pick up steam as you keep reading.
The story follows a soldier, Charles Ryder, who is stationed near a house that he used to spend a lot of time in during his youth and so the flashbacks begin. Ryder remembers the man he first fell in love with and always seemed to love throughout his life, Sebastian Flyte. He remembers Sebastian’s sister, Julia, who is described as looking exactly like Sebastian except in female form.
Ryder remembers the Marchmain family and the drama he endured during his visits at the Marchmain house.
The story seems similar to Waugh’s own life. He was at Oxford and fell in love with a man who was an alcoholic. He spent much of his time with this man and his family. In the novel, Sebastian is an alcoholic and Ryder’s falling out with the family happens because Ryder gives Sebastian drinking money.
Waugh was also someone who was interested mainly in men when he was younger, but married a woman in his later life. A story line that is similar to Ryder’s who marries a woman named Celia and cheats on her with Sebastian’s sister.
I liked the novel because it deals with something that everyone is aware of: family drama. It’s a topic that can be easily overrated and overdone, but Waugh tackles it in a way that makes the novel interesting and funny. It’s also a novel that deals with homosexuality which I always find interesting; however, the two characters, Charles Ryder and Sebastian Flyte never end up together.
Overall, it’s a good read. It’s one of those classic novels that I’ve been hearing about since I was younger and one of those that I had to read as an English Specialist.
I recommend the book, not only so you can sound smart and well read, but also because it’s funny and well written. Beware the slow starts in Waugh’s work, it’s well worth sticking with it once you start one of his novels.
Try it out!