On the eve of the Second World War Charles Ryder, a man without money or powerful relations befriends Sebastian Flyte, the wealthy son of an aristocrat. Sebastian takes Charles home to visit the old family house at Brideshead and gradually, Charles is introduced to the whole family and is drawn into the complicated threads of their relationships.
Evelyn Waugh was quite disparaging of Brideshead Revisited, saying that "the book is infused with a kind of gluttony, for food and wine, for the splendours of the recent past, and for rhetorical and ornamental language which now, with a full stomach, I find distasteful". In a way I guess it's true. There is a clear nostalgia for the England that had been destroyed during the second world war. The aristocratic families that had for so long existed without cause for concern were selling their houses and forced to take greater notice of the world around them. There's one bit in particular where someone (Rex Mottram I think) bemoans the way that Julia's family do business. That of course all changes by the end of the book.
There's a lot to like about this book. I was fascinated by the relationship between Sebastian and Charles - well, Charles' relationship with everyone really - but Sebastian's tendency to just float along made him both endearing and irritating. To be fair the whole family were like that though - they were all lovely people, but all living in a fantasy world. My favourite character though was Anthony Blanche. He was delightful, and for a relatively minor character he steals the show a bit.
My most favourite part of all, and the reason why I recommend this book to everyone, is something Sebastian says on page 26. When I read it, I sighed.
"I should like to bury something precious in every place I've been happy and then, when I was old and ugly and miserable, I could come back and dig it up and remember."
PS - I've been putting off Bleak House for far too long. Anyone else have it on their horizon?