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Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5 stars

on May 8, 2014
Pace Anthony Powell, I think Sykes' bio of Waugh is too partial to its subject to stand as good biography.

It should have been called "record of a friendship" or some such.

On the other hand, it's a great read and should be devoured by any and all who admire Waugh.
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on October 17, 2011
I used to be able to read and enjoy fiction, mostly the "classics"" from Hemmingway, Steinbeck, Graham Greene and of course, I read much that was written by the talented Waugh family. Novels that were often considered very important and generated profound discussions and critical essays examining their fictional characters, themes and supposed values. I found parts of Christopher Sykes wonderful biography of Evelyn Waugh mildly pretentious, but amusing - I scribbled penciled notes to myself on several paragraphs ..."Why is fiction given such profound study and respect?"...In the closing chapter of this deeply researched and affectionate book Sykes wrote; "..with the completion of the trilogy Evelyn's career as a serious writer of fiction came to an end."
I saw a contradiction in that sentence. Novels then, are all to be considered `serious' - or just the novelist? Evelyn was hilarious, uproariously rude, pedantic, dogmatic, deeply religious, prudish and a true English eccentric. I enjoyed this portrait of his talented wit, courage and privileged life. It seems amazing that simultaneously there were so many great authors in England - craftsmen Evelyn called them, like himself - the entire Greene family, Connolly, J B Priestly and Somerset Maugham, Orwell, Morton, Betjeman ... this wealth of art is the reason I suppose that fiction was and is given such respect.
But in closing his most enjoyable biography Christopher Sykes writes that "Evelyn's anti-reviewer goading may strike some readers as petty." This reader was so stuck .. then the next sentence offered me reassurance that my questioning and doubting on the importance given to novels is not unique ..."It is to do with the long-surviving notion (against which Jane Austen's strictures have had no effect) that fiction is essentially trivial.
This is a wonderful life about a great character, written with style and structured to present interesting descriptions of both the author and his craftsmanship.
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