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The Loved One Paperback – September, 1999
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Failed poet Dennis Barlow has left his native England and, much to the embarrassment of his fellow ex-pat Brits, taken work as the front man for a Los Angeles pet cemetery, Happier Hunting Grounds. While making funeral arrangements for his former living companion, a scriptwriter-turned-suicide, Barlow meets and romances a cosmetician at Whispering Glades, the in-place for dead celebs who crave some final status before they go. Using some recycled poetry from the likes of Shelley and Shakespeare (he's long since run out of gas on his own), Barlow manages to woo young Aimee Thanatogenos from under the attentions of chief Whispering Glades undertaker Mr. Joyboy. But will Joyboy play fair with his rival?
One confusing thing people often say about "The Loved One" is that it's a Catholic satire on the materialist way people handle the subject of death. Waugh was a devout Catholic, and a satirist, but it strikes me that "The Loved One" is rather agnostic in tone, without a religious character or idea presented as buttress against the nihilist vision of the book. I don't think people are wrong to be disturbed by it that way. "The Loved One" satirizes the non-religious nature of death as memorialized at Whispering Glades, but not so much with the suggestion of an alternative as with the notion that talk of non-sectarian "better worlds" is like whistling in a vacuum and, at best, frivolous. After a few reads, my sense of "A Loved One" is that it could be a book written by a Lutheran, a Jew, or an atheist.Read more ›
Dennis Barlow is a young Englishman living in southern California. He fashions himself to be a poet, but as the Muse has left him dry, he finds employment at the Happier Hunting Grounds a.k.a. the local pet cemetery. When his mentor and roommate commits suicide, it is up to Dennis to arrange his funeral at the chic and studied Whispering Glades - not so much a cemetery as an entire business devoted to the dead and their 'waiting ones'. Dennis finds himself enthralled with not only Whispering Glades, but with Aimee, a young cosmetician who works there. He fights for her attention with plagarized poems while her other suitor, Mr. Joyboy the wonder mortician, delivers smiling corpse after corpse for her to paint in hopes of winning her love.
After introducing readers to this integral triangle of the book, the novel is then devoted to Aimee's struggles to choose which man she should marry. This questioning leads to some fatal consequences, that are indecorously disposed of through Waugh's irreverent creation Dennis Barlow. "The Loved One" is tirelessly funny, and searchingly honest. Evelyn Waugh examines the farce humans play when a loved one dies with heretofore unknown wit and alacrity that may have failed under lesser hands.
At the same time I was reading the book, I rented Tony Richardson's marvelous all-star film (1965). Both are equally wicked and satirical, but Richardson's film, in its exploitation of American anxieties about nuclear war, has more in common with Stanley Kubric's "Dr. Strangelove" than with Waugh's 1948 novel. In any case, seeing the movie didn't spoil the ending of the book. Both are brilliant and LOL fun.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This was okay, but there were no characters to root for. Pretty much everyone was out for themselves in the end.Published 3 months ago by Joseph Nesbitt
I read this book at pretty much the one year anniversary of my sister's suicide. The world is full of strange coincidences. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Mr. Spooky
For kid's high school english class. I read it after kid was done with it. Wow, it was funny. And sly. There's nothing like a Brit skewering the Hollywood funeral industry. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Alice M. Campbell
Having read all of Evelyn Waugh's books chronologically to the point of The Loved One, I can categorically say it was his weakest to that point, a rather slipdash affair pointed at... Read morePublished on November 3, 2013 by M. Buzalka
I had an old copy of this book which was in tatters and falling to bits. I found it on Amazon and was thrilled! This is a very funny book and one I want to read again. Read morePublished on September 11, 2013 by Valarie Vousden
I remember reading this in high school. It must have been funnier then. Now it is merely a reminder of how such a slap stick attitude toward our human (and pet animal) frailty is a... Read morePublished on September 1, 2013 by Amazon Customer