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Sarah's Library

I read pretty much anything, from fantasy (City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett) to romance (Bared to You by Sylvia Day) to classics (Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad).  The only genres I don't read are self-help and comic books/graphic novels.

Currently reading

The Last Honeytrap
Louise Lee
Progress: 100/346 pages
Complete Works of William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh

28/12 - I have heard that an artist is never completely happy with their work - a painter looks at his work and wishes he could go back and change a few irritating brush strokes, a musician hears his music/lyrics and thinks if only I could tweak that weird bit in the middle of the song, and an author contemplates his writing 14 years after he wrote it and thinks the world is a different place and today's readers won't understand it at all (or at least that's what Waugh thought) - despite that I was surprised by what Waugh said about his own book in the preface in this Penguin edition. He was quite dismissive of it, commenting that he would like to bring it up to date, but in order to do so he would have to change the story entirely (and then what's the point?). He said all this in 1959, I hate imagine what he would think of his work in relation to the world of today. He'd probably go about collecting all the editions of Brideshead Revisited and burning them. Although in saying that, the 'cult of the English country house' as he puts it, is in a huge revival thanks to shows like Downton Abbey and all those British 'renovate my crumbling mansion' shows that are so popular on tv right now (I'm a fan, they fan the flames of my dreams for my own country manor in the suburbs, one day). To be continued...


1/1 - I understand what's going on on the surface of this book, but I'm not sure I'm getting any of the deeper themes. I mean, at the beginning of page 72 there's a paragraph detailing some of the activities Charles (our narrator) and Sebastian were filling their time with. Charles likes to remember Sebastian in these moments (rather than so far unmentioned future moments, I guess). I know this because he told us so, at the beginning of the paragraph which I've copied down below.

'It is thus I like to remember Sebastian, as he was that summer, when we wandered alone together through that enchanted palace; Sebastian in his wheel-chair spinning down the box-edged walks of the kitchen gardens in search of alpine strawberries and warm figs, propelling himself through the succession of hot-houses, from scent to scent and climate to climate, to cut the muscat grapes and choose orchids for our button-holes; Sebastian hobbling with a pantomime of difficulty to the old nurseries, sitting beside me on the threadbare, flowered carpet with the toy-cupboard empty about us and Nanny Hawkins stitching complacently in the corner, saying, "You're one as bad as the other; a pair of children the two of you. Is that what they teach you at college?" Sebastian supine on the sunny seat in the colonnade, as he was now, and I in a hard chair beside him, trying to draw the fountain.'

I can't help but feel there are more, deeper meanings I'm supposed to be gleaning from paragraphs like that, but which are flying over my head. I think I'm enjoying the book as much as I would if the themes were as clear as water (rather than mud), but I guess I'll never know for sure (I've talked about themes before, and they're not getting easier to understand, or even spot, with every 'classic' I read as I'd hoped they might).

P.S. What's a camelopard? *googling* It's the Latin name for a giraffe!? When was a giraffe ever a Camelopard in every day speaking? It's not like this was written, or set, in the 1800s when half the world was unexplored and animals had particularly weird names because the general populace had no idea what they were. Is this another way to show Waugh's intelligence and possible snobbery (if you don't know what a Camelopard is without googling it, although he would have assumed the reader was encyclopaediaing it, you're not smart enough to fully understand my writing)? To be continued...


3/1 - What's with Aloysius the teddy bear? Why isn't Sebastian being mercilessly teased by his fellow classmates? I highly doubt that even the upper class students of universities like Oxford would be able to contain their derision for another student who keeps a teddy bear by his side, and talks to it and sets a place for it at the table as if it's actually alive and capable of eating the food placed before it. To be continued...


4/1 - Sebastian's desperation to get his hands on some alcohol, no matter what he has to do, or sell, reminds me of a family member's behaviour when he was an active addict. He took piles of DVDs, CDs, PC games down to cash converters just to get 20 bucks so that he could go back to his dealer for just a little more heroin. The Marchmain family's reaction to the news that Sebastian has agreed to go hunting reminds me of my family's behaviour whenever our relative made any mention of doing something other than scoring drugs, stuffing his face with lollies (supposedly, the drugs make them taste better so he'd go for days on end eating only pixie sticks and drinking Coke), or sleeping. We'd fall all over ourselves to accommodate him, anything to make him happy - cooking his favourite meals, inviting him watch movies with us - as if any of that would cure him of his addiction and remove the family from the hell life becomes when you're living with an addict. Our addict is now in recovery with 2.5 years of sobriety from all stimulants stronger than caffeine, but every time he calls there's the terror that he's fallen back down the hole of addiction.

I understand what Sebastian's family are going through, although they're going through it in a much more aloof and unconcerned way than my family did. I think the only way Sebastian's likely to stop drinking is through hospitalisation and a complete absence of alcohol anywhere in his vicinity. Allowing him one or two drinks at dinner, then expecting him to abstain all the rest of the day is never going to work. It needs to be stopped completely, even if that means that others in the house are cut off as well (a little inconvenience would surely be worth it?). I wonder how much, if anything, doctors of the twenties knew about alcoholism, or addiction in general. To be continued...


6/1 - Ahhh, finally finished! Another book that I'm glad I read, but only just managed to enjoy. It certainly hasn't encouraged me to attempt any further Evelyn Waugh books. So, my first book of the year wasn't a roaring success, and it took way longer than most other 326 page books would take, possibly twice as long. I'd hoped to be two, possibly three books in by this stage in January, now I only have two days to finish the next two library books in the due date sequence.

I kind of expected it, but was still a bit disappointed with the depressingness of the end. I was hoping that maybe Charles and Julia would get their happy ending, or at least that he would get to see her again while sussing out the house's usefulness as a place for the military to populate as a training area/accommodation. I also felt like Sebastian's character kind of got abandoned once Charles' attention was diverted by Julia. I was hoping he'd have some kind of epiphany and begin to recover, but he was just forgotten in some kind of monastery/commune with no real definitive ending, just a guessed at one from previous experience with similar cases.

PopSugar 2015 Reading Challenge: A Book by an Author You've Never Read Before