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This year, I watched most of the ITV series, saw the movie and visited the set of both, not to mention reading the author's first novel. So it seemed like about time I sat down and read the book.

It's brilliant. Every line of it resonates with a profound love of the English language - and it's a testimony to the way the ITV series made use of this that as I read, I heard not only the lines they actually used in Jeremy Irons' voice, but those they did not as well.

I did find the prologue hard going because of all its military jargon. There were several sentences I had to read twice before I could even guess at what they meant. I'm pretty sure the same would have been true of some of the Oxford sections, too, if I hadn't happened to have been there - and indeed specifically to Christ Church - myself. Otherwise, though, it is seductively easy reading; suffused with the sunshine and passion and luxury which make up the story. I only wish I had known about this site, which would have helped me significantly in the military sections.

My view of the plot hasn't changed significantly since I commented on it after watching the film, although I'm more fully aware of the changes they made for the cinema now - and all the more baffled by them, too. I also find almost all of the characters fuller and more complex now, and generally feel greater sympathy for them too. I should note that I actually read the revised version published in 1960, in the preface of which Waugh states that the book is "re-issued with many small additions and some substantial cuts", so that I will have received a slightly different impression of the whole than I would from the original edition (some notes on the sorts of changes that were made are here).

Brideshead probably isn't a very good guide to the general tenor of Waugh's novels - it's certainly far more self-consciously epic and weighty than Decline and Fall, and I enjoyed it more probably for those very reasons. (And enough to devote one of my new icon-spaces to it, too!) Waugh himself appears to have been somewhat ambiguous about it, considering it to be both his greatest achievement and something of an embarrassment at different times. But, in their different ways, I've heartily enjoyed both of his books that I've read this year, and intend to come back for more.

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( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 30th, 2008 10:22 am (UTC)
Although I love Evelyn Waugh (except A Handful of Dust which made me want to slit my wrists), I've never read this one; I have slightly weird feelings about Oxford and I've always thought I might find it a bit too close to the bone. But maybe it's time I gave it a shot.
Dec. 30th, 2008 02:49 pm (UTC)
Well, the way I see it there are two Oxfords: the fictional one (which owes a great deal to this book) and the real one. I didn't find much in Brideshead that resonated in any very serious way with my own experiences there - but YMMV, of course.
Dec. 30th, 2008 06:02 pm (UTC)
I read Brideshead about 15 years ago and at first I thought 'this means nothing to me' (in an ultravox stylee *grin*) but then I realised I cared passionately about what happened and couldn't put it down.

I must re-read it.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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