Evelyn Waugh : a biography

by Selina Hastings

Paper Book, 1994




Boston : Houghton Miflin, c1994.


"After nearly being killed by both a hired hit man and her former secretary, Agatha Raisin could use some low-key cases. So when Robert Smedley walks through the door, determined to prove that his wife is cheating, Raisin Investigations immediately offers to help. Trouble is, Agatha hates divorce cases - especially when the client is as pompous as Smedley - but she has a business to run and she's not about to turn away a paying customer. Unfortunately for Agatha, Mabel Smedley appears to be the perfect wife - young and pretty and a regular volunteer at church." "Although Smedley's case doesn't look promising, Agatha's attentions are diverted when she stumbles across the body of missing teenager Jessica Bradley. In a sudden gesture of kindness (and good public relations), Agatha offers to investigate Jessica's death free of charge."."Agatha's two biggest cases are turned upside down when Robert Smedley is poisoned. The prime suspect, his sainted wife, Mabel, immediately hires Agatha to find the real killer." "With the help of her old friend Sir Charles Fraith and some newly hired staff, Agatha Raisin sets off on another crime-solving adventure in the English Cotswolds."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

Media reviews

That beautiful clear prose, and all those tantrums. One cannot venture to explain them; but they go very far back. Born in 1903 to a father who didn't care for him, Waugh was shipped off to school in the English way, only to find school disrupted by World War I. And the postwar Oxford his "Brideshead Revisited" celebrates seems to have been largely a pederastic sink. Ms. Hastings has many lurid pages. "With every major writer there is room for at least three biographies: the memoir written by a personal friend; the academic biography; and thirdly a more general account," she writes. Acknowledging that previous biographies of Waugh written by Christopher Skyes and Martin Stannard fill the first two categories, respectively, Ms. Hastings, who also has written a biography of Nancy Mitford, declares that her book intends "to give as close an impression as possible of what it was like to know Evelyn Waugh." Sunken low, Waugh seems to have willed himself to die after Mass on Easter Sunday, 1966. The Second Vatican Council's messing-up of the liturgy was a factor in his despair. And so he died, behind a locked door in the downstairs lavatory, where his obese body was found on the floor. Not a pretty death, but the kind of death Waugh had imagined in novels, and had recounted as precisely as Selina Hastings has recounted his.


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