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Officers and Gentlemen Paperback – March 30, 1979

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Paperback, March 30, 1979
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

7 1.5-hour cassettes --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

About the Author

Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966), whom Time called "one of the century's great masters of English prose," wrote several widely acclaimed novels as well as volumes of biography, memoir, travel writing, and journalism. Three of his novels, A Handful of Dust, Scoop, and Brideshead Revisited, were selected by the Modern Library as among the 100 best novels of the twentieth century.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reissue edition (March 30, 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316926302
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316926300
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,309,716 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Bill Slocum VINE VOICE on February 16, 2004
Format: Paperback
The period of time between the fall of France and the Nazi attack on the Soviet Union justifiably has been called Britain's finest hour, when the island nation stood alone against Hitler and the Axis powers. Trust Evelyn Waugh to write a novel about this effort that manages to find more to mock and be acerbic about than to be proud of.

Amazingly, as fiction "Officers And Gentlemen" not only works but shines, and is a gripping account of how one fellow's war may or may not jibe with the larger political effort around him.

In the previous volume of Evelyn Waugh's "Sword of Honour" trilogy, "Men At Arms," we met the pallid Guy Crouchback, heir to an Anglo-Catholic aristocratic line of no special importance, struggling to find some personal meaning in the great conflagration that was World War II. "Men At Arms" is a mostly funny read, a comedy of errors and barracks farce, with some dramatic detours that accumulate in frequency and gravity by story's end.

"Officers And Gentlemen" has a starker break point between the humor and the drama, which occurs after Guy and his unit is sent to Crete to cover the British retreat there. The Crete section of this story is harrowing, affecting reading; a collection of isolated moments that never quite gel because they are not supposed to. Waugh based this on his own similar experience doing very much the same thing in that battle, and throws up a dozen or so vignettes that only barely pierce through the fog of war: Radios thrown over the side of a ship; a soldier disguising himself as an officer so he can flee the front easier, a commander too tired to give orders to his newly-arrived reinforcements, a vigil beside a dead soldier lying nameless in a desolate village.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Dave Deubler on September 26, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book continues the 'Sword of Honor" trilogy begun with Men at Arms. Halberdier Guy Crouchback returns from Africa chastened, but still anxious to serve his country in its time of need. Dismissed from his regiment due to his complicity in the death of his friend Apthorpe, Guy is now assigned to a Commando unit. As part of a patchwork group called Hookforce, X Commando reaches the island of Crete just in time to cover the retreat and embarkation of the regular Allied forces, and are left with orders to surrender to the enemy after the other groups have left.
Once again, Waugh points his dry English wit at the freshly-commissioned British officers of WWII to amusing effect, while still making serious points about the readiness of British forces and the military suitability of Britain's gentry. For example, one running gag is an officer frantically rushing to headquarters only to find that the commander doesn't know what to do with him. The comedic high point is when Trimmer (a former hairdresser) is sent on a largely pointless mission by officers who are desperate to score a success - any success - in order to improve public perceptions of their unit. Operation Popgun goes awry when the sub gets lost and accidentally stumbles into enemy territory, and when a sergeant, acting without orders, blows up a supply train, a clever reporter manages to describe the mission as a dramatic success, rather than the comedy of errors that it actually was.
More serious are the concluding sections that describe various characters' arduous withdrawal from Crete. While there may be some black humor in these scenes, they seem to played more for dramatic effect, to show how men react to such harrowing situations.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Peter C. Morrison on August 28, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I only regret that I am so late in discovering the joys of Evelyn Waugh. Having read Men at Arms, I could not wait to get to Officers and Gentlemen, which is equally gripping and amusing. I look forward eagerly to the final volume in the war trilogy, End of the Battle. I will order it through Amazon, of course.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Peterson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 28, 2009
Format: Paperback
OFFICERS AND GENTLEMEN is the second in the "Sword of Honour" trilogy by Evelyn Waugh, a trio of novels that some have acclaimed the best fiction produced by World War II (I personally would not go that far) and others have stated represent Waugh's best work (with which I tend to agree, although I haven't yet read everything by Waugh). The protagonist is Guy Crouchback, the last in the male line of an upper-class English family that proudly traces its heritage back for centuries but in recent generations has seen its fortunes dwindle. Still, as World War II opens, Guy finds meaning and comfort, and a guide for life, in the traditional values.

The first in the trilogy was Men at Arms ("MA"), and OFFICERS AND GENTLEMEN ("O&G") begins where MA ended, without any appreciable pause or break. Indeed, those who have not first read MA might find O&G somewhat bewildering. But the character of O&G, for the first two-thirds of the novel, is markedly different than MA. The satire has a keener edge, and the humor is more frequent and less subtle. There are places where it approaches the "laugh-out-loud" sort of P.G. Wodehouse. The novel is elaborately plotted (again like Wodehouse), with a number of remarkable incidences of coincidence. Most of the novel could easily be classified as comedy, much of it surrounding the army's bureaucratic muddles and messes ("order, counter order, disorder"). In a sense, it is a British forerunner of "Catch-22". (I would be very surprised if Joseph Heller had not read O&G; published six years before "Catch-22", it most probably influenced Heller and the later novel, even if subconsciously.
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