What happened to the characters of Decline and Fall and Vile Bodies when the war broke out? Put Out More Flags shows them adjusting to the changing social pattern of the times. Some of them play valorous parts; others, like the scapegrace Basil Sea, disclose their incorrigible habit of self-preservation in all circumstances.
Basil's contribution to the war effort involves the use of his peculiar talents in such spheres of opportunity as the Ministry of Information and an obscure section of Military Security - adventures which incite Evelyn Waugh to another pungent satire upon the coteries of Mayfair.
Evelyn Waugh's first wartime novel captures the moment when England realised she was at war again, but couldn't work out whether to be pleased or frightened. As a long-standing Waugh fan I had never found this in print, so to encounter it in audio form is almost miraculous. It functions as a kind of "What Katy did next" for assorted characters in Waugh's earlier satirical novels, principally the serpentine Basil Seal, voiced brilliantly by Michael Maloney as an upper-class cad and chancer treating the war as the wiping clean of his personal slate. Those coming to Waugh for the first time will inevitably miss some of the resonances and references, so a little pre-reading would not go astray - Decline and Fall and Black Mischief should cover it. There is a satisfying measure of redemption for most of the characters but you will need to go to Brideshead Revisited for the full working out of Waugh's religious worldview.
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