Brideshead Revisited – Book Review

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Brideshead Revisited was an immensely enjoyable read. From a literary perspective, Evelyn Waugh has crafted a beautifully written story with plenty of dialogue, poignant similes and writing which I found symbolic on many levels.

This tells the story of Charles Ryder who, over many years has varying relationships both with the family who inhabit Brideshead and the property itself. With no love lost between himself and his own father, Charles finds a sense of belonging at Brideshead, being introduced by the youngest son Sebastian who presents as the object of Ryders affection.

He tells of the house: “here, as I….. sat, hour by hour, before the fountain, probing its shadows, tracing its lingering echoes… I felt a whole new system of nerves alive within me, as though the water that spurted and bubbled among its stones, was indeed a life-giving spring.” The home at Brideshead produces in him a love and a sense of awe which previously lacked almost entirely from his existence.

Through many years and some dramatic incidents, Charles recounts the degradation of individual, relationship and family culture within this lineal web. Sebastian’s flaws are magnified to the point of self-destruction. This applies in varying degrees to all the characters, none of whom I found particularly likeable but which fascinated me nonetheless.

What is it about this book that makes me want to pick it apart? What does the teddy bear represent? Is it the possession then casual tossing aside of innocence? What about his job of painting properties on the to-be-destroyed list? Is Charles himself a precursor to degradation? Does he genuinely love Julie or is it because she bears a similarity to Sebastian, with age giving her such sadness that she comes to resemble him even more? What about the storm on the ship? Waugh’s writing, even in descriptions of scenes and places, leaves so much to the imagination. I like that. Let me hold the brush and fill in the outlines.

A good one to muse over.

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