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Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder Paperback – June 23, 2008

4.3 out of 5 stars 338 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A departure from Evelyn Waugh's normally comic theater, Brideshead Revisited concerns the tale of Charles Ryder, a captain in the British Army in post-World War I England. Unlike Waugh's previous narrators, Ryder is an intelligent man, looking back on much of his life from his current post in Oxford. He strikes a special friendship with Lord Sebastian Flyte as the setting moves to the Brideshead estate and a baroque castle that recalls England's prior standing in the world. Ryder falls for Flyte's sister while families, politics and religions collide. What makes the book extraordinary is Waugh's sharp, vivid style and his use of dialect and minor characters. This is one of Waugh's finest accomplishments and a superb book. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In this classic tale of British life between the World Wars, Waugh parts company with the satire of his earlier works to examine affairs of the heart. Charles Ryder finds himself stationed at Brideshead, the family seat of Lord and Lady Marchmain. Exhausted by the war, he takes refuge in recalling his time spent with the heirs to the estate before the war--years spent enthralled by the beautiful but dissolute Sebastian and later in a more conventional relationship with Sebastian's sister Julia. Ryder portrays a family divided by an uncertain investment in Roman Catholicism and by their confusion over where the elite fit in the modern world. Although Waugh was considered by many to be more successful as a comic than as a wistful commentator on human relationships and faith, this novel was made famous by a 1981 BBC TV dramatization. Irons's portrayal of Ryder catapulted Irons to stardom, and in this superb reading his subtle, complete characterizations highlight Waugh's ear for the aristocratic mores of the time. Fervent Anglophiles will be thrilled by this excellent rendition of a favorite; Irons's reading saves this dinosaur from being suffocated by its own weight.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 351 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books (June 23, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316042994
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316042994
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.9 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (338 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,015,996 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Gary F. Taylor HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
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.
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22 Comments 505 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Paperback
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.)
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Format: Paperback
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.
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