My final book of Banned Books Week is Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. To me, this felt like a very traditional novel. There are parts of the plot that the characters themselves consider quite scandalous, of course, but it was surprising to me to realize that this book has been banned and challenged quite recently. I would think fans of Downton Abbey would be reading this between seasons-it has the English countryside, the noble family, the scandals, etc. It certainly does not have the shock value of Lolita. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Waugh’s writing is beautiful. Fortunately, I had a good amount of downtime this week, because I think this would have been a very hard book to put down!
The thing that stands out the most to me about this novel is the setting, both the time and the place. The book covers a good span of time, in a changing era that fits perfectly into the turbulent lives of the characters. Although the novel mainly focuses on a small group of people, the events of the time are woven through the plot, and it was fun to recognize the little historical details here and there. The locations in the novel: Oxford University, a ship crossing the Atlantic, and of course, Brideshead are so clearly described that they feel like characters in their own right.
I really came to like the characters in the novel. They are all so dynamic and so different from one another. Waugh gives you such a strong sense of each identity, and yet you are never sure what they will do next or how they will interact with each other. I think that was part of what kept me turning the pages so quickly. Charles Ryder, who is at one point accused by another character of “seeing everything secondhand” makes a perfect narrator; the reader gets to share his first impressions of the family at Brideshead and then his insights into the other characters as an old friend of the family.
I would recommend this book to just about anyone. If you are a fan of the 1920’s era-and it’s a great one for fiction-I am sure you will find a new favorite in Brideshead Revisited. Because I have been so absorbed in this book over the past few days, I will definitely give it five stars! ★★★★★