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Claire

Brideshead Revisited

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I went to see the film, and to be honest it was about as good as I expected, e.g, awful. But I'll try not to rant for too long about that!

 

Please do! We do like a good rant on BGO. :)

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Yay! I get to rant! Well, I didn't really expect much from the film, being a fan of the orginal television series. One of the best things about that series was that they realised that they couldn't really adapt the script, and so they mostly just used the lines as in the book. Really great that they realised that, and one of the best things about the series was that they were prepared to take a little longer, and perhaps be a little more compex about the story, adn were happy with that. They had actors of a calibre who would cope easily with it. So I wasn't really surprised that the film wouldn't be able to live up to this. I'd heard that it had been criticised for messing with Waugh's writing, and that doesn't quite cover it really. They manipulated the story, into a sort of love triangle between Sebastian, Julia and Charles, which in some ways it is, but in this it was made a little too blatant. They inserted Julia into various bits she is not in in the book, and I felt that really the whole thing was dumbed down. The complexity of Sebastian and Charles' relationship was lost, and I think having her throughout most of the film removed some of the complexity of Charles and Julia's relationship. They messed up Rex Montram also, and, great actors though they may be, I don't think Emma Thompson and Michael Gambon had much to work with script wise.

 

So, as you've probably got, I generally dislike the film, and think it was a shame to ruin it. Andrew Davies was involved somehow, so I'm afraid it didn't really come as much of a surprise to me that it was 'rompified' (am I creating a new word there?). I think the long and short of it is that it's a very long, complicated story, which dwells on some equally complicated subjects, and you would never be able to cram it into two and a half hours or so without losing most of the point of it. Pity they tried. Another thing that rather vexed me was that they had the bit on the ship at the start! And I think the subtley of Lady Marchmain's catholocism is rather brushed over, she is a little bit too forceful about the whole thing in the film. I think, as I said, the gist is that it was never the sort of book suited to feature film adaption.

 

Rant over!

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Apart from being a Catholic book, I also think it is a very English book, and particularly appropriate for those with a nostalgia for these things (although it is by no means a light read). Personally I loved it and although I, too, did not follow all the Catholic arguments, I'm not sure this was the central point of the book. Like Greene's Brighton Rock, the scenes he depicts and the nuances of the characters are the interesting thing. I think we can enjoy them without fully understanding the religious psychology.

Greene's novel is one of my all-time favourites. I was completely sucked into that world, and Brideshead comes up close behind.

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I didn't enjoy the movie as much as the book, but then again I find that's such a common complaint when you compare a film interpretation to the original print version. I've also been spending so much time on this literary search engine site and was curious to see what they'd say about Evelyn Waugh (check http://www.infloox.com/person?id=3302bea1) - they describe his works as satirical and dark-humour, although I don't really find that in Brideshead. Maybe irony, but not much humour. Anyone care to post their thoughts?

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There is a bit of humour, when Cordelia's trying to get Rex to be a Catholic. 'If you put somebody's name on the back of a pound note and put it in the church collection box, it sends that person to Hell' :D

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The seventies series of this book was hailed as one of those 'crowning' moments in TV. I was too young to appreciate it fully then but remember my parents being absorbed by it.

 

I read the book about ten years ago and struggled with it, yes the language carries one forward but I lost interest in the characters and had to force myself to finish it.

 

Then I saw the series on video in my local library and hired it and found the same thing. The photography and scenery stunning, the early interplay between Charles and Sebastian, teddy bear in tow, the drunkenness, the portrayal of their lives were all good. But then once again the story seemed to pall for me and I gave up watching it.

 

My overriding impression of the book/programme was about Sebastian and his fall from grace. Yet through it all his fall is really a cry for help which never really seems to be answered or addressed. I could be completely wrong about that, ten years is a long time and there have been a lot of books and plots since then.

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I've read it twice and found it absorbing each time, but the Tv series with Jeremy Irons colours my view of it. The beginning seemed a bit redundant too - all that stuff about how Rider came to revisit the house of marvels which contains such bejewelled aristocrats. He is a comparatively straight and naive guy in a world of fakes and phonies who are rich, idle and amoral, though seductive and Catholic to the core. Is Rider seduced by them or does he 'ride' above them in his innocence. A fascinating book.

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Just finished this and thought I would set some thoughts down prior to reading what others have put in the previous posts.  Firstly, as I mentioned a few days back in Currently Reading, this is a book I doubt I would have gone anywhere near prior to joining BGO, so habits are being changed!

It is the only Evelyn Waugh I have read so I have no comparison with his other works or different styles of writing he may employ.  My over-riding impression is of the very "Englishness" of the novel, in its evocation of a time and way of life as lived by a certain social strata, with a good old dose of upper-class Roman Catholicism thrown in.

If I had to pick one over-riding word that summed up Brideshead for me it would be loss.  All through the book, particularly the further in the reader goes, it feels like an innocence of sorts is being lost, by Charles and Sebastian, a way of life is being lost by the Marchmain family, fine homes are being lost to re-development, and a country is heading to war.  There are lost relationships, not least within the Marchmain family, and a sense of loss that Charles feels for the glorious summer spent with Sebastian at Brideshead, a time for which he seems to eternally long, a time when he had never felt so happy.

 

I did enjoy the early part of the book, reading of the life-style led by the "bright young things" at Oxford, with their belief that, because of the backgrounds they came from, no matter whether they were successful or not at university they felt protected and their sun would always shine tomorrow.

