Evelyn Waugh's most celebrated work is a memory drama about the intense entanglement of the narrator, Charles Ryder, with a great Anglo-Catholic family. Written during World War II, the story mourns the passing of the aristocratic world Waugh knew in his youth and vividly recalls the sensuous pleasures denied him by wartime austerities; in so doing it also provides a profound study of the conflict between the demands of religion and the desires of the flesh.
At once romantic, sensuous, comic, and somber, Brideshead Revisited transcends Waugh's familiar satiric exploration of his cast of lords and ladies, Catholics and eccentrics, artists and misfits, revealing him to be an elegiac, lyrical novelist of the utmost feeling and lucidity.
©1973 Laura Waugh (P)2012 Hachette Audio
The audio version is sublime.
Evelyn Waugh's magnificent prose.
Flawless phrasing; elegant, perfect timing.
This has already been done, as one impeccable broadcast series. And when it aired originally, it was reviewed as television's "finest hour.". That will do.
My audible library approaches 1,000 titles. I rarely submit reviews here on the website, preferring to tweet my impressions and recommendations. But when this title was released yesterday, I rearranged my day around listening.
Jeremy Irons' reading of "Brideshead Revisited" is magnificent.
Secondary, and even ancillary characters are fully realized, in the most surprising and wonderful voices--- Cordelia and Charles Ryder's father in particular. The vulnerable, sometimes diaphinous voicing of Sebastian and Julia Flyte, the narcissistic, calculated stutter of Anthony Blanche; worthless, unremarkable Kurt and lethally charming Lady Marchmain (a paradigm of toxic parenthood) surpass every expectation.
And of course, Jeremy Irons will be our Charles Ryder for all time. His pronounciation of the word 'forerunner' is a lesson for all dramatic actors. Be mindful, readers, that this same narrator's rendition of Nabokov's "Lolita" is considered to be one of the finest ever offered by audible.com.
Performances like this are what every reader and listener hopes for. This title belongs in everyone's library. Buy it, and be spellbound.
Say something about yourself!
A coworker of mine who's more "literati" than I am heard me talk about how I was surprised to enjoy a series like Downton Abbey, given that it's not typically in my wheelhouse. Since I tend to explore outside my wheelhouse quite frequently where good books are concerned, my coworker suggested this one.
On the surface, this book has quite a bit in common with Downton Abbey. It deals with the decline of the British noble class in the wake of the first world war and the romantic nostalgia it seems to invoke. But that's really where the comparison stops. This book concentrates more on relationships and religion, and how these concepts factor into the shaping of personal identity. I can't really say more without spoilers, but suffice to say, if there was an illusion to the social norm of Britain at this time, this story is all about cracking the facade in the pursuit of personal truth.
My understanding is that the book is semi-autobiographical, which makes sense given the details of personalities and situations. Most of what's here would be highly controversial in the time period it depicts and in the decades since it was written. But I think the ever-changing landscape of what's considered socially acceptable or typical, combined with the fairy tale aspects of life at a British country manor, might offer something new to this generation's readers. As cynical as the story plays at times, there is a singular wit about it as well that makes it accessible.
The characters really make this story what it is, brought to life by Waugh's incredible writing style. Regardless of how much may be drawn from real life, the author made sure to make all of these characters his own, and the result is astounding.
As narrator, Jeremy Irons is a great choice. Having played the lead in the 1981 mini-series adaptation, that's an considerable personal insight into what this story offers. 30+ years of such nostalgia added to a story that plays on that very theme? Perfect. Irons is already impervious to the idea of a bad performance. With this book, his contribution is most definitely the touch of the master's hand.
There are not enough words to describe how good this audiobook is. The story, in and of itself, is a masterpiece, but Jeremy Irons' rendition is absolutely perfect. He demonstrates once again that he is one of the finest actors of his generation, and his talents are on full display here. His portrayal of every character with their own accents and speech patterns never ceases to impress.
Get this audiobook, and listen to it often. You won't be disappointed.
I am a huge fan of Masterpiece Theater's "Brideshead Revisited" and have tried to read the book at least twice. Just could not get through it. But this Audible version is the next best thing to the television production. In it, Jeremy Irons channels all his co-stars from the BBC series - my favorite is his John Geilgud impression - bringing the whole series alive again. He brings Waugh excellent prose to life in a way the physical book just couldn't for me.
