Vile Bodies

by Evelyn Waugh

Hardcover, 1999

Status

Available

Genres

Publication

Folio Society (1999). Volume from the 6 volume Comedies set.

Description

During the 1930's, the world of the British uppercrust society is one of nightclubs, dancing, jazz and speed. Their lives revolve around an endless series of parties and pleasure seeking - including motorcars, jazz bands, gossip journalism, drugs, gramophones. Inevitably, however, the frantic pace of living begins to take its toll and one by one they begin to crash and burn in the search for newer and faster sensations.

Media reviews

The Bookman
There is no Grimes in Vile Bodies, and I suppose that humanity will gratify its deep need to be unpleasant by assuring Mr. Waugh that it is not so good as his first book. But it is actually better in many respects. It selects aspects of London and gives amazingly concise and complete renderings of them... One is reminded of the technique that Anatole France employed when he wanted to give a picture of contemporary France in the Bergeret series. There he hangs side by side panels representing scenes in different houses affected by the political situation that was the real subject of the book; each is a calm, pretty, sunlit, elegant thing, like an eighteenth-century interior, offering a surface of deceptive calm until one looks into it and sees how it marks another stage in the progress of the subject. Mr. Waugh deals with contemporary London in something the same manner, speeding up his tempo to suit our age.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Smiler69
Masked parties, Savage parties, Victorian parties, Greek parties, Wild West parties, Russian parties, Circus parties, parties where one had to dress as somebody else, almost naked parties in St John’s wood, parties in flats and studios and houses and ships and hotels and night clubs, in windmills and swimming-baths, tea parties at school where one ate muffins and meringues and tinned crab, parties at Oxford where one drank brown sherry and smoked Turkish cigarettes, dull dances in London and comic dances in Scotland and disgusting dances in Paris – all that succession and repetition of massed humanity … Those vile bodies …

Describing the dissolute life of the "Bright Young Things", the posh Mayfair crowd of London between the wars, [38632::Vile Bodies] is a fast-paced, disjointed and delirious affair which perfectly captures the spirit of the times. From the first, we're thrown in with a bunch of characters with risible names (Miles Malpractice, "last weeks prime-minister" Mr Outrage, Lady Throbbing and so on) who are running around from party to party, getting stinking drunk, being promiscuous and losing themselves in one empty thrill after another. The only things holding the novel together are the unflappable narrator and the ongoing travails of the protagonist, Adam Fenwick-Symes, a down on his luck writer who's memoirs are burned in the opening scenes, which puts him under obligation to deliver twelve books—which he imagines he'll be able to write within a year—to make up for the publisher's advance payment (with cumulated interest). He is engaged to be married to the beautiful and rich Nina Blount, one of the figureheads of the Bright Young Things, and throughout the novel there is the ongoing farce of his talking to Nina over the phone and from moment to moment telling her he's secured enough money to finally marry her, and in the next (after repeatedly failing to come into the fortune which eludes him) telling her they can't get married after all. At one point, Adam finds a job that brings him a regular income after Lord Simon Balcairn, who writes a gossip column under the name "Mr. Chatterbox", commits suicide when he finds himself shut out of all the important parties which he relies upon to write his juicy stories. The narrator, in his detached and unflappable style tells us of his death:

"He shut the door and the window and opened the door of the gas-oven. Inside it was very black and dirty and smelled of meat. He spread a sheet of newspaper on the lowest tray and lay down, resting his head on it. Then he noticed that by some mischance he had chosen Vanburgh’s gossip-page in the Morning Despatch. He put in another sheet. At first he held his breath. Then he thought that was silly and gave a sniff. The sniff made him cough, and coughing made him breathe, and breathing made him feel very ill; but soon he fell into a coma and presently died...Then Adam became Mr. Chatterbox."