 

What did surprise me, given the extent to which he featured early on, was the manner in which Sebastian seemed to disappear from the action.  We leave him in Morocco and basically there he stays never to return.  Whilst it is essentially Charles' story, I kept expecting Sebastian to re-appear for some grand finale, not just fade away.  By the end, when it was obvious that he wasn't going to return to the story, I simply felt sad for him, a lost soul, a wasted life and again the sense of loss for what could have been. I felt that ultimately he was unable to cope with the weight of family expectation, and therefore his own.

 

Some humour definitely in the passages where Rex Mottram is attempting to convert to Catholicism in order to marry Julia.  "Show me where to sign up" is his basic mantra, believing it simply to be a case of signing on the dotted line, and younger sister Cordelia feeds him some whopping untruths about Catholicism to stoke the fire a little.

 

It is never clear, and I was not 100% sure, whether the relationship between Charles and Sebastian ever manifested itself in a physical way, or whether it simply remained that of loving friends.  Certainly Charles was initially in thrall to him, and that he went on to marry and become romantically involved with Julia might suggest it never went beyond that, but who knows...Sebastian seemed to like the idea of having a follower and his craving to be needed showed itself later with the young German Kurt, who he ended up looking after in Morocco.

 

I found the ending a little unclear at the point of the death of Lord Marchmain, who it seemed to me at the very last returned to the fold of the family, even apparently to the extent of accepting the Last Sacraments which he had previously denounced.  There felt like a belief that nothing could really touch the closed circle of the family once they had drawn ranks.

 

There was a sadness too, at the end, as Charles wandered through Brideshead, now occupied by the military, and saw the disrepair that what had always been such a place of wonder to him had fallen into.  Loss again.

 

Now to see what other readers thought, so.....to the previous posts, where no doubt I will discover I've missed the point entirely!!

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I have loved RG reading this book and the discussions it has provoked in our househols over the last week or so! Brideshead is one of of four novels by Waugh which I have read over the years and by far my favourite. I watched the TV production with my brother and Mum while living at home in my early teens and all three of us loved it although I suspect that much of the real meaning behind the book"went over our heads"! For all that it is a TV production which has stayed with me for years and now that RG has read the book we hope to obtain a copy to watch together. RG never saw the production but is keen to do so having read the book.

 

The book, for me, portrayed two worlds, that of a catholic family and that of a rich aristocratic family whose world was falling apart. Having read other posts it seems that when it was written Waugh was mostly bothered about portraying the catholic element but I feel that both aspects of the novel were equally important. Charles Ryder was a little like a kid "looking through the shop window" so to speak at a world that fascinated him but to which he could never properly belong.

 

One point that I would like to mention is my view of the fact that Sebastien faded from the story after the early part of the book. I saw the book as the story of the family and Ryder's fascination with them as a whole and not just his relationship with Sebastien. I felt that in the "grand scheme of things" the Sebastien character was a very small part and that in many ways he was just a tool used by Waugh to bring Ryder and the Marchmain family together. As another reader has stated he was set on his course before the novel began and so left no room for the character to develop.

 

Brideshead is a story that has stayed with me for many years, probably because I saw the TV production at such a stage of my life. Having listened to RG as he has read the book I feel sure that I will be reading the book again in the not too distant future!

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RG and Cherrypie, do try and get hold of a copy of Mad World by Paula Byrne which is about Evelyn Waugh and the Lygon family who were models for the Marchmains.  It's a wonderful book, really readable and certainy for me helped me feel that I understood  Brideshead much better.

Edited by Viccie

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Thanks for the tip Viccie, I suspect that one may tickle CP's fancy more than mine, although I never thought I'd read Brideshead so who knows!

 

Funny, I almost felt a little sense of loss when I finished it.  Maybe it will be one of those books that stay with you.  I was subsequently instructed by my wiser and better half to try and get hold of a copy of the TV series with Jeremy Irons, Anthony Andrews et al, and picked one up on-line for about a fiver (used-like new!  It had better be).

 

We saw the more recent film version about two years ago and I quite enjoyed it, without of course at that stage having either read the book or seen the TV series.  Will be interested to see the TV version now that it will all make a little more sense.

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RG and Cherrypie, do try and get hold of a copy of Mad World by Paula Byrne which is about Evelyn Waugh and the Lygon family who were models for the Marchmains.  It's a wonderful book, really readable and certainy for me helped me feel that I understood  Brideshead much better.

 

I've just ordered this Viccie (2nd-hand copy) as I'm feeling very ambiguous about  this novel but don't want to give up on it yet.  I'm probably spoilt by his comic novels.

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I've just ordered this Viccie (2nd-hand copy) as I'm feeling very ambiguous about  this novel but don't want to give up on it yet.  I'm probably spoilt by his comic novels.

Good, it's one of those books I regularly lend to people and they all love it.

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I was surprised near the end at Ryder's rant.  Not that I didn't entirely sympathise with him (at the death-bed scene) but that despite his love for Julia he was able to unbutton quite forcefully his gentlemanly lips.

 

Despite some beautifully written descriptive paragraphs I cannot go overboard on this novel.  But, Viccie, I will read Mad World when it arrives in the post.

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Extract from the recently published Alan Bennett diary 'Keeping On Keeping On' -

...................................................................................................................................................................................................

"28 November: R is reading Brideshead Revisited for the first time, my browning-at-the-edges Penguin that must be 50 years old.

 

"Tell me," he says plaintively, "is it meant to be snobbish or am I missing the point?"

 

Which is better than me who, reading it for the first time, in 1957, say, didn't spot the snobbery  at all - I just took it  as an entirely proper account of a world from which I was (rightly) excluded.

....................................................................................................................................................................................................

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