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.
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'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.
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.
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.
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 grew up on Golden Age Radio, I love to learn about a great many things, and I enjoy a wide variety of genres. Me, bored? Never!
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.
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.
Brideshead Revisited is a beautifully written book about very ugly people. In fact, by the end of the novel I was actually grateful that Hitler was just off-stage, sharpening The Wehrmacht and readying the iron bombs for dropping on all these self-centered, self-indulgent, wearisome British zombies.
Structurally the novel is perfect and if we were ever to wake up one sunny morning mysteriously conferred by God with the gift of being an editor of literature, Brideshead Revisited would be the new War and Peace. Everything from the wonderful framing of the novel with Charles 'revisiting' the estate, to the beautiful language Waugh writes so effortlessly in, to even the subject matter of the ending of the British aristocracy - it's all quite 'perfect'.
Trouble is, (nearly) everyone in the novel is a priggish snob, a bitter, hateful gossip, a languid zombie of pre-war 'British-ness', a dying relic of a hemorrhaging Empire, and all around a collection of nasty specimens exhibiting the worst of privileged humanity. Worse still, the main character, Charles, floats about through life with a detached aire that would make a ghost jealous.
In Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë managed to write at great length how people can be cruel and nasty and wicked to each other and yet by the end of her masterpiece we loved everyone (even if there was a sense of Stockholm Syndrome to it all). Here, Waugh does not endear the characters to us in any way - we do not care much about them by the end any more than we began the novel with. They change very little.
In Remains Of The Day, Kazuo Ishiguro gave us a similar setting of England on the verge of war with Hitler and an old manor home coming to terms with the new world order. Yet where Ishiguro manages to make a stuffy, detached, brutally professional and dedicated main character (Mr. Stevens) and his master, the naive and member of the old guarde Lord Darlington, Waugh in this novel just shows us how awful these people all are - how out of touch, how insulated they were and how lucky we all are to have had Hitler drop all his bombs on them for half a decade.
Not that showing us the bad side of humanity is a bad thing and I most certainly do not believe art needs to be life-affirming and every novel needs to be populated with a Tolstoy's 'Levin', however, when we have nothing to sympathize with, not even a shred of decency, then we run the risk of not caring anymore what the author's intent was (to show the final decay of British upper-class) and just keep turning the pages because the language is beautiful and hoping someone gets a bomb dropped on their head.
Not that it's all terrible. Sebastian verges on becoming a wonderful character, but he's under utilized and Waugh seems to be counting on the fact that we'll all just be smart enough to see how Sebastian just wants to have fun and not be around miserable people all day long (his family). Yet by the end we have become Sebastian - drunk with Waugh's language and twisted up on the doorstep of a North African monastery in a puddle of our own urine and vomit, the faint flicker of life somewhere in our out-of-focus eyes that lets the monks know we're not quite dead yet and that they should attempt to kindly revive our stupor.
Anyway, Sebastian is written out of the book just past the half-way point and isn't brought up enough again for us to care really what ever may have actually come of him. I think Waugh just forgot to follow the thread of Sebastian being the only likable character in the novel and decided to see how far he could depress the reader.
I might have been able to forgive Waugh a bit more had he been a bit more on-the-nose with his theme of class and 'caste', but he even wrote the modern equivalent of an every-man, Hooper, as a dolt. By the end we just have Charles as a middle manager in the Army, dissatisfied and at the same time almost happy that he, partially, ruined an entire family's life.
Oh, sure, it's not a bad thing that these types of people are no longer around. The fall of this class of British society is no bad thing for humanity and it serves as a reminder to the rest of us 'plebs' how much contempt the upper-classes truly and surely have for us living in the gutter of Rome. We should never forget that there are few noble Levin's and Pierre's in the world because most of the well-to-do are the banks in Steinbeck's 'Grapes of Wrath' or the cheat who tries to blame a crime on a poor prostitute such as in 'Crime in Punishment'. The real world is full of contemptible characters who are glad they 'got theirs' and will make damn sure you don't see any of it and want you to just go away and not muck up the pretty scenery with your dirty, filthy, unwashed, and unclean odors.
And maybe I wanted Waugh to just go all the way - maybe I wanted him to side with the upper classes and not leave us with the final note of gleeful revenge at seeing the end come so painfully to those who deserved it. Maybe if Waugh had been full on conservative and not hinted at the popular liberalness I keep harping on about, then I would have not felt so terrible about all this and could pass it off as a 'Ayn Rand-ian' warning to the well read about how the rich and conservative want to rule the world.
Alas, that's not to be. Waugh leaves us with an unclear image of his true intent, paints an ugly picture with beautiful paint, and manages to just depress the hell out of me.
Finally, for as beautifully written as the novel is, I already feel like I've forgotten most of it. There is such a fleetingness to the whole affair, a lightness to the events of the story that I had a hard time feeling anything that happened was even important. Even the scene on the ship, with its humor, felt empty and shallow.
Maybe what the book lacked, a book that talked so much about religion, lacked a soul. There was no heart in any of it, just indifference, decay, and unimportance in a world that was quickly to become very important with bombs, armies, firebombings - a clearing of the old undergrowth and dead brush.
In the end, not the most interesting subject matter, and at best, the whole thing was not as artful as others have managed to be with somewhat similar subject matter. Go read 'Remains of the Day', 'War and Peace', and 'Wuthering Heights' instead.
Yes, Evelyn Waugh is a poetic writer. Every sentence carefully crafted. A good book to read and a good one to listen to. I listened on my Kindle, while reading the book. Not simultaneously, but flipping back & forth. You get to see the elite life of Brits in the first half of the 20th century, and terrific character development too (especially the men).
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