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Vile Bodies Paperback – September, 1999

4.3 out of 5 stars 62 customer reviews

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Paperback, September, 1999
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Editorial Reviews


Satiric novel by Evelyn Waugh, published in 1930. Set in England between the wars, the novel examines the frenetic but empty lives of the Bright Young Things, young people who indulge in constant party-going, heavy drinking, and promiscuous sex. At the novel's end, the realities of the world intrude, with Adam Fenwick-Symes, the protagonist, serving on a battlefield at the onset of another world war. -- The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books (September 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316926116
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316926119
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1.1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #310,819 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Westley VINE VOICE on February 23, 2002
Format: Paperback
I read my first book by Waugh a few months ago and have become a huge fan, "Vile Bodies" being the fourth Waugh book I've read. Although not a sequel to his first novel, "Decline and Fall," "Vile Bodies" includes several of the same characters and has a similar satiric tone. You do not, however, have to have read "Decline and Fall" to enjoy this book.
The main plot concerns a group of young people from London's "bright young generation." They have monied parents and spend most of their time searching for the next party and amusing fad. The protagonist is Adam Fenwick-Symes, a poor writer who manages to live the highlife by being a hanger-on. He is in love with Nina Blount, but cannot marry her because of his economic status. The book chronicles his attempts at making enough money to marry Nina. As with other Waugh books, the characters are passive and do not really do anything, but they manage to have some terrible things happen to them!
The supporting characters are extremely funny, including the modern Agatha Runcible, the revolving line of Prime Ministers, and the various people who become the columnist Mr. Chatterbox. Of course, as with all of the Back Bay Books editions of Waugh's books, the cover and style are lovely. If you love Waugh, you'll love this book. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
What seems to be most missed by readers of Vile Bodies is the supposedly cold ironic author's sympathy for the Bright Young Things he's writing about. So they're empty, loveless, superficial, but they are also the animating force of the novel (1930 was a turgid time of Depression), inventive, amusing, some are even likeable. The love scene between Adam and Nina is very moving behind the brutally ironic mode of its narration - we sense two very scared naive human beings who live by appearances struggling as the reality of the situation hits them. The young people act as they do because their society has no moral centre they can cling to. Parents are mentally unstable and reckless, judges allow young girls to die stupidly in their company, prime ministers are lecherous old codgers, aristocratic grands dames are white slave traders, and religion is either a stepping stone for power (Rothschild) or a vulgarised money-grubbing circus (Miss Ape). By contrast, the Things' aimless frivolity is something of an understandable rebellion in the face of this example from their elders. So ineffectual is the Establishment that the two characters who do wish to settle down in the conservative state of marriage, however sincere or otherwise, are constantly hindered. Ironically, the form of the book is fragmentary, mirroring the society it portrays, but it is the exploits of the Things that bring it together, give it a unifying force. The book is epigraphed by two quotes from Through the looking glass: like Alice, ordered hierarchical society looks at itself, and sees a mad whirling spinning top going madly out of control. Like Thomas Pynchon's Maxwell Demon, the more energy it expends the quicker it reaches inertia.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
In Mr. Waugh's second novel, the absurdity of humankind is explored. The reader is allowed to follow a brief period in the lives of the "Bright Young People." They are young Londoners of the early 1930's who are well educated and from good families. Through the trials of the protagonist, Adam Fenwick-Symes, the reader is able to see the silliness of human existence. The "Bright Young People" spends their days and nights avoiding all real human experiences, especially love. Mr. Waugh chronicles a time in England when the motto "eat, drink and be merry" was embraced as a spiritual philosophy. At times, passages in this book are very amusing, but it never fails to recognize how life can be wasted when people are just "vile bodies."
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Format: Paperback
The great thing about Evelyn Waugh is that the humor of his novels transcends their era. You don't have to know anything about English society of the 1920s to be entertained by "Vile Bodies" because Waugh's style relies on fundamentally silly characters, wry dialogue, piercing intelligence, and manic energy more than on contemporary culture, events, and figures. What makes his humor unique is that he can be irreverent without being tasteless, which seems an amazing concept since modern comedy has made the terms "irreverent" and "tasteless" practically synonymous. Few novels can elicit from me at least one paroxysm of audible laughter, but "Vile Bodies" succeeds in this feat, as does most of Waugh's work.
"Vile Bodies," one his earlier novels, is prototypical of his career, featuring a protagonist who is beleaguered by misfortunes but manages to rise to certain challenges. Adam Fenwyck-Symes is a young author who would like to marry his girlfriend Nina Blount but doesn't have enough money to support her, and he has to write twelve books before he can get a decent advance from his publisher. For the time being, he rents a room at a boarding house run by a woman named Lottie Crump and inhabited by a disparate group of idiots including the deposed king of Ruritania.
Adam petitions Nina's father, a retired colonel who is either senile or eccentric or both, a wealthy man who's too cheap to buy a car or pay for bus fare but enthusiastic enough about the cinema to blow all his money on the production of a film about Methodism founder John Wesley, for some financial aid, but the old man's strings can't be pulled so easily.
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