Adam proceeds to invent various fads in the column, such as black suede shoes and green bowler hats which are sometimes picked up by his readers and meets with great approval when he makes up people with fictional accounts of their tragic life stories. (possible spoiler ahead) The novel was published in 1930, but Waugh seems to have predicted WWII, since at the end of the book, we find Adam as a solider lost in no man's land, but even here, in what seems a bleak ending, Waugh throws in a last twist of irony, when the young protagonist gets picked up by an old drunk General who's lost his division, and they drive off drinking champagne in a Daimler Limousine.

There were lots of absurd and laugh out loud moments in this story, but beyond the mirth and silliness is a powerful commentary about the tragedy that underscores the empty lives of these bright young things in the light of the calamity they've escaped and the one that lays ahead. The audiobook version features an English narrator who enacts the various scenes and brings the characters to life very convincingly.… (more)
LibraryThing member AnnieMod
I like the period between the two great wars. Or I should probably say that I like he literature produced in that period. Waugh is one of those authors that manages to write something that gets lauded as comedy while presenting an almost complete picture of the world of that time. I cannot read his novels one after the other - in small doses I find him amusing and interesting; in big doses he is boring and repetitive in my mind.

The youth of London (upper class one of course) is the main character of the novel. Yes, there is a real protagonist (Adam Fenwick-Symes) who really wants to get married - but every time he gets enough money, he does something stupid and looses them. His fiancee is almost comically flippant about the problems and between the two of them, you are never sure who to like less. Add a dead body, a few misunderstandings and a lot of reversed fortunes and before you are ready for it, the novel is over.

It's a novel of the absurd. A reader today is missing some of the back-stories - Waugh had been writing for the world he knows, using real people for inspiration - people we do not know and cannot know. But even without that, the novel has that special brand of English humor that makes you want to read more. At the same time, it is not a novel that will make you a fan of his writing if you are not one already (or of the British humor at least).
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LibraryThing member WilfGehlen
The eponymous vile bodies belong to the Bright Young People, the Younger Generation, the Lost Generation, the glitterati of London's West End during the Roaring 20's. Waugh gives us humorous vignettes of their lifestyle, centered on the rising and falling fortunes of Adam Fenwick-Symes and Nina Blount. Their love story, they themselves and their Mayfair crowd are caricatures of reality, accenting the shallowness of their behavior which mirrors the hollowness of their lives. They reject the world they inherited from the older generation, a world shaped by The Great War and its aftermath.

The link between the shallow and the hollow is revealed by Father Rothschild S.J. He admits to knowing few young people, but he seems to have their pulse. He summarizes their philosophy to Prime Minister Outrage: Not, "If a thing's worth doing at all, it's worth doing well," as the Church has always espoused, but "if a thing's not worth doing well, it's not worth doing at all."

Outrage thinks "What a darned silly principle." Rothschild says, ". . . for all we know it may be the right one." The problem that Outrage finds with this philosophy is "what would one do?" Exactly. The BYP are busy not doing, he and his generation are busy doing. To what effect? Well, Outrage, as P.M., is not even aware that war is imminent and must be told by Rothschild. Who, actually, is in charge?

Father Rothschild S.J. is a curious character. We meet him on the Channel crossing as the book opens. He travels with a borrowed suitcase containing "a false beard and a school atlas and gazetteer heavily annotated." He carries a "diplomatic laissez-passer" and knows by sight everyone who comes on board. He has prescient knowledge of Outrage's return to power, the fate of the Japanese ambassador and the coming war. He demonstrates knowledge of spy craft at Lady Metroland's party. He leaves the party at Anchorage House to disappear into the night on a motorcycle, with "many people to see and much business to transact before he went to bed." He is the one character in Vile Bodies who is purposeful in his actions but his pursuits do not appear that Fatherly.

What of Adam and Nina? Much of the humor in Vile Bodies comes from their on-again, off-again relationship. They must have an income to marry, and it seems always just beyond their grasp. Adam develops and loses his literary ticket, finds and loses his journalist's ticket, and plays cat-and-mouse with the drunken Major who may or may not have track winnings that will make his fortune. Nina's fortune rests with her bemused father, Colonel Blount, who favors Adam only in his absence and finally squanders the family fortune on a whim. Will they ever get together?

