Author: Evelyn Waugh
Type: Fiction, novel
I read it: August 2008
I finally went ahead and read this classic, spurred by what it might have to say about the effects of religion on the characters. It’s genuinely engaging, but the structure can be a little burdensome. Waugh does not go out of his way to make clear the timeline (most of the book is a flashback but some points revert back to Charles’ “present”), and the second book (it’s split into two parts) is almost entirely devoid of Sebastian. Sebastian is the best character, and I don’t complain about his demise so much as the author’s disregard for his position in the novel and the sudden switch to the other family members. Anyway, I’m ready to watch the BBC miniseries and see if it lives up to the hype.
Also since so much of the novel revolves around the absurdity of religious tradition, I have to include Waugh’s excellent summary (from the voice of Charles):
The view implicit in my education was that the basic narrative of Christianity had long been exposed as a myth, and that opinion was now divided as to whether its ethical teaching was of present value, a division in which the main weight went against it; religion was a hobby which some people professed and others did not; at the best it was slightly ornamental, at the worst it was the province of ‘complexes’ and ‘inhibitions’–catchwords of the decade–and of the intolerance, hypocrisy, and sheer stupidity attributed to it for centuries.