This was the absolutely perfect book to read at the start of my holidays. A luxurious, indulgent read to soften the edges of a harsh year. And relax me into the next few weeks. Beautiful people a world away from anything I’ve ever known. And yet troubled by the same dilemmas and disturbances of any other existence. Sometimes in gigantic proportions.
I actually bought this copy of BR way back in the 1980s or thereabouts. I believe I’ve tried to read it before, but never got into it. I can’t think why. It’s a warn, yellowing book now. Featuring a young Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews on the cover in stills from the Granada TV adaptation. Which I vaguely recall. For the attractive young men, rather than for the story methinks.
Through the eyes of Charles Ryder, Waugh recounts the adventures – if they can thus be called – centring around Brideshead, seat of Lord Marchmain and his family. An odd, dysfunctional group. Although engaging all the same. CR is charmed as much as he is disarmed by them.
The story begins at Oxford University. CR encounters the youngest family son, Sebastian who is already manifesting traits of a troubled mind. After much circling around, Sebastian reluctantly leads him back to Brideshead. And CR is sucked into the family and their ways. From England and across Europe to North Africa.
It’s interesting – or just telling – that there are no simple, ordinary and problem-free people in BR. None. Characters sit at extremes: sly, mean, devious and crooked; lonely, sad, despairing and desperate. Manipulative. Emotional. Stifled.
And around all this hangs in the air like incense Roman Catholicism. To believe or not to believe. The rights and the wrongs of this Church. Its traditions and beliefs. And ultimately the idea that you’ll give in in the end. They all do.
Re-reading my immediate thoughts, I can’t imagine why I liked the book. I’m not making it sound very inviting. And yet there is the power of Evelyn Waugh. He has such a majestic way of writing. A mastery of language. A smooth, engaging manner. Much like rich, dark chocolate that’s been melted. A delight to admire, a temptation impossible to resist, richness beyond belief. Waugh challenges ideas, argues points, and presents genuinely unpleasant character traits in the most inoffensive, leisurely tones. Dripping indulgence. Delightful.
I have just seen that there was a film made in 2008. I might have to see it. I’m loathe to let the BR feeling go. I wanted to finish, and yet so didn’t. That rare joy loitering in the pages of a good book. Indulging in the indulgence. What to do now? Where to go? I may need a glass of wine or two to help me move on…