467 of 482 people found the following review helpful
Like most great novels, BRIDESHEAD REVISITED is about a great many things--not the least of which is the decline of English aristocracy. But at center, Evelyn Waugh's greatest novel (and one of his few non-satirical works) is about religious faith, and how that faith continues to operate in the lives of even those who seem to reject it, and how that faith supports even those who falter badly in it.
The story is complex. It is told in the first person by narrator Charles Ryder, who develops a close and possibly homoerotic relationship with artistocrat Sebastian Flyte while the two are students at Oxford. Seduced by the glamor of Flyte's way of life and the beauty of his ancestrial home at Brideshead, Ryder becomes deeply involved with Flyte's family as well--a Roman Catholic family in which the various members either use their religion to manipulate others or actively rebel against it. With the passage of time, Sebastian's drinking expands into alcholism--which appears to be fueled by his guilt at rejecting the church, a rejection which may be based on his own uncertain sexuality. Ryder consequently transfers his affections to Sebastian's sister Julia--but again religion influences their relationship: Julia has made an unfortunate marriage, and although she is willing to engage in an affair with Ryder, she may not be willing to divorce her husband, an act that will cast her completely outside the bounds of her faith.
The characters involved in the story are often extremely charming, but they are not necessarily admirable, and the passage of time in the novel nibbles away at their charm in such a way as to expose their flaws; even the narrator, Charles Ryder, gradually emerges as a somewhat second-rate person of dubious integrity. Even so, there remains a strange element of hope in the novel, a sense of God's grace and mercy even in the face of deliberate affront. Poetically written with considerable beauty and a sense of lost innocence that haunts the reader, BRIDESHEAD REVISITED is a too-often misinterpreted and misunderstood book that demands a thoughtful reading to get down into the marrow of its thematic bones. Powerful, beautiful, memorable--a book to read and enjoy again and again. Strongly recommended.
128 of 136 people found the following review helpful
This is a fairly sizeable novel. It would normally take me about three days with pretty substantial reading time during those days. But there was just something about it, and I made time and read this one pretty much straight through. It is easily one of the most wonderful novels I have ever read.
There is so much to like about it. There is sheer joy in reading Waugh's prose as small nuggets of humor and beauty are uncovered throughout. The characters are pretty over-the-top (done on purpose) which makes them entertaining, but the depth of the characters is the truly striking thing. It's usually between the lines, but these characters are changing dramatically throughout, and for the better. I think the theological discussion running throughout the novel is what really makes it rise to true greatness. Waugh's making a compelling argument for a moral universe, and he is revealing what God's grace may look like working in people's lives.
Brideshead Revisited is true masterpiece that really cannot be missed by any lover of literature or by any person looking for some meaning out there. It's a joy in every sense of the word. This is one book I'm going to come back to.
55 of 57 people found the following review helpful
on March 4, 2005
Short & sweet because other reviewers have provided wonderful descriptions already: reading such a book as this is an education in itself.
Brideshead is a classic novel by a genuine master of English prose. Well-worth reading not once, but many times, to understand the depth of the story itself as well as appreciate Waugh's obvious mastery of language.
Also highly recommended is Mortimer's adaptation of the book as a mini-series starring Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Anthony Andrews and Jeremy Irons. It is the definitive Brideshead on film, from the opening lines spoken by Jeremy Irons (as usual, his speaking voice is flawless) to the final scene of Charles in Brideshead chapel during WWII where Charles prays "an ancient prayer, newly learned."
(There are some reviewers who've given it a low rating based on their dislike of the underlying theme of the book. Evelyn Waugh was a convert to Catholicism and his novel revolves around the characters' wandering away but ultimately back again, to faith: for the Flyte family, it is a return to their heritage (two of the most moving scenes are Lord Marchmain's death-bed conversion and Julia's painful but utterly noble decision), and for Charles Ryder (not "Simon" as a one-star critic mistakenly called him! Have you read the book, sir?), it is a newly found conviction. Hence, Book III's title "A Twitch upon the Thread" (quoting Chesterton), the thread referring to the fine, but strong pull of the Catholic faith over these individuals. If this is the book's only 'flaw', as some assert it to be, perhaps this line from a Capra film will help: for those who believe, no explanation is necessary; for those who do not, no explanation is possible. Agnostic, atheist or believer, the workings of grace is a mysterious thing.)