Rest assured, there is a happy ending. Adam's issue will live in a financially stable home, far from the war. Adam has fulfilled the legacy of his namesake.
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LibraryThing member sarah408
Despite a failure to extract much enjoyment from it at the time, I did read this book in its entirety.

Consequently, I do have some thoughts… (Which I proceed to expound at some length; you have been warned!)

Initially puzzled by what I perceived as the two-dimensional nature of the characters, all became clear when Adam undertook the ‘Chatterbox’ column. It appeared to me that Adam’s inventions were indistinguishable from the ‘real’ characters, and I felt, then, that this was the main point of the book; to underline the superficiality of that particular set of people at that particular time.

I found this rather amusing; we disparage our ‘celebrity culture,’ as a new and unappealing property of our time. Unappealing, maybe, but not, it would seem, new!

Waugh, it appears, was not greatly enamoured of ‘celebrity,’ and although he states in his preface that at some point in the book the mood shifts from ‘gaiety to bitterness,’ I could not spot the transition. I felt that Waugh treats his characters with contempt from the outset, and reveals himself as a misanthropist throughout.

Agatha’s hallucinations of a run-away car reflect the existence of the Bright Young People, which seems to be both aimless and beyond their control. Tellingly, Agatha’s only escape is in death.

Ultimately, I found this a bleak and somewhat savage book, making the self-evident circular argument that without a point to exist, existence must be pointless. It was also intimated that this meaning must come from within, and lack of meaning may not, as the book seemed to suggest initially, be attributed to circumstances.

This is illustrated on the battlefield, where the book delivers the bleakest message of all. Here, where Adam might find some meaning to his life, as he fights for the future of his country, nothing has changed! Fate continues to bombard him with changing fortune, and Adam remains resigned. This shows that Adam’s situation is irrelevant to his destiny. Adam (and similarly the rest of his set) lack some vital intrinsic quality (Responsibility? Imagination?) without which they are eternally condemned to a life dictated by the twists of fate, cruel or otherwise.

I suspect that most of the characters would bear close examination, but there were two that were especially memorable:

I was particularly struck by the character of Mrs Ape, and her girls, in their overtly religious set-up… The overtones seemed to draw parallels with an entirely different kind of establishment, deeply underscored by the ironically named ‘Chastity.’ I read this as an attack on the morality of the methods of Christian evangelists … or even a suggestion that this kind of religion was merely a convenient facade lacking commitment… or maybe I just spent too long thinking about this book!

Mr Isaacs was a disturbingly drawn character; caricatured in the anti-semitic mould favoured by Shakespeare. I found it interesting in its historical context; this was written relatively recently, which indicates that it was only the actions of Nazi Germany that caused a revision of attitudes; not an intrinsic sense of justice.

Of course, the book is dedicated to Diana Mosely…

Farce isn’t something I would usually appreciate, but I will concede that I did enjoy some of the humourous parts, especially the tragi-comic character of Simon Balcairn. I was still thinking about interpretations a week later, which in my estimation puts this work firmly in the realms of ‘A Good Book.’
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LibraryThing member freddlerabbit
I felt about this book a bit the way I felt about Gatsby - I could appreciate that it was a great book, well written, acerbic, clever - but somehow, I just couldn't really enjoy it.

