This version of Brideshead Revisited written by Evelyn Waugh is the audiobook which is read by Jeremy Irons. I have tried to locate this version for years without luck. Then by chance I located it in a library in Calgary USA. In the UK it's just impossible to find. If you know Brideshead you will love Jeremy's reading of it. He strikes the perfect balance in his speech pattern and is able to convey disdain, surprise, cordiality and love. For me after all these years since watching it first on Granada TV back in the early eighties and having the DVD's of both the original and the Ben Whishaw version it was like hearing the voice of an old friend. Oddly I only read the book after seeing the Granada series and have re-read it countless times since, my dog-eared copy is well thumbed. To hear Jeremy read it, is like opening a time capsule, it takes me back to those bleak austere days of the three day week, power cuts, and wild-cat strikes. The enunciation, clarity of speech and impeccable diction will leave you reeling. I always find some new word to research when re-reading Brideshead and listening to Jeremy corrects my mispronunciation of Latin. If you have not heard this you are missing out. John M P.S. Hope this helps you decide.
This is the best known of Evelyn Waugh's novels where he displays his affection for the English aristocracy and his fascination with the Catholic faith. The narrator is an architectural painter Charles Ryder who becomes close friends at Oxford with Sebastian Flyte, son of a Marquess. Ryder, an agnostic, is taken to visit Brideshead which Sebastian describes as where his family lives rather than as his home. Ryder becomes well acquainted with the entire family at Brideshead and with Sebastian's absent father, Lord Marchmain who lives in Italy. Sebastian is a flamboyant homosexual who is loved but at the same time estranged from his family. Sebastian correctly believes that his mother is trying to enlist Ryder to bring Sebastian back into the fold and to try to control Sebastian's drinking. This causes strain in Ryder's relationship with Sebastian as does Ryder's romantic attentions to Sebastion's sister Julia. A central theme of the book is the struggle Ryder has in understanding the Catholic faith of the family at Brideshead. Making the narrator an architectural painter was very appropriate for Waugh's style of writing--only a painter could see and describe so evocatively the beauty of the landscape, interior decoration and magnificence of the architecture at Brideshead.The book was made into a great British TV mini-series and into a not very well done movie. The movie places too much emphasis on a homosexual relationship between Sebastian and Ryder. This relationship is not explicitly described in the book and is in no sense a central theme of the novel. Indeed, while Sebastian is described throughout the book as a flamboyant homosexual, Ryder clearly has interests in women much to the annoyance of Sebastian.
Evelyn Waugh's brilliant Brideshead Revisited is a magic carpet for the heart and soul, evocative and powerful and eternally fresh, told with a skill and eye incomparable 20th century fiction. Read it and learn about a time and place and set of sensibilities now lost to us; read it and rejoice at what the written word can do; read it for its poignancy as Waugh reveals his lessons in the art of life, love, and literature. But be warned, when you read it, you will weep not simply for these characters come to life, but for us all.
This is really a classic novel in format and may endure to be one. There is formal ornamental language throughout the book to reflect the aristocratic culture of the time. This language is certainly intentional, as is made clearly apparent in the preface. The reader learns about the English aristocracy, their manners, food, furniture, house and the grounds of their estates. The disadvantage of this type of language is that the reader’s mind may drift at times. Sometimes this requires rereading some of the paragraphs, especially in the middle section of the book.
The plot is set in a changing world in Britain and America prior to and during World War II. The PBS series, Brideshead Revisited, aired in the 1980s, and is available on DVD or download today to supplement the reading of this novel. The television series helps bring to life the characters and make them solidify in your memory.
Captain Charles Ryder and his company of soldiers are to set up headquarters at a large estate. Charles recognizes the mansion as Brideshead. The memories of his connection to Brideshead in his youth are awakened.
He was a young artist when he met Lord Sebastian Flyte at Oxford in 1923. Sebastian was very rich and bored. He wanted fun, lightness, silliness; he wanted entertainment to fill the emptiness within. He carried Aloysius, his toy teddy bear everywhere. Charles was infatuated with him. Sebastian was irresponsible but his family bailed him out. His family took steps to oversee his activities and hired Mr. Samgrass to keep an eye on him. Sebastian’s family, especially Lady Marchmain Flyte, his mother, pulled Charles into intimacy in order to control Sebastian. She succeeded in making Charles open up to her, but her attempts to convert Charles to Catholicism failed. Sebastian wanted to get away from his family; he felt trapped. He was less and less in love with Charles as Charles become close to his mother.
Sebastian drank more and more. His family, especially his mother, tried to control this, but Sebastian only drank more heavily. Charles wanted to please Sebastian and win his approval, so he gave him money when he asked for it. Sebastian’s mother coldly asked Charles to leave Brideshead when she found he had given Sebastian money for drinking.
Charles had had enough and distanced himself from Brideshead, although he still pined for Sebastian. He married Celia, a pretty woman, who took pride in his success as a painter and worked hard to promote him. Charles was attracted to her initially but did not love her. After returning from a 2-year trip to Central America where he had gone to renew his artistic inspiration, Charles showed indifference to his wife and children. When he and Celia were on a ship on vacation, he saw Julia, Sebastian’s sister. He was attracted to her because she reminded him of Sebastian.
Julia and Charles both got divorced so they could get married. However, as her father lay dying and Charles did not see the purpose of a priest giving her unconscious father, Lord Marchmain, the “last rites”, she realized that she could not marry Charles and give up her religion.
The author says the book is about faith in God, the Brideshead family vs Charles, who is a nonbeliever. The book is about “the operation of divine grace on a group of diverse but closely connected characters”. The book seems to be more than that to me. It is about the choices we make, the paths we take in love and faithfulness.