If you want to listen to something depressing, this book is for you. Well written book and the reader was great, but I don't want to listen to non-stop unhappy. I saw the movie and wanted to see how close it was to the book. I just wanted it to be over.
I've read this book (on paper) maybe a dozen times--it's the book that has defined me more than any other. Irons' reading is exactly what I would hope for, and I am grateful to find it.
This may be one of my favorite books ever. But why? I don't like any of the characters. They are almost all self absorbed blighted people who hurt others with little compunction. The subject is depressing, the loss of innocence, alcoholism, divorce, lost love, death, the list goes on and on. It ends on the eve of ww2 with the house being neglected and ruined by soldiers stationed there. All is so sad, yet the prose are so wonderful, I feel I must have champagne and strawberries this afternoon. Of course, this book's narration belongs to Jeremy Irons, perfection! Listen before you see the movie (the old one, not the new silly choppy one). Get this book and enjoy Mr. Waugh's masterpiece!
I discovered the joy of audiobooks several years ago when I got a job which is a 45 min drive one way. It continued to keep me mostly sane.
I first experienced Brideshead Revisited as the original PBS production and thought I had fallen in love. I was wrong. I read the elegant and voluptuous prose of Evelyn Waugh and THEN I fell in love.
To hear those beautiful words and passages read by the most mesmerizing voice in the world adds about a mile of icing on an already delicious cake. Jeremy Irons, who created the character of Charles Ryder for the PBS version, narrates and gives every character the nuances and shadings they deserve, including a few I did not expect! His narration of Charles's father is sly and hilarious!
But most of all .. listen, listen, listen. To Iron's perfect narration of a perfectly written book. I know I am gushing and I don't care!
History enthusiast with military and legal background.
I felt I was actually in the story, not just listening to it. I felt I was in the room, and part of the family and conversation. It was surreal. Sure the characters are bad people, but aren't we all? The character development is the best I have ever seen.
St. Louis, Missouri
I know Waugh felt conflicted about this book. Written as he recovered from a parachute training accident between February and June 1944, in the midst of wartime rationing, he later said Brideshead was, “infused with a kind of gluttony, for food and wine, for the splendours of the recent past, and for rhetorical and ornamental language which now, with a full stomach, I find distasteful."
Speaking for myself, I am forever grateful for wartime rationing.
I understand that the man who dismissed Winston Churchill’s lush literary style as, “sham Augustan prose” might have suffered qualms looking back on this, his most florid and flamboyant work. But consider. It is the story of a painter, told in the voice of a painter. While Waugh’s imagery usually strikes me as apt and skillful, the details in Brideshead—leafs rising in a dry basin as rain falls, the heave of an Atlantic liner, the taste of strawberries and wine—are the details a visual artist would revel in. Charles Ryder is certainly not a painter of genius, but he is a capable craftsman; anything less than what Waugh wrote would make Charles less of a sensualist—and it is his sensuality, his youthful appetite for the refined and beautiful that sets the story going.
Also, more than most of Waugh’s novels, this one strives to express emotions that are so evanescent that they almost defy expression, let alone comprehension. One passage will suffice:
“Perhaps all our loves are merely hints and symbols; vagabond-language scrawled on gate-posts and paving-stones along the weary road that others have tramped before us; perhaps you and I are types and this sadness which sometimes falls between us springs from disappointment in our search, each straining through and beyond the other, snatching a glimpse now and then of the shadow which turns the corner always a pace or two ahead of us.”
Chief among these impalpable yearnings is the religious impulse—both for and against. At the center of this book is the conversion of Charles Ryder. It is the story of a mind committed to the reality of this world finally acknowledging the greater Reality beyond it. Looking back on my own journey to Rome, I can tell you the books I read and the conversations I had, but to articulate what was going on inside me would require the kind of literary invention Waugh brings to this story. The vagabond language he left behind helps me better understand the way I have come.
Most likely, Jeremy Irons is as closely linked in your mind with this novel as he is in mine. Hearing him read the entire book—not just occasional paragraphs to bridge over transitions in the film—is a real pleasure.
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