Vile Bodies is a bit of a farce about the upper crust and the bankruptcy of their connections (mental and physical) to others, and their general lives. There are submotifs going on that I didn't quite get, as I hadn't read Decline and Fall first (which perhaps I will now remedy); you read through the shenanigans of various shallow characters and watch how things continue to both fail and succeed for them. I think this would be best appreciated by those who appreciate an old-fashioned social comedy and a complex but ultimately not very deep plot.… (more)
LibraryThing member TheAmpersand
I'm not really part of Waugh's intended audience, but I've got to concede that "Vile Bodies" is faster, funnier, and, despite being inspired by the breakup of his marriage, less embittered than the other Waugh I've read. Like, I suspect, most of Waugh's novels, "Vile Bodies" is full of fools, but, to the author's credit, they come off as mere fools, unlike the characters of, say, "A Handful of Dust," who seem to exist mostly to invite the reader's disgust. There's lots of top-notch wordplay in "Vile Bodies," and the tone is one of ironic farce, not moral condemnation: the book surprised me most by being, well, genuinely enjoyable. Of course, as others have surely noted, it's also interesting to the modern reader because so much of it seems so contemporary: the book's subject seems frivolous and ageless at the same time. Heck, add a few acid synths and this thing could have been written in the late eighties or early nineties. The media's print instead of social, but a party in a zeppelin? Sounds fab! Who's spinning, and what's the cover? Also, Waugh seems to have the same ideas about motor "sports" as I do, and the same ideas about Christian-themed entertainment , too. Who knew that I'd be able to find so much common ground with that old sourpuss? On a more serious note, you've got that weird coda that takes place on a European battlefield in the yet-to-be-declared Second Great War, which lends some sadness and gravity to the proceedings, as does, I suppose, the fact that the book is dedicated to Diana Mosely, wife of Sir Oswald Mosely, the justly despised leader of the British Union of Fascists.. I'd recommend, as other have, the British Penguin edition, which includes an essay and notes that lend some useful background. It seems that the author was actually married to a woman named Evelyn for a time! Monty Python couldn't come up with something so delightfully absurd. But it seems that the author could.… (more)
LibraryThing member freelancer_frank
This is a book about class and frivolity. It is a satire on each that cannot quite hide its deep love for both. It has the sun-dappled loveliness of Wodehouse mixed in with the scabrous and forensic insights of Jonathan Swift. The ending undercuts what went before to just the right degree. I felt somewhat uncomfortable with the author's class view. The upper classes are condemned but also admired for their frivolity while the working classes tend to be largely condemned merely for being lumpen and unclean in various ways. I felt also that the characters were being satirised from a Catholic viewpoint. Their behaviour was worthy of satire because it was sinful, and sinful only because they acted without thought for consequence in the eyes of God and no more or less reason than that. On the whole, I prefer my satire more secular, like, guvner.… (more)
LibraryThing member LadyintheLibrary
Too, too delight-making!
LibraryThing member AdonisGuilfoyle
F. Scott Fitzgerald, after sharing a case of champagne with P.G. Wodehouse. The characters are wholly unsympathetic, as with Gatsby and Daisy, and drunk on London society and their own pointless lives. I borrowed this book to read about the 'bright young things' of the 1920s, flapper girls and Bertie Wooster types living the high life (or the nightlife) and squandering other people's money, but I now wish I hadn't bothered . In a rare fit of serious social commentary, Waugh observes: 'They had a chance after the war that no generation has ever had. There was a whole civilisation to be saved and remade - and all they seem to do is play the fool.' I can quite understand the point being made about these lost, spoiled young people, giddy on good times after the grief and sacrifice of the First World War, but they are basically idiots, calling each other 'darling' and 'angel' while destroying themselves, in a bid to mask how unhappy they really are. As Miss Runcible repeats throughout, 'too sick-making'.

Waugh notes in his preface that the novel ends in a different mood to which it begins - 'gaiety to bitterness' - and I think I prefer the latter. These 'intelligent' and 'anarchic' BYTs needed to be brought back down to earth. Although heavy-handed, I think Miss Runcible's concussed delusion about race-car driving says it all: 'we were all driving round and round in a motor race and none of us could stop - and then I used to crash and wake up'.

The film of the book, I seem to recall, is handled better, with more content and culpability.
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LibraryThing member shanjan
I'm not much one for British humor, but I must admit that Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh was a really enjoyable book.

