Published in 1928 this is a comic novel. Paul Pennyfeather is sent down from the Oxford college he's at because he's been caught up innocently in a Bollinger Club prank where he's been de- bagged.
Needing income he gets a teaching job at a small boarding school in Wales. At a sports day he is attracted to the glamorous mother of one of the boys. They plan to get hitched and arrangements are made but......
The humour is in the variety of weird and over-the-top characters Paul comes across let alone the far-out situations he finds himself in. I did have trouble with some of the language used by upper-class twits discussing a black male friend of Mrs Beste-Chetwynde but expect this was unremarkable at the time.(?) And the
novel is satiric of course.
According to the quote on the back cover,from the Observer, this is
Well, it's certainly the funniest novel I've ever read about journalism, but as it is the only (supposedly) funny novel I've read about journalism, that's not saying much. The errors were very evident, and inevitable, but the comedy seemed pretty limp, obvious and dated.
Maybe I've come to it too late. Maybe 30 or 40 years ago it would have amused me, but there was nothing in the plot about the workings of the news industry that raised an eyebrow, never mind a smile. Waugh's reliance on racial and national stereotyping in lieu of character development were particularly disappointing.
I was rather shocked at the casual use of what nowadays are considered racist terms, probably exacerbated by the fact that I hadn't read the book before and was not expecting them. That is just one way in which the book reveals its age.
It is very dated, which is not always a fault, but I don't think it has aged well. I struggled to finish it.
By Mad Dog & Glory
I'd be interested to know what people's favourite Evelyn Waugh novel is? I have read most of them - not Black Mischief and two of three of the Sword Of Honour trilogy.
Brideshead is the one that most resonates with me, but only really because of the Sebastian and Oxford part of the book. The Julia stuff wasn't a patch on that. I think Vile Bodies is the most enjoyable; a brilliant satire of a class and a generation from someone who felt himself to be on the outside of it.
Then there's A Handful Of Dust - his most successful mix of social satire and true pathos.
I've included The Sword Of Honour as one in the poll.