Guy Crouchback undergoes commando training on a Hebridean island where the whisky flows freely, but the high comedy of this period is followed by the bitterness of Crete during World War II, a time of humiliation and defeat for the British Army. Originally published: London: Chapman & Hall, 1955.
Waugh's great sense of humor, and language, keep the narrative running briskly and enjoyably. But the full sense of satire and fun that runs through the first book are here joined by something darker, a keen sadness, even a sense of despair. Writing and rereading this, it occurs to me that this book reminds me in that respect of Catch 22, if you could imagine that book with humor less broad and written by an Englishman.
I guess it's a little hard to tell by reading this that I actually enjoyed Officers and Gentlemen a lot. The reader comes to care about Guy and many of his friends, and almost all of the characters, except the very worst of the lot, are treated by Waugh with an affectionate kindness. I don't know how Waugh intended these books, but as anti-war and anti-bureaucracy dark comedies, they are effecting and memorable.