Set in the 1920's the novel revolves around the madcap adventures of Adam Symes and his on again off again fiance Nina Blount. On the surface, the story of these characters is very amusing, but underlying their zany escapades is a sense of hopelessness and lack of direction felt by the Bright Young People.

This sentiment culminates in a nightmarish road race in which the story's primary party girl Agatha Runcible gets behind the wheel of a race car which careens out of control (much like the character's own lives and the plot of the novel).

Ultimately the Bright Young People cannot identify with anything worth working for or fighting for, and Waugh illustrates this masterfully with his character's cynical treatment of religion, government, marriage, and even patriotism.

The beauty of the novel is that Waugh takes this very bleak view of the world and disguises it within a comical framework so that it seems neither heavy handed nor preachy, merely entertaining.
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LibraryThing member craso
This novel is a humorous satire on life in England between the world wars. The story follows a group of "Bright Young People" as they go from party to party, live off money borrowed from friends and relatives, and generally waste their lives. Father Rothschild sums up the theme of the novel while speaking with Mr. Outrage about the young people; "My private schoolmaster used to say, 'If a thing's worth doing at all, it's worth doing well.' ... but these young people have got hold of another end of the stick, and for all we know it may be the right one. They say, 'If a thing's not worth doing well, it's not worth doing at all.'"

The funniest sections involve the generation gap. The older characters are portrayed as "doty." There are a great deal of misunderstandings especially when the main character has dealings with an elderly major and the father of one of the young ladies.

The story is tragic as well a farcical. Life is so boring for these young people that they can't deal with it. It's as if they have nothing to believe in anymore. The faster the pace of the party life the faster their lives burn out.

The novel was a very quick read and a very interesting look at society in England before World War Two. Unfortunately, the ending was a bit abrupt and unsatisfying.
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LibraryThing member miriamparker
If British madcap is your thing then this is the novel for you.
LibraryThing member andrewloveday
Waugh's satirical take on the 'bright young people' of 1920s London, for whom he clearly felt a kind of amused contempt. He takes on the aged too, and no doubt to know him at the time was to feature in some capacity in his books. Not sure I would have liked him, but I like his style.
LibraryThing member lizzybeans11
This is a very amusing, quick and easy read. Waugh injects a great deal of humour into his novel commenting on upper-class nonsense. There doesn't seem to be a single straight-man character - even Adam is a bit detached.

Stephen Fry's film, Bright Young Things, is basically verbatim from this novel. However, I actually enjoy his slight plot changes even more than Waugh's original story.… (more)
LibraryThing member Kasthu
I bought this book a year ago, after a member on Shelfari recommended it to me. It came back on my radar after reading Bright Young People, DJ Taylor’s biography of the Bright Young things of 1920s English society. Vile Bodies is a parody of that group, and several characters in this book are clearly exaggerated versions of real people that Evelyn Waugh knew. Our main character, Adam Fenwick-Symes, is clearly a projection of Waugh, on the fringe of the society that he writes about.

Vile Bodies is a very funny, highly stylized version of 1920s and ‘30s society. On one hand, these are highly glamorous people Waugh is writing about; on the other, they’re superficial and empty. As with most satirical writing, this book tends to be very over-the-top at times, but that’s one of the things I really enjoyed about this book.

It’s a very fast-paced novel, and most of the dialogue takes place over telephones. You get this kind of “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” feeling about the pace of this book; miss a sentence or even a word, and you’re completely lost. In many ways, the tone of this book reflects the people Waugh is trying to satirize. I’m not sure that I completely “get” the book, but it’s one of those books I should re-read in order to totally understand it.
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LibraryThing member idyllwild
Funny and lighthearted for the first half and bitter and sardonic in the second half, this book had me sniggering throughout. Although when I was finished I had to think for a second, "Wait, he predicted World War II when again? 1930?"It wasn't nearly as good as Brideshead Revisited (which is an understandable masterpiece), but I also don't understand why Evelyn (if I may call him that) disparaged this book so in later years. I'm certainly wildly curious about Mr. Waugh now, and can't wait to read more.This should really be 3.5 stars, but I'll give it the benefit of the round-up.… (more)
LibraryThing member lucybrown
Let's talk irony. Vile Bodies, published in 1930, 10 years before the first Nazi bomb fell on London, ends on a battlefield in Europe. Flip to the front, which I only did after reading the book, and you will find the novel is dedicated "with love to Bryan and Diana Guinness." These sorts of twists fill the book. Fates unravel, twist ludicrously, and fizzle in the wasteland that is the time between the wars in England. Robert Graves and Alan Hodge would title their history of the era The Long Weekend.

