Flashback Friday is my own little weekly tradition, in which I pick a book from my reading past to highlight — and you’re invited to join in!
Here are the Flashback Friday book selection guidelines:
- Has to be something you’ve read yourself
- Has to still be available, preferably still in print
- Must have been originally published 5 or more years ago
Other than that, the sky’s the limit! Join me, please, and let us all know: what are the books you’ve read that you always rave about? What books from your past do you wish EVERYONE would read? Pick something from five years ago, or go all the way back to the Canterbury Tales if you want. It’s Flashback Friday time!
My pick for this week’s Flashback Friday:
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
(first published 1945)
The most nostalgic and reflective of Evelyn Waugh’s novels, Brideshead Revisited looks back to the golden age before the Second World War. It tells the story of Charles Ryder’s infatuation with the Marchmains and the rapidly-disappearing world of privilege they inhabit. Enchanted first by Sebastian at Oxford, then by his doomed Catholic family, in particular his remote sister, Julia, Charles comes finally to recognize only his spiritual and social distance from them.
Evelyn Waugh’s most celebrated work is a memory drama about the intense entanglement of the narrator, Charles Ryder, with a great Anglo-Catholic family. Written during World War II, the story mourns the passing of the aristocratic world Waugh knew in his youth and vividly recalls the sensuous pleasures denied him by wartime austerities; in so doing it also provides a profound study of the conflict between the demands of religion and the desires of the flesh.
At once romantic, sensuous, comic, and somber, Brideshead Revisited transcends Waugh’s familiar satiric exploration of his cast of lords and ladies, Catholics and eccentrics, artists and misfits, revealing him to be an elegiac, lyrical novelist of the utmost feeling and lucidity.
Brideshead Revisited is an elegantly written look into the life of a grand family (think Downtown Abbey’s Crawleys, but ardently Catholic). Charles is our every-man, the outsider who finds a way into the aristocratic home of the Marchmains by way of his friendship with their wayward son Sebastian.
With ruminations on the social class system of England between the world wars, the impact of religion and faith, and the conflict between romantic love and family obligation, Brideshead Revisited is at once a sweeping period piece and a morality tale. By viewing this world through Charles’s eyes, we get to see the life of the Marchmains as something strange and new — and yet it’s clear just how very much Charles wants to be a part of that world, through brotherhood, friendship, and romantic love.
Ultimately, it’s the religious convictions of the family that determine the fate of the romantic entanglements in Brideshead Revisited, and while some readers express frustrations over the decidedly non-romantic outcomes, the motives and thought processes of the characters are part of what makes this novel so fascinating. As a character study and as a portrait of a time gone by, Brideshead Revisited is a rich, rewarding read, and is still as relevant today as it was when written.
Keeping with my trend of providing movie tie-ins for recent Flashback Friday posts, I will point out that there have been several radio and TV productions of Brideshead Revisited, perhaps most memorably the 1981 TV mini-series starring Jeremy Irons. A word of explanation regarding the picture: Sebastian, the dissolute son of the Marchmains, was notorious at Oxford for his odd habits, among them the constant carrying of a teddy bear named Aloysius. Adorable, right?
Note from your friendly Bookshelf Fantasies host: To join the Flashback Friday fun, write a blog post about a book you love (please mention Bookshelf Fantasies as the Flashback Friday host!) and share your link below. Don’t have a blog post to share? Then share your favorite oldie-but-goodie in the comments section. Jump in!
Do you host a blog hop or book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I’m building a Book Blog Meme Directory, and need your help! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!