By Evelyn Waugh. This is for my darling husband who complained that I hadn’t reviewed any books yet!
Is it just me, or is Charles Ryder just a big whinge bag?
Plot summary: A “present day” Charles Ryder, looks back on his friendship with an old and titled family, the Marchmain’s (Brideshead is their country house). Lady Marchmain is Catholic, as are all of her children in varying degrees of piousness. Ryder meets Sebastian at Oxford. Sebastian is good looking, bags of fun, and takes his teddy bear, Aloysius, everywhere he goes. Charles joins in the fun, and meets the rest of Sebastian’s family. The family is worried about Sebastian’s drinking, and try to enlist Ryder’s help. Ryder ends up becoming estranged from the family, and goes off to Paris to study art. Ten years later, by chance Ryder meets Julia again (Sebastian’s sister). They have embark on an affair. And won’t tell you more in case you want to read it.
I have heard tell that this novel is about the decline of the English aristocracy. But to me, it also pokes sticks at the people who have ascended in their place – the untitled money people. They, through Ryder’s eyes, look pompous and superficial. Mind you, that is only through Ryder’s eyes.
Ryder is a bit of a miserable sod, actually. “Too cool for school” is probably a good way to describe him. He cannot fathom his friends’ spirituality. He is an non-struggling artist with a family who he isn’t interested in, and sees only the beauty the eye can behold.
And speaking of coming out … was Julia invented because Waugh felt his character couldn’t have an affair with her brother Sebastian? She looked at lot like Sebastian, but was a woman.
And did it really make it OK for Ryder to have an affair because his wife had one first? The novel was first published in 1945, so I wondered if Waugh used the “wife-had-one-first” to make Ryder a bit more palatable to the readers. As in, it isn’t that shocking because of Ryder to have an affair because he was the original cuckold.
And I am saying Ryder, not Waugh, is a miserable sod.
Please don’t get me wrong. This novel was an enjoyable read, and an easy train read.
Please do, feel free to disagree.