Now, let's talk patience. The first half of Vile Bodies required untold patience of me. The satire wasn't biting enough to have force. Instead, the tone comes across as flippant, even silly. Enough nipping to be annoying, but not potent enough draw blood. The characters, even the main characters, Nina and Adam, are little more than cartoons. As a send up of the Bright Young Things perhaps this is appropriate. The cinematic quick cutting of scenes perhaps is also appropriate for this vapid set. Yet, it was annoying. Other authors have approached this era in a more thoughtful and intellectually honest manner, Anthony Powell for starters. Diana Guinness Mosley's sister Nancy Mitford, for another.

Finally, I felt a readerly obligation to finish the book. After all, Waugh had pulled of a minor literary classic with Brideshead, so perhaps this would shape up. After all, Handful of Dust had left me in tears. It is in the denouement that Vile Bodies reaches its moral force and becomes heartbreaking with Adam leaving one wasteland for another.

Does it reach the power of Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time (or at least the volumes that deal with this era)? No way! Mitford's The Pursuit of Love or Love in a Cold Climate? No....but it has its own piquancy. Its own slight art. It is worth a read.

… (more)
LibraryThing member PennyAnne
A brilliant satire of the lives of the "bright young things" in between-the-wars London. This book is laugh out loud funny - published in 1930 around the time that Waugh was accepted into the Catholic Church, it is making a comment about living a life where the only point is to have fun - but it is possible to ignore the social commentary and just laugh at the ridiculous characters and the situations they get themselves into. The writing is exquisite - Waugh was a genius!… (more)
LibraryThing member leslie.98
Maybe even 4½ stars - I'll have to think that over.

I love Waugh's satires & this one about the Bright Young Things (a phrase he coined in this novel) is no exception. The plot is about two young lovers trying to get enough money to marry on, but the joy of the book is in the characters & vignettes rather than the plot.… (more)
LibraryThing member mlbelize
This book really snuck up on me. For the first 100 pages I kept thinking it was a cute little book but only worth 3*. The more I read though the more I enjoyed it and appreciated its wit and charm. Still it was only a 3.5* read. I finished and thought about it for awhile when like a thunderbolt the true value of the book hit me.

The parody of the romantic comedy centers around Adam Fenwick-Symes, reportedly a bright, young, up and coming novelist who has as his love interest, another bright young thing, Nina. We find them and their friends at all the right and seemingly endless parties, with all the right people, doing all the right things. The obstacle in their path, the one thing holding them back from marrying is their lack of money. Adam's quest for enough money to marry is hilarious as is Nina's reaction when the funds are within sight then out again. The cast of characters, some aptly named for their position and disposition add to the enjoyment. The situations they find themselves in are wildly improbable and great fun. In the end, I realized that the book was much better than I had first thought.
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LibraryThing member cabegley
Waugh's satire of the Bright Young Things, and their frantic merriment after WWI, must have been shocking (and scandalous) at the time. While I'm sure it must have provided an added frisson for readers who could identify some of the people being skewered, the humor and the essential message still hold up. This was a nice antidote to the increasingly ridiculous Downton Abbey.… (more)
LibraryThing member lucybrown
Let's talk irony. Vile Bodies, published in 1930, 10 years before the first Nazi bomb fell on London, ends on a battlefield in Europe. Flip to the front, which I only did after reading the book, and you will find the novel is dedicated "with love to Bryan and Diana Guinness." These sorts of twists fill the book. Fates unravel, twist ludicrously, and fizzle in the wasteland that is the time between the wars in England. Robert Graves and Alan Hodge would title their history of the era The Long Weekend.

