Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh — Reread Review

Cover: bookshop.org

But I was in search of love in those days, and I went full of curiosity and the faint, unrecognised apprehension that here, at last, I should find that low door in the wall, which others, I knew, had found before me, which opened on an enclosed and enchanted garden, which was somewhere, not overlooked by any window, in the heart of that grey city.

Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh

Like Moab is My Washpot, Brideshead Revisited seemed wonderfully romantic to me when I read it at 23, having bought it because a boy I liked was reading it. Over ten years later, I remembered the relationship between Charles and Julia, but had forgotten that they were both married to other people, and that they don’t even get a happy ending. While I’d like to think this second reading was more objective, the truth is that it’s probably just as subjective, but in a different way.

While I found all the characters in Brideshead Revisited interesting, none of them struck me as particularly true to life. The whole book has the dreamy, unreal tone of a Neverland — where the characters never grow up, or at least where Charles’ perspective of them and his worldview never really changes. He’s always looking back on history through a particular lens, and the story ends where it began, so that each scene has the same kind of feeling.

”But my dear Sebastian, you can’t seriously believe it all.”
”Can’t I?”
”I mean about Christmas and the star and the three kings and the ox and the ass.”
”Oh, yes, I believe that. It’s a lovely idea.”
”But you can’t believe things because they’re a lovely idea.”
”But I do. That’s how I believe.”

Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh

Even with very little understanding of Catholicism, I found the theological discussions interesting. Like everything else, there’s a lot that goes unspoken, and I probably missed a great deal of context which would’ve helped me understand what the characters were struggling with. On the other hand, Charles is also an outsider to the Marchmains’ religion, and to some extent their social class, so maybe feeling a distance from it all is the intended effect.

Although I didn’t love the romance, or the characters, this time around, I still appreciated the prose, and found plot interesting, if rather sad.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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