124 of 136 people found the following review helpful
Published in 1945, this novel, which Waugh himself sometimes referred to as his "magnum opus," was originally entitled "Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder." The subtitle is important, as it casts light on the themes--the sacred grace and love from God, especially as interpreted by the Catholic church, vs. the secular or profane love as seen in sex and romantic relationships. The tension between these two views of love--and the concept of "sin"--underlie all the action which takes place during the twenty years of the novel and its flashbacks.
When the novel opens at the end of World War II, Capt. Charles Ryder and his troops, looking for a billet, have just arrived at Brideshead, the now-dilapidated family castle belonging to Lord Marchmain, a place where Charles Ryder stayed for an extended period just after World War I, the home of his best friend from Oxford, Lord Sebastian Flyte. The story of his relationship with Sebastian, a man who has rejected the Catholicism imposed on him by his devout mother, occupies the first part of the book. Sebastian, an odd person who carries his teddy bear Aloysius everywhere he goes, tries to escape his upbringing and religious obligations through alcohol. Charles feels responsible for Sebastian's welfare, and though there is no mention of any homosexual relationship, Charles does say that it is this relationship which first teaches him about the depths of love.
The second part begins when Charles separates from the Flytes and his own family and goes to Paris to study painting. An architectural painter, Charles marries and has a family over the next years. A chance meeting on shipboard with Julia, Sebastian's married sister, brings him back into the circle of the Flyte family with all their religious challenges. Three of the four Flyte children have tried to escape their religious backgrounds, and this part of the novel traces the extent to which they have or have not succeeded in finding peace in the secular world. "No one is ever holy without suffering," he believes.
Dealing with religious and secular love, Heaven and Hell, the concepts of sin and judgment, and the guilt and punishments one imposes on oneself, the novel also illustrates the changes in British society after World War II. The role of the aristocracy is less important, the middle class is rising, and in the aftermath of war, all are searching for values. A full novel with characters who actively search for philosophical or religious meaning while they also search for romantic love, Brideshead Revisited is complex and thoughtfully constructed, an intellectual novel filled with personal and family tragedies--and, some would say, their triumphs. n Mary Whipple
88 of 100 people found the following review helpful
on April 2, 2006
Format: Audio CD
Anyone considering a purchase of this product should know that it is very heavily abridged. It's difficult to give a realistic assessment of how much has been lost, but to me it sounds as though about half of Waugh's writing has been cut out. Most of the dialogue is there, but the narratives have been omitted. Whole characters, such as Hooper and Charles Ryder's father, have been truncated, leaving the book really an empty shell.
I was really disappointed by this product: Nowhere on the CD itself does it say "Abridged," nor is it obvious in the product description. I guess I just have to assume that if it does not say "Complete and Unabridged," it's been mutilated.
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
This is the first Evelyn Waugh book I have read, on recommendation. 'Brideshead Revisited' is an extremely well-written book that thoroughly tells the story of Charles Ryder, an English officer who is forced to recall the happiest and saddest moments of his life. Through his memories, we learn of the wealthy and eccentric Marchmain family and the formative role they played in the narrator's life.
Charles Ryder begins his memoirs when, as a soldier in WWII, he finds himself requisitioning the old manor home of the Marchmain family. He immediately recalls his first encounters with the family - the mysterious and ultra-stylish Sebastian, whom he encounters while at Oxford, a pretentious young man who carries around a stuffed bear and has a propensity to drink. Sebastian is hesitant to introduce Charles to his family, for fear they will charm him so much that he will lose him as a friend for himself. But Charles does meet, and is charmed by, the Marchmain family, ingratiating himself into every aspect of their life. He quickly becomes a mainstay with the family and is called upon in times of great stress - when Sebastian's propensity to drink gets him expelled and causes him to escape his demons by running away. Despite losing his friend, through the years, Charles remains connected with the Marchmains in varying degrees of intimacy.