Now, let's talk patience. The first half of Vile Bodies required untold patience of me. The satire wasn't biting enough to have force. Instead, the tone comes across as flippant, even silly. Enough nipping to be annoying, but not potent enough draw blood. The characters, even the main characters, Nina and Adam, are little more than cartoons. As a send up of the Bright Young Things perhaps this is appropriate. The cinematic quick cutting of scenes perhaps is also appropriate for this vapid set. Yet, it was annoying. Other authors have approached this era in a more thoughtful and intellectually honest manner, Anthony Powell for starters. Diana Guinness Mosley's sister Nancy Mitford, for another.

Finally, I felt a readerly obligation to finish the book. After all, Waugh had pulled of a minor literary classic with Brideshead, so perhaps this would shape up. After all, Handful of Dust had left me in tears. It is in the denouement that Vile Bodies reaches its moral force and becomes heartbreaking with Adam leaving one wasteland for another.

Does it reach the power of Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time (or at least the volumes that deal with this era)? No way! Mitford's The Pursuit of Love or Love in a Cold Climate? No....but it has its own piquancy. Its own slight art. It is worth a read.

… (more)
LibraryThing member lucybrown
Let's talk irony. Vile Bodies, published in 1930, 10 years before the first Nazi bomb fell on London, ends on a battlefield in Europe. Flip to the front, which I only did after reading the book, and you will find the novel is dedicated "with love to Bryan and Diana Guinness." These sorts of twists fill the book. Fates unravel, twist ludicrously, and fizzle in the wasteland that is the time between the wars in England. Robert Graves and Alan Hodge would title their history of the era The Long Weekend.

Now, let's talk patience. The first half of Vile Bodies required untold patience of me. The satire wasn't biting enough to have force. Instead, the tone comes across as flippant, even silly. Enough nipping to be annoying, but not potent enough draw blood. The characters, even the main characters, Nina and Adam, are little more than cartoons. As a send up of the Bright Young Things perhaps this is appropriate. The cinematic quick cutting of scenes perhaps is also appropriate for this vapid set. Yet, it was annoying. Other authors have approached this era in a more thoughtful and intellectually honest manner, Anthony Powell for starters. Diana Guinness Mosley's sister Nancy Mitford, for another.

Finally, I felt a readerly obligation to finish the book. After all, Waugh had pulled of a minor literary classic with Brideshead, so perhaps this would shape up. After all, Handful of Dust had left me in tears. It is in the denouement that Vile Bodies reaches its moral force and becomes heartbreaking with Adam leaving one wasteland for another.

Does it reach the power of Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time (or at least the volumes that deal with this era)? No way! Mitford's The Pursuit of Love or Love in a Cold Climate? No....but it has its own piquancy. Its own slight art. It is worth a read.

… (more)
LibraryThing member Schmerguls
I read this book in 1955 and my comment thereon on Jan 6, 1955 I set out herewith: Some parts were so funny I nearly died laughing. and they made up for the dull parts. I thought Col. Blount, Nina's father, uproarious. He had bought a movie and was showing at the Rector's place when the lights burned out, and he kept getting everybody mixed up. He told Adam of Adam's previous visits to him, and what a nitwit he thought Adam was, and so on, because Adam said he was Ginger. There is a good deal of satire in the book, of course, but it is 1930 satire and so all is dated. But the funny parts are still uproarious.… (more)
LibraryThing member yarb
Savage and surgical. Vile Bodies documents a zombie-world where humanity (in the sense of sympathy for other humans) is a waif, cowering in a sewer pipe, trying to avoid having its brain eaten. A bit scrappy in parts - apparently Waugh's wife left him during its composition - this novel redeems all with its stunning ending.… (more)

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