Saturday, March 08, 2014

Reread: Brideshead Revisited (by Evelyn Waugh)

Memory Reaction:

I know it's been a really long time since I read this one. All I remembered was a lot of homoerotic subtext, Julia and Sebastian being the main love interest characters, and Jeremy Irons in the miniseries version.

Reread Reaction:

Spoilers below.

So that subtext I remembered? Nope, that's pretty much text. I started highlighting a bunch of places where Waugh might as well have written "and then we had a lot of full-on gay sex." There's one scene early on where Charles is staring at Sebastian's mouth when he smokes, thinking how pretty he is, and then a paragraph break, and then, like, "Later, after we left...." There are kind of a lot of those moments. And Julia is pretty clear about it later on, too. And Charles doesn't seem to be in denial about it either, everyone is pretty much, yep, we were in love. What struck me this time around is that by the end of the novel, Julia is supposed to be the real love of his life, and Sebastian is "the forerunner" but I never quite bought it. I wanted Sebastian to turn up again for a tension-filled reunion. (I don't think this is my penchant for Johnlock fanfic talking, either. At least not completely.) Would have been way more powerful if he was haunting the halls of Brideshead when Charles came back. Then again, it's not like Julia was there either, but that relationship at least got some closure.

I had also completely forgotten about the framing device (Charles coming back to Brideshead after a number of years) even though that's what the title refers to, so I'm not sure how that happened. I had also forgotten the religious theme, even though that's basically the central issue of the book. It's all about Catholic guilt! As an ex-Catholic, no wonder I liked it so much. I don't think I loved it as much as the first time around, but I did enjoy it.

Previous Review:

As before, I waited until typing the above before going back to read my previous review, to see how they match up. Currently it can only be found via the Wayback Machine, it was that long ago. May of 2003. And I didn't love it the first time around either. God, it's embarrassing to go back and read my old reviews. But I still basically agree with myself, although I wasn't nearly as upset about the ending or as annoyed about Sebastian, so maybe I'm mellowing.  The real question is, why did I think this was one of my favorite novels? It kind of isn't?

Scroll down one review and you get to my rhapsodic love for The Wings of the Dove, though. I absolutely must reread that one. But next up is the book I last read so long ago it was before I had an online journal: Catch-22.

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Blogger Sandra L. said...

I enjoyed your review very much, as I am rereading "Brideshead Revisited" right now. I just finished watching the miniseries from the early '80s again as well. This must be the third time I've seen it, and I think the third time I've read the book.

You are absolutely right about the "full-on gay sex" parts. I took a quick peak at the book and looked for those "empty spots" and oh, yes, they are there. And what about Sebastian speaking "in his bath" and Charles sneaking into Sebastian's quarters after the gates have been shut.

I saw the miniseries when it first came out (I was in high school so now you know how old I am) and my friend and I saw the whole pairing thing from the start. I know there are people who don't believe S&C were lovers...I don't know how they can miss it.

I've also just read "Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead." Fascinating background on the book.

I'm also an ex-Catholic, BTW.

1:08 PM  

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