This 1944, WWII publication, has been described as a “memory drama.” Judging from the photos on the cover, it has been made into a good movie, which I wish I’d seen as well as read the novel. The narrative opens as Charles Ryder, a British officer, approaches the estate of Brideshead, to determine its suitability for billeting troops. He does not, at first, tell his fellow officers that he has been there before.
Waugh’s dissatisfaction with the Catholic Church, much like his dissatisfaction with the funeral industry in The Loved One, is expressed through satiric humor, which makes many somber philosophical points. Death, in general, is also satirized humorously as in the scene near the end of the old man’s death, presented in dark-humored detail. Waugh cleverly presents the conflict between the demands of religion and the narrator’s physical desires. The descriptions of the countryside, and especially, architecture, are stunning and provide pleasure to the reader. The love triangle between Charles Ryder, Sebastian, and his sister, Julia is a strange and complicated one. The characters, including the mother are complex and carefully developed. This “elegant, lyrical novel” demands the reader stay alert to the narrator’s “entanglement with an Anglo-Catholic family.”
It was a challenge to read for me because the pace was slow, and I was often impatient with the Brideshead family’s treatment of the protagonist, as well as with the protagonist himself, often wishing for Charles to cut the ties to this privileged family and get on with his life.