Context: Read this on and off on the bench in my in-laws’ garden.
What a strange book this was. It was nothing like I expected at all and, despite having finished it, I’m really not sure at all why Waugh wrote it. Neither was he either it seems as his preface says that this was a “totally unplanned novel” which describes a generation that he was part of, albeit peripherally.
In this sense then, it shares many things in common with On the Road, a classic description of a forgotten generation and certainly one which was written with so little planning that Kerouac sat down and typed it out without stopping virtually.
The novel is about the young and rich aristocracy of England shortly before the second world war breaks out. It describes a scene of wanton abandon and makes one feel that, despite it’s horror, you could be pleased that the war did achieve at least one good thing in ridding Britain of what were, effectively, a bunch of wasters.
It’s a short book and consists mostly of comic farce with characters that you can neither love nor hate but simply stare astounded at. They live on the verge of debauchery, have so much money that crippling debt hardly breaks their stride, and treat everyone with such shallow flattery that, to be part of such a set must have meant being terrifyingly unloved.
It reiterated for me the pointlessness of a life that simply revolves around hedonism and also, as each character even remotely connected with Christianity is as lame as can be, reminded me that to live a life without the power of Christ is to remain irrelevant to the world.
It was clearly going to be a bad crossing.
And presently, like a circling typhoon, the sounds of battle began to return.
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