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Evelyn Waugh was born in Hampstead in 1903. He was educated at Lancing and Hertford College, Oxford. In 1928 he published his first work, a life of Dante Gabriel Rosetti, and his first novel, Decline and Fall, which was soon followed by Vile Bodies, Black Mischief (1932), A Handful of Dust (1934) and Scoop (1938). During these years he travelled extensively and published a number of travel books. In 1939 he was commissioned in the Royal Marines and later transferred to the Royal Horse Guards. He went on to write a number of other books, including Brideshead Revisited (1945) and Men at Arms (1952). Evelyn Waugh died in 1966.
As the final and easily the best volume in Waugh's Sword of Honor Trilogy, this book manages to stay light and amusing while dealing with the greatest taboo subject of twentieth century literature: man's relationship with God. Waugh handles the weighty topic with the same dexterity with which he treats all of his subjects, never bogging down and keeping the reader laughing. The story also provides interesting historical material on both WWII and the disappearance of the English aristocracy. I would recommend reading Men at Arms and Officers & Gentlemen, the first two volumes of the trilogy, to be able to follow the story and the significance of the events.
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The final volume in Evelyn Waugh's "Sword Of Honour" trilogy brings us to the end of World War II, as Guy Crouchback's quest to find glory on the battlefield has sputtered out. When we meet him in this volume, he is more of a shell than ever, his psyche ripped apart by the terrible fighting he witnessed on Crete. Will he find one last shot at redemption, of ending his own private war in victory rather than defeat?
"End Of The Battle" is the most problematic of Waugh's trilogy. The humor found in the preceding volumes is nearly gone. Key characters are snuffed out without warning. Waugh is bluntly straightforward about what he sees as the chief failing of his own country in war, a failing he saw carried over into the time he wrote this in 1960-61: The lapse of British will in the face of leftist challenge and Soviet domination.
There's no way I'd recommend any reader to this book without first getting his or her hands on "Men At Arms" or "Officers And Gentlemen," if not both. "End Of The Battle" assumes a reader is familiar with the concepts Waugh spent those last two books espousing, the cause of Catholic exceptionalism in the face of mundanity and evil, the slow strangulation of martial spirit by bureaucratic "banf," Guy's inability to have children. If you don't care about this stuff going in, Waugh is not going to do much to sell you. He already laid the groundwork in the earlier volumes; "End Of The Battle" is concerned with resolution.
There's many Waugh bete noirs in evidence, some which will no doubt bother many modern readers. Communists and leftists are practically interchangable, and there's a "velvet mafia" at work, too, homosexuals who toil to undercut democracy and serve Uncle Joe Stalin.Read more ›
The acclaimed Sword of Honor trilogy concludes in this somber, but still hopeful story of the closing days of WWII in Europe. The protagonist, no-longer-youthful British officer Guy Crouchback, is assigned as liaison to a group of Yugoslav partisans, and finds himself involved in the plight of a group of desperate Jewish refugees. On the Home Front, Guy re-unites with his ex-wife Virginia (for whom he still has strong feelings) but can she provide him with a hoped-for heir, or will she die like the character in Ludovic's novel, forcing Guy to seek love and happiness elsewhere? Early in the book, Guy's father admonishes that "if only one soul is saved, that is full compensation" and this seems to be the real point of the author's story, and ultimately of the entire trilogy: after all the nonsense, the foolishness, the failures, and even the horror, just one single act of mercy can be enough to account for a wasted life. This hope for a final justification lends an optimistic tone to a book that is otherwise filled with the death and destruction of the bombing of London, but it also ties together the various themes that the trilogy has focused on: the senselessness of war, the relevance (or irrelevance) of Catholicism, and the manifest follies and inequities of modern Britain and Western culture generally. If the first two volumes of this series seemed a little too light and pointless, this book is where it all really pays off. A strong statement about how one man makes sense of an increasingly senseless world.
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Guy Crouchback is almost saintly. He is Catholic, patriotic, and selfless. When World War II comes along he is eager to serve his country and to be thrown into the caldron of war. But, by his own admission, he is not "simpatico" and he always seems to be the square peg trying to fit into a round hole. Perhaps his military career parallels that of the author, Evelyn Waugh.
There is of course no place for Guy in the British Army where his hard work and dedication are little rewarded and his war experiences are spotted with malfortune, little of which is of his own making. Guy "blots his copy book" early on and ends up being suspected of spying for the Italians. Waugh dots this novel with a cast of clownish characters and comic adventures in which Guy sadly participates.
Waugh's irreverent attitude toward World War II has probably made this novel less popular than it should have been. For example, at the opening of the war, Crouchback wonders why England, in the face of simultaneous invasions of Poland by Germany and the Soviet Union, chose to go to war with one and not the other. At another point, Guy muses that "he was engaged in a war in which courage and a just cause were quite irrelevant to the issue." In the best Waughian tradition, he does a hatchet job on the much-celebrated Yugoslav resistance movement of Marshall Tito.
Waugh, oddly enough, has also made the interesting comment that he wrote the "obituary" of the Roman Catholic Church in England with this novel. I take him at his word although perhaps I can't fully appreciate the Catholic subtleties of the novel.
Waugh originally published this novel in three volumes between 1952 and 1962. He then published the three volumes in one, omitting "tedious" passages.Read more ›
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