Brideshead Revisited

I have been working on reading this book for awhile now. It is Evelyn Waugh’s masterpiece which is considered by many to be one of the greatest book in the world. Waugh himself at one time called this his magnum opus, but after re-reading it he reconsidered and  Waugh was appalled with what he wrote. In the revised edition of the book in the preface he explains how he came to write the book.

Brideshead Revisited, The Sacred & Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder is the written in three parts. We begin with a prologue in the 40s with Charles Ryder telling us how he is in the army and has just arrived at a new camp which he used to know Brideshead Castle. The story then moves back in time as Charles reminisces about how he once knew the people who lived here notably Sebastian Flyte. Charles met Sebastian back in 1923 while he was at Hertford College and Sebastian was at Christ Church both at Oxford. Charles lived on the first floor of his dormitory and one evening Sebastian was wandering around drunk and staggering around and  threw up  into Charles’s room. After this Charles and Sebastian became fast friends, eventually Sebastian brings Charles to his house Brideshead Castle, while none of his family is there. From here Charles eventually meets the rest of the Flyte family, Lord and Lady Marchmain, Bridey, Julia and Cordelia. They are a deeply Catholic family who are flawed individuals and Charles is agnostic.

In the second book Sebastian has become a all out drunk, Julia has found a beau in Rex Mottram and there is talk about how to marry Julia he needs to become Catholic but things don’t go as expected. Charles has all but blocked out the Marchmain’s as he lives in France and only reunites with them as he learns that Lady Marchmain is dying and goes to find Sebastian. The third book skips a decade so it’s about 1936, Charles has married (Celia) and has had two children but it rather unhappy with his life saying that the last time he was truly happy was back when Sebastian and the Marchmain’s were in his life. He has been out of the country over in Latin America trying to rekindle his spark for architecture art it seems to as critics are all clamoring for Charles saying that these are amazing. Charles runs into Julia and as it turns out they are both in loveless marriages (Celia and Rex).  There is a cool bit with King Lear too. Lord Marchmain remarries and is reinvigorated in the faith, Celia and Charles as well as Julia and Rex get divorced. There is the will they won’t they between Julia and Charles but it end with Julia realizing that it would be a sinful marriage since they both are already married, just like Rex was earlier on.  In the end we go back to the framing story with Charles in the army at Brideshead. Charles is “homeless, childless, middle-aged and loveless” but he goes and visits the chapel at Brideshead, a place he hadn’t gone before, it is here that he comes to the realization that everything is there for a purpose. There is a glimmer of hope for everyone no matter how far we fall, look at Sebastian who ends up at a monastery where he lives in and out of the world with people who care about him, God is there offering us a hand. It was a nice book to finish during Lent.

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