Our December reads…

The Lunchtime group

Evelyn Waugh

Brideshead revisited

 

imagesThe lunchtime reading group met to discuss this month’s book Brideshead revisited a book about guilt,forgiveness, redemption and a house by Evelyn Waugh. It opens with a middle-aged Captain Charles Ryder being billeted in the days leading up to the  D-day invasion in a house he knows very well. In fact Brideshead is more of a castle then a mere house. He tells the story of his association with Brideshead and the Marchmain family who own it through a series of flash backs. Set in the halcyon days after the first world war and leading up to the second war. It tells the story of Charles Ryder and his complicated involvement with the titled Lord Marchmain and his family and particularly the youngest son Sebastian and his elder sister Julia. Charles first encounters Sebastian at Oxford University and immediately falls under his spell even though Sebastian introduces himself by vomiting through Charles open window onto his carpet.  The reading group voiced the opinion that this was  really a spectacular way to make an entrance into a book. The Flyte family are by no means a ‘normal family’ as was discussed in some depth by the group yet Sebastian as the teddy bear toting effete Golden boy of Oxford manages to stand head and shoulders above them for eccentricity. Charles is warned off the entire Flyte clan (the family name of the Marchmains) by nearly everyone. Most of the  group remember the lavish television adaptation of the book that was made over 20 years ago and found it easier to get to grips with the characters because of it. We felt that despite their land ownership and high social status the Flyte’s, because of their Catholicism were somehow looked down on. Indeed Lady Marchmain’s staunch Catholic approach creates much tension in the family and her estranged husband now lives in Italy with his mistress after divorcing her. It was acknowledged that Charles seemed much more attached to Sebastian’s family than his own. We liked the dark humour of Charles father displays in inviting dinner guest who he knows will irritate his son. Sebastian is rapidly descending into alcoholism and Charles is suspected of aiding his friend in his descent into his own personal hell. Again it was brought up that Charles appeared to be quite  cold and at times a passive person and it’s only later on when he starts an affair with Julia when both meet during a crossing of the Atlantic by boat that he shows his hidden passion. But any chance of a happy conclusion for them are dashed when the remote Julia rejects Charles over her inner feelings of guilt. This segment of the book proved to be a particular favourite with the group. We felt that by the end although Sebastian is a pale shadow of the sparkling Oxford wit he was, he seems to have found  some redemption by caring for a sick German sergeant doing the menial tasks that once would have been done by a family servant. Charles has rediscovered religion which we felt was a bit odd after seeing how it destroyed his friends lives and his own happiness with Julia. We decided while an easy book to put down, it possess a quality that makes you pick it up again. A hard read to analyze but a book easy to recommend.

Paul

Borrow Brideshead revisited

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