So many early or classic novelists tend to be written off as boring and whose books are only read in High School English classes or when trying to appear ~sophisticated~ I know I’ve definitely avoided certain writers simply because of this stigma attached to both them and their works. I’m sure Dickens is a wonderful author and the summaries I’ve read of his works sound really enjoyable, but I just can’t do it.
Until recently – very recently – I had cast off Evelyn Waugh as one of these writers. I had no interest in reading his books (would I even be able to understand that old writing, I wondered) and ignored all the lavish praise I came across. Yes, yes, I get it, he’s a great author, but he’s not my great author. Why would I want to spend my time with his books when there are so many shiny new releases waiting to be read?
I know the majority of readers of this blog are YA fans and Young Adult and Evelyn Waugh don’t exactly go hand-in-hand. Readers of contemporary romances set in high school aren’t quite the target audience for early twentieth century dramas. & despite my absolute love of authors like Hemingway and Fitzgerald, Waugh didn’t seem nearly as accessible. That said, my very first Waugh book changed my tune and I’ve been buying everything of his I’ve come across since.
Waugh came from a period when wit was a weapon. His sense of humor shines in many of his works and it was this humor that helped me put aside my initial reservations and ultimately discover a new favorite author.
My introduction to Waugh was through The Loved One (read my 4.5 star review here!). It tells the tale of a funeral home, a pet funeral home, and a disastrous romance. In other words, it’s perfect and was written for me. Every single belief I held about Waugh turned out to be false and misconceptions were thrown out the window. Between the hilarious writing (“Can I help you in any way?” “I came to arrange about a funeral.” “Is it for yourself?”) and the SUPER short length – 160 pages! – The Loved One was the perfect starting point for me.
With 30+ works to his name (both fiction and non-fiction!), there’s definitely something for everyone: satire, mockery of the wealthy/upper class, Bright Young Things, discussion of homosexuality at a time when homosexuality was a crime.
What more can you expect from a man whose mother named him on a whim and later went on to marry another Evelyn? Their friends took to calling the pair He-Evelyn and She-Evelyn.
Also, Jeremy Irons was in the mini-series adaptation of Brideshead Revisited. And Jeremy Irons is a BOSS.