Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh

Vile Bodies was my Classics Club Spin #8 book.

In the past I have read and loved Evelyn Waugh’s The Loved One and Brideshead Revisited.

The Loved One was a school read that I came to enjoy thanks to our class discussions.
Brideshead Revisited I discovered thanks to the wonderfully lush BBC TV series from the 80’s. The series was very faithful to the book.

Both these books are very different from each other though. BR has an epic, family saga feel to it. TLO is more contemporary & edgier.

I was expecting Vile Bodies to be more like The Loved One – edgy satire but set in the 1920’s.

Sadly I struggled to engage or even care about any of the characters in Vile Bodies.

The second half of the book was more amusing than the first (esp the Mr Chatterbox columns), but I still couldn’t get past how ridiculous it all seemed. I got tired of the joke names (Mr Outrage, Judge Skimp, Lady Metroland), the weekly change of Prime Ministers and the on again/off again love affair between the two main characters.

I understand that the book is meant to be a satire on the vacuous, alienating nature of 1920’s England. I can also appreciate Waugh’s enjoyment in the use of language.
But perhaps this book is (or was) funnier and more biting if one had an intimate knowledge of the real people who populated this world, so that one could appreciate who was being sent up & charicatured?

I, for one, obviously missed the point completely!

8 thoughts on “Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh

  1. Oh no, sorry to hear about your disappointing experience. I am currently reading — and loving — Brideshead Revisited, and was looking forward to reading Vile Bodies soon-ish. Maybe I will bask in the BR glow for a little while longer before starting Vile Bodies.

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  2. I adored BR, maybe my expectations were too high with this one.It would be good to get someone else's opinion on Vile Bodies, esp someone with a more positive experience so I could find out what I was missing!

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  3. I've not read this either, but like you I've read Brideshead Revisited and The Loved Ones.I read a Nancy Mitford novel a few days ago and couldn't quite connect with it, but all the same I thought I must read Vile Bodies (I already own it). I think I'll maybe skip it and stick with Jeeves and Wooster 🙂

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  4. I have this and others on my bookshelf but have yet to read any of them. Only read Brideshead – shall pass this one over and maybe try A Handful of Dust.

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  5. Stephen Fry obviously thought enough of Vile Bodies to write a screenplay based on it in 2003 (called Bright Young Things which is a phrase used in the book).So maybe it's just my inability to read biting satire?

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  6. I have very similar feelings about Waugh…I've read and loved some of his works while others I've found unmemorable. I'm currently reading Decline and Fall, which was one of his early successes, and I think it will fall into the unmemorable category. Perhaps some of his satirical novels stand the test of time better than others.

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