Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sometimes I think thar you can get to books too soon. I first read Brideshead Revisited when I was at school, somewhere around my A Levels, and I was not ready for it. But then, I think, neither was it for me. We were both too wrapped up in our own stories at the time; I was too busy with an educational system that I did not wish to be part of in the slightest, and it was too busy with its long, languid days of introspection. Our first encounter, then, was poor; I was bored by it, I did not get it. But it waited for me to come back to it and I like it when a book does that. I like it when they exist in a kind of very precise point and place in time, ready for being read when world and circumstance and life allows it.

So this time, this reading: different. I was ready for the breathlessly aching prologue, by the way that literally everybody is infatuated with everybody else and if they are not, then they are infatuated with themselves. I was ready for messiness, people lost in systems that they did not understand nor control but that did control them. And I was ready for that surprising edge of callousness that creeps in as the book develops, the way that characters come to care about what’s in front of them rather than those that they leave in the wake. I was ready for stiff upper lips that grew stiffer still and the tight, tightness of the social class structure and I was ready for those misty edged moments between now and then. And yes, I was ready to be bored a little as well, accepting that this is simply part of the texture of this book for me, that there are sentences that break and fall apart, too lost in their own thoughts to consider how the reader might follow and perhaps, not even caring if they did.

But in a way, I still was not ready for grace. Waugh’s writing here is graceful, eloquent, and so very sure of itself that it felt like I was watching somebody carve marble in front of me. It is confident and fiercely certain, and it wins and loses and I suspect that it would do that without a reader or perhaps without even a book. There is something very timeless about this story and yet, paradoxically, there isn’t. It’s a love letter (and love comes so close to loss, I think, to grief) to a generation far gone but somehow still with us.

I wonder what might happen if I come back to it in another twenty years. I suspect that it will wait for me and I suspect it might not. I suspect that it might continue to tell its story, irrespective of whether it’s read or not. Somehow, somewhere, there will always be Brideshead.

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2 thoughts on “Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

  1. Reading books at school, and being made to write essays about them and listen to your teacher and classmates droning on about things you don’t want to know, can be very off-putting 🙂

    1. Oh YES! Definitely! 🙂 I don’t think this was an official read at school for me though. I think I read it because I knew where the TV adaptation. was filmed and had a vague interest in it because of that.

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