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Put Out More Flags Paperback – August 15, 2002

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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: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books (August 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316916056
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316916059
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.9 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #977,203 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By M. A Newman VINE VOICE on February 23, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one the great comic novels of the history of the world. I would expect it would not be quite the work to start out with, but for people aware of what Britain was like during the first days of WWII, this is pure pleasure.
The book, like most of Waugh's satires, contains a number of secondary characters who are often quite amusing. In this Waugh is the equal of Dickens (a comparison Waugh might not have appreciated), in his celebration of the English eccentric. From a technical execution the novel is rather interesting in that its main character, its anti-hero, Basil Seal, is somewhat of a character himself.
Basil Seal originally appeared in the work "Black Mischief" is a trickster, eternally on the lookout for a way of earning a dishonest living. Basil's life is complicated by the outbreak of war and the insistance by the women in his life to play a hero's part in it (preferably dying while do so, in the case of his mother).
Possessed of considerable guile he hotfoots it off to the country where he runs a profitable extortion racket involving three very undesirable war refugee children. These obnoxious brats manage to destroy most of the stately cottages of, if not the upper classes, then the upper middle classes.
Another central character in the book is Ambrose Silk. Silk wishes the war would go away and at the same time wonders what his role should be. Eventually he settles on publishing an arts magazine, whose most notable work celebrates his love for a German soldier is twisted into Nazi propaganda by Basil working as a counterespionage agent.
Though filled with topical humor, "Put out More Flags" manages to transcend the time in which it was written. It contains a number of thinly disguised portraits of famous people.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A.J. on April 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
Not even the traumas of World War II could put Evelyn Waugh's delightfully satirical pen on hold; the horrors of war expose the grimness beneath his humor and invite a new kind of irreverence. Consider a scene in "Put Out More Flags" (1942) in which a woman's husband has just been killed in combat and the man with whom she's been having an affair wastes no time in proposing marriage. Her lackadaisical response to this most solemn of requests: "Yes, I think so. Neither of us could ever marry anyone else, you know."
Like Wodehouse, but with greater subtlety, Waugh finds an underlying silliness in all types of characters and sets them up to be knocked down like ducks in a shooting gallery. In "Put Out More Flags," he dredges up some characters from previous novels and introduces them into comic situations within the context of the incipient European war (1939-1940). Foremost among them is Basil Seal, a thirty-six-year-old who is as unemployable as a six-year-old. His mother tries to help him get a prestigious position in the Army, but he blows it when he unintentionally and unknowingly insults the Lieutenant-Colonel of the Bombardiers. Fortunately, he is able to get a job with the War Department where he discovers that the secret to success is to level charges of Communism and Nazism against his (mostly) innocent friends and inform on them.
Basil's friends and family also make the most of war time. Ambrose Silk, a Jewish atheist, takes advantage of his job at the Religious Department of the Ministry of Information to start a fustian periodical.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By D. P. Birkett on December 23, 2002
Format: Paperback
It's vintage Waugh, standing halway between the farcical funny ones and the serious ones. He's unique in being a satirist of the idiocy of war who can also deal with patriotism and courage.
This is set in that strange time when Britain had just gone to war but France had not fallen. You meet some characters from his other books. This added to the pleasure for me but I don't know if it's the one I would recommend to someone who'd never read any Waugh before. It also helps if you know something about the 1930's British literary scene and can recognize who is being satirized. Parsnip and Pimpernell are presumably Auden and Spender. I've heard of various candidates fir being Ambose Silk.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Roger Brunyate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 16, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The eight months between the declaration of the Second World War in September 1939 and the German invasion of France in May 1940 were referred to, even at the time, in Britain as "the phony war." Military conscription began, blackouts and food rationing were imposed, and many families with children were evacuated from the cities, but there were no air raids and no major deployments of British forces overseas. So many wealthier people who had shut up their London houses in the autumn returned there for the winter season. Evelyn Waugh's satirical account of the period, written only a couple of years later, deals with a group of upper-class Englishmen and women for whom the whole period was mainly a matter of dressing up as soldiers, and "doing one's duty" was an opportune antidote to boredom.

This is a very funny book, but it may not be accessible to everyone. Here, as a kind of litmus test, is a passage from the beginning of the book. One of the characters, a society hostess, has just heard the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, announce the declaration of war over the radio:

"It was quite true, thought Lady Seal; Neville Chamberlain had spoken surprisingly well. She had never liked him very much, neither him nor his brother -- if anything she had preferred the brother -- but they were uncomfortable, drab fellows both of them. However, he had spoken very creditably that morning, as though at last he were fully alive to his responsibilities. She would ask him to luncheon. But perhaps he would be busy; the most improbable people were busy in wartime, she remembered."

That "most improbable" made me laugh loud enough to disturb several neighboring diners, but I recognize that the patronizing understatement is a very British sort of humor.
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