brideshead revisited revisited

If I could have a lot of time available to visit my collection of reading material, and to pick one book which I should absolutely have to read before all the others, it would be quite a very difficult decision.    I always seem to wander back to Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights”,  Dostoyevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov” and Evelyn Waugh’s “Brideshead Revisited”, as well as a few others.    Perhaps I should choose “Brideshead Revisited”.     It opens in 1922 and tells the tale of the Flyte, an aristocratic English Catholic family.   It begins with Charles as a new freshman at Oxford with all his eccentric friends.     The novel then goes on to relate the story of all the dysfunctional relationships, both familial and marital, that exist within the family or Lord and Lady Marchmain.   It tackles intensely serious problems in a somewhat seemingly lighthearted manner.    Everyone in the story is deeply morally flawed, especially those characters who are the most significantly aligned with the Faith.   As in real life, the novel shows beauty as well as ugliness and sorrow.   There are all kinds of reaction to the Faith, from the agnostic narrator Charles to the devout Lady Marchmain;  Lord Marchmain, who grudgingly became Catholic in order to marry her;  and the hopelessly befuddled Protestant Rex Mottram, Julia’s husband.    Rex and Julia want to marry, but he’s Protestant, has had an affair and has already been married.    The scene relates a serious problem in a seemingly relatively lighthearted way.    Unlike the intense style of Dostoyevsky, Waugh depicts such dilemmas with wit and makes his characters appear even a bit toward the silly side.     Considering what a profound and significant topic the book deals with it takes quite a humorous approach to things.   Catholicism is ultimately exactly like that anyway, with dimensions that appear a bit Mother Goose-ish but that are ultimately about very hard facts.    The novel deals with all dimensions of society, including fear and resentment of the other, class consciousness and mankind’s ultimate end.  





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