From the back cover: Subtitled "A Novel of Many Manners," Evelyn Waugh's notorious first novel lays waste the "heathen idol" of British sportsmanship, the cultured perfection of Oxford, and the inviolable honor codes of the English gentleman. Within the book's unparalleled, rampant satire roam at will such characters as the Hon. Mrs. Beste-Chetwynde, Viscount Tangent, the utterly helpless hero, Paul Pennyfeather, stalked by various representatives of "the English country families baying for broken glass,".... If you love English humor, you will love this book.
The scenes at the Welsh boarding school are priceless.
The characters are wonderfully drawn and the dialog luaghing-out-loud funny.
Thank god that I discovered Evelyn Waugh: a British O. Henry, but a tad more protracted in his prose; another Mark Twain, or H. H. Munro. This is Waugh's first novel: a satirical romp at everything British. Nothing is sacred: not education, not sports, not the gentry, not even honor and justice.
And don't you just adore the quaint names with which he dubs his characters? This book is amass with characters whose improbable names mate with their character or disposition. To name a few:
Dr. Fagan: a Dickensian type and the head of the school,
Flossie and Dingy: his daughters; rather reminiscent of Cinderella's sisters,
Viscount Tangent: a student, and Countess Circumference: his mother,
Philbrick: the ex-thief, and Grimes: who never washes. Both are cohorts to our irrepressible heroâPennyfeather.
How, I wonder, did Mrs. Roberts (a barkeep) find her way into the book?
But then there are Clutterbuck, who owns a brewery; Sebastian Cholmondley (whatever he is, it's a charming appellation; Sir Alastair Digby-Vaine-Trumpington; the Hon. Miles Malpractice; Sir Humphrey Maltravers, the Minister of Transportation; Mr. Makepiece, who has a glass eye; Sir Wilfred Lucas-Dockery, Governor of a prison; Major Ending, the people's warden, and the Earl of Pastmaster, implied to be a typical lump of English society.
From the top! Paul Pennyfeather is dismissed from Stone Collegeâat which he is a divinity studentâfor indecent behavior, but first he is levied with as many fines and other charges as the school can invent. Why? It seems that he was foolish enough to allow himself to be assaulted and stripped by a riotous student body. Thus, he was observed by the faculty walking home without his pants. For shame! Thus begins his dubious demise. Also deprived of his inheritance for this same fault, he seeks employment though the scholastic agents of Church and Gargoyle. So here he is: a teacher at Llanabba Castle of everything for which he is aptly unqualified. Little wonder that âcollege educationâ is a greater oxymoron than âmilitary intelligence.â It's not exactly Tom Brown's Rugby; the shenanigans here are by the staff, rather than the students. True to tradition though, there are two chapters on sportsâfootraces in this case. At least there isn't another cricket match! Several machinations later, through his protÃ©gÃ©, Peter, he meets and becomes affianced to the lad's mother: the Hon. Margot Beste-Chetwynde. On the eve on their wedding, Paulâyet rather naÃ¯ve in the worldâtakes on a rescue mission for her Latin-American Entertainment Co., for which he is convicted of trafficking in white slavery. To prison with you! His tour is a scathing riot. In prison, he meets all of his former cohorts from Llanabba Castle. Eventually, all are rescued from prison, although in ways that are totally unexpected. In the end, does he get the girl (Margot)? Pick up the book; let the author tell you himself.
This book had a drole sense of humor that was funny a couple of times, but I soon drew tired of the story. Then, when I read the word nigger I threw it away.