'Brideshead Revisited' is a stylish and well-written saga of one man's journey to discover himself; he seeks out what he desires in others, and at the end of his journey is brought to tears by his remembrances of everything he has lost. The novel is not only a family saga, but also raises deep questions of faith, especially pertaining to Catholicism. As an agnostic, Charles ridicules the Marchmain's devout adherence to a faith system he finds mystical; and in the end, he must lose the Marchmain family because he cannot reconcile himself to their system of beliefs. Charles would rather find his own system of beliefs, exactly what he's been searching for throughout the entire novel, seeking it through school, painting, and relationships, but to no avail.
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on July 30, 2008
This is a spectacular, beautifully written novel. I bought this hardcover edition because I wanted to read the introduction by Frank Kermode. It offered a lot of background information pertaining to the novel, as well as references to previous editions and a timeline of the author's life.
The story itself is very intriguing. Containing all the elements of a tragic love story-forbidden love, a love triangle, betrayal, and death, I found myself hooked from the first chapter. What I found most intriguing was the second conflict-Charles' struggle with his own spirituality while he spent time at Brideshead. Although I found the text easy to read and understand, I still wouldn't call it a "beach read."
This is one book I will recommend to all my literary friends and will pick up time and time again. Although it may not be for everyone, I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2004
Brideshead Revisited is not for everyone. Evely Waugh focuses on what he thinks is important, and he doesn't particularly care if the reader doesn't agree with him. He is also utterly unapologetic about involving things like sin, morality, and God that are looked down upon by modern critics. That is what makes him great as an author.
The true key to this novel is the quote from G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown mysteries that is mentioned. The one where Father Brown talks about bringing someone back by a twitch upon the thread. An invisible thread long enough to let someone go to the ends of the world, and still bring him back. That, of course, is what God does in this novel. As Evelyn Waugh said, this novel is about the operation of Divine Grace upon a disparate group of individuals. And so the alcoholic Sebastian, the self-indulgent Julia, and the agnostic Charles are all brought back to God in the end.
It is the effects of time that make this novel so profoundly moving for me. Charles goes for so many years without even thinking of his time at Brideshead, and then one brief meeting with Julia brings it all back to him. And he realizes that nothing he has done in his life since then has been of any real value compared to it. That seems very like life to me, where things you barely noticed or didn't understand later become your most important memories.
It is true that Waugh tends to be overly snobbish about the aristocracy in England. We really must wonder if their passing away was such a bad thing. But he still paints a profound picture of England before World War II, as well as giving us unforgettable characters. This is truly a book worth reading.
27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on April 4, 2003
Format: Audio Cassette
I had a friend who made it a point to read "Brideshead Revisited" once a year without fail. She considered it the finest book ever written. While I might quarrel with that hyperbole, I do in fact list it in my own personal top ten. I, too, re-read it, in my case, every few years. And of course I was riveted to the brilliant BBC production starring Jeremy Irons as Charles Ryder.
Imagine my delight, then, when I found this unabridged reading by Irons himself! My delight was rewarded. Irons' perfect reading of this book opened up a whole new world for me. This time, I heard and felt the absolute poetry of Waugh's words--his ability to take his reader from sultry ... summertime to the slums of the Casbah to a storm at sea that is the perfect metaphor for the turmoil to come. Waugh never wasted a word. Never said more than he had to say. Never helped the reader by sugarcoating the story. And the result was breathtaking.
Maybe because I was listening this time rather than reading, I paid much more attention this time to the book's main theme, religion versus humanity. Can one exist without the other? Does one destroy the other? How far can one stray when bound by the "invisible thread"? Waugh's very personal and moving tale of upper-class Catholics in a Protestant country is a brilliant affirmation of faith, and at the same time, a bitter acknowledgement of the price that faith can exact.
I cannot say enough about this recording, which brings all the best of Waugh to the fore even more so than the written word.
31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on July 26, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
This is not the only abridged edition of a literary work Amazon is offering without any warning at all that it's abridged. If Kindle books are to be acceptable to serious readers, full disclosure is a must.
Moreover, Amazon is accepting for distribution "Kindle" versions of books that are so shabbily scanned that the errors interrupt the reading flow. In most cases one can see how machine scanning could cause the error; what's not acceptable is that no editor has gone through the product with a fine-tooth comb before putting it out there.
Don't buy them when warned, return them when surprised, and call them out by name - identifying publisher if possible.