Mumsnet Logo
My feed

to access all these features


Anybody up for discussing "Brideshead Revisited"?

76 replies

questionzzz · 06/10/2018 21:52

I read the book many years ago (late teens/early twenties?) and it totally charmed me, as it was meant to.
Back then, I never even realised Charles and Sebastian were "doing it".
Now I am watching the old Granada ITV TV show with the young Jeremy irons (though he cannot quite pull off 19), with DD16.

She keeps chanting "do it" whenever they come on the screen.
I am confused.

OP posts:

questionzzz · 06/10/2018 23:10

I have to leave now. thanks for engaging- social media at its best!

OP posts:

ChicagoLil · 06/10/2018 23:10

Nothing will beat the Charles Sturridge adaptation. Not even the piss poor remake.


dellacucina · 06/10/2018 23:13

Wait, what? I have read this multiple times (though maybe not in about 5 years), and it never occurred to me that Charles and Sebastian were doing it. I refuse to believe it.

My recollection is also that Charles was drawn to the family due to their glamour and wealth - a bit of a sad hanger-on. I really ought to re-read.


thighofrelief · 06/10/2018 23:16

Charles is incredibly repressed. When he is questioned by his wife, who he feels nothing but embarrassment for, about whether he he fallen in love with someone else he says"I'm not in love with anyone".

EW writes almost exclusively about religion and it's effects on fidelity and love. Think of poor, repressed Guy Crouchback in Sword of Honour.


PawneeParksDept · 06/10/2018 23:18

@dellacucina it wasn't something that I think I would have immediately divined from the text if I hadn't "known" going in


RedRosie · 06/10/2018 23:20

I think I agree with @thighofrelief and don't see it as sexual per se (we see everything that way these days). Sexuality, although part of the story, isn't central to it. It is a romance though, in all kinds of ways. One thing it is (for me anyway) is a love-letter to a way of life forever changed by war.

I re-read Brideshead every couple of years. It's beautifully written. I had a summer as a student where I didn't need to work (very old) and read all of Waugh's novels and all of Somerset Maughan's novels and short stories. A summer well spent.


dellacucina · 06/10/2018 23:21

@PawneeParksDept but how do you "know"? Are you in fact certain that this is a correct interpretation?


thighofrelief · 06/10/2018 23:36

Strangely the only one who is happy with his romantic choice is Bridie who chooses Beryl the Catholic widow. Both Bridie and Beryl feel that it is not seemly for her to meet Julia due to her affair with Charles. Therefore they are equally matched in their repression and strict religious adherence.


PawneeParksDept · 06/10/2018 23:42

@dellacucina it's in a biography of Diana Mosley


PawneeParksDept · 06/10/2018 23:46

Oh I'm sorry @dellacucina

I got confused and thought you were referring to handful of dust!

RE them being in a sexual relationship I honestly can't recall but years before I ever read the book I understood this to be the case which is why I was surprised to find it didn't really come across clearly.


ThefusilliJerry · 06/10/2018 23:51

It’s schlock
About as deep as a puddle
I loved it when I was about 16 - age 43 it’s simlly unreadable


TheFoodtheFadandtheFugly · 07/10/2018 00:05

Am I too late?! I loved this book in sixth form and did an essay on it. I love still the tv series... not so much the film.

Didn't find Charles Ryder that likable … but the ideas of fleeting youth and innocence/ decadence etc have stayed with me since.


questionzzz · 07/10/2018 03:31

@thefusilli- but it is so unlike other books that are routinely called schlock! what kinds of books do you consider non-schlock then? what about it do you consider shlocky? maybe it annoys you because (rightly so?) it is ultimately a glamorization of aristocracy, decadence and an untenable way of life?
@thigh- yeah but Beryl (and Bridey), for that matter, are figures of fun, aren't they? we are not supposed to take them seriously.

I still think that it "doesn't matter" whether Charles and Sebastian actually slept together or not- but I find it hard to explain why (it doesn't matter) to a modern teenager.

Evelyn Waugh has aged better than Somerset Maugham- or not?

OP posts:

woodhill · 07/10/2018 09:09

Definitely the before the war nostalgia features heavily in this book - just sad.


Paintingtheroseswhite · 07/10/2018 10:58

It was only on re-reading the book and watching the series again I realized what an awful person Charles is. He lets down everyone in the book but particularly Sebastian. I really can't care less about Julia but I think the bit that breaks my heart for Sebastian is when Charles accompanies Lady Marchmain to mass at Christmas. It's such a weasely ingratiating thing to do and utterly betrays Sebastian.

Anthony Blanche and Cara are the only two honest characters in the book. Both outsiders both shunned by society at large but both speak the absolute truth


haba · 07/10/2018 11:13

In Oscar Wilde's case, was it not more the issue that he was Irish, and therefore a terrible thing that needed to be punished and made an example of?

Very interesting thread, btw. I haven't read Brideshead revisited, it's on my to read pile
Am currently working my way through Nancy Mitford's novels, and enjoying them immensely.
Brideshead next, then on to Lucky Jim.


lucydogz · 07/10/2018 15:24

In Oscar Wilde's case, was it not more the issue that he was Irish, and therefore a terrible thing that needed to be punished and made an example of?
IMO I think that's nonsense.
OW made the mistake of be too cocky in the court. He thought he would get away with it because he was an intellectual and cleverer than those judging him. Which never goes well.


PawneeParksDept · 07/10/2018 15:32

Anyway Wilde was Anglo-Irish which is by no means the same thing. So Protestant and descendant from English aristocracy who were loyal to the Crown had moved to Ireland when it was still a British territory.


Xenia · 07/10/2018 15:33

I rewatched it a couple of years ago. I am not sure they h ad sex. It was a different time and world. Even I graduated a teetotal Catholic virgin in the 80s. Someone I know married young as that was the only way to get sex at all (like plenty of young mormons in Utah today and in many other groups). So I don't think we should assume people did rush into bed even when in love but who knows. It was certainly a very well made TV series and with some beautiful scenery too (and I did read the book too a long time ago. My father was very keen on Waugh and we all liked the Catholic themes too for the family reasons).


ravensmum · 07/10/2018 15:47

Read the diaries of James Lees Milne, a contemporary of Waugh and Nancy Mitford. Through the course of the diaries it's a real insight into how extremely normalised being essentially bisexual was among the upper classes at the time. Also just a great read! He was instrumental in setting up the National Trust and his asides on the declining aristocracy are brilliant.


TigerDrankAllTheWaterInTheTap · 07/10/2018 16:09

I'm a big fan of Waugh but BR is my least favourite of all his novels. He was a Catholic convert, not a cradle Catholic, so I don't think his aim in BR was to criticise the Catholic church, because his view seems to have been that the church was right and it was the godless, directionless 20th century agnostics/atheists who were wrong. (Later in his life the church started to relax its teaching on some issues and he was horrified. I think the rigid, unbending stance on all sorts of issues was what appealed to him.)

He grew up in the Anglican tradition but his family were not particularly religious. He was not happy as a young man. He felt overshadowed by his older brother, who was a novelist (now largely forgotten, but EW wasn't to know that would happen). His relationship with his father was not as bad as Charles Ryder's but they weren't close. EW got into Oxford but did not distinguish himself there. He kept a diary all his life but he destroyed some of the entries covering his time at Oxford/immediately, presumably because he felt they reflected badly on him and/or he couldn't bear to be reminded of that time.

I'm sure young men at Oxford in the 1920s could have had female company, but they'd have had to go off to look for it, as almost all colleges were men only. EW seems to have had some very close male friends, and was very likely in love with at least one of them. Several of them were as near to being openly gay as a man could risk being in later years.

After leaving Oxford he settled in London, with a spell working at a prep school very like the one in Decline and Fall, trying to work out what he wanted to do and eventually starting to write. It was during this time he married his first wife, She-Evelyn, and it didn't work out at all. They split up and divorced within months. It was in the dark days that followed that he started to think about converting to Catholicism. Then he met Laura, who was to be his second wife. She came from a devout Catholic family and he knew he couldn't marry her unless he could get the Church to agree an annulment to his first marriage. Strings were pulled and he got that. He married Laura, who must have been a woman of superhuman patience to cope with him, and appears to have been as happy with her as he was capable of being, for the rest of his life.

He wrote BR towards the end of the war, ten years or more after that tumultuous time in his own life. Bearing in mind he and the rest of the world had just been through six years of turmoil, the overwhelming mood of the book seems to me to be nostalgia for a vanished age. But also, as I said at the start of this long ramble, he had an uncompromising attitude to Catholicism. Charles resembled EW himself in many ways, but of course Charles never found his way to the faith, so EW has little time for him. I don't think EW liked himself much either, frankly.

Maybe I should re-read it.


FloPen · 07/10/2018 17:43

I read somewhere that EW was a very autobiographical novelist.


Everincreasingfrequency · 07/10/2018 17:59

"but of course Charles never found his way to the faith,"

I thought the epilogue was hinting that he did - so I just went back to it and there is the reference to 'the small red flame' which I thought (or someone may have pointed out to me!) was Christianity/Catholicism, which Charles seems to think worthwhile by that point.

I found the treatment of his wife annoying at the time - very dismissive of her and I couldn't really see what was so bad about her.
(Maybe I've forgotten!)


StrawberrySquash · 07/10/2018 21:58

It's been a while but in my head there is this tremendous sadness around Brideshead, the house. I feel as though the family have all this but they don't fill it; they sit awkwardly in it. Charles partially fixes that, but never fully.


moredoll · 07/10/2018 23:56

It's Brideshead that's revisited. I think the house represents the structure of society and where Charles found himself in relation to that in his youth. In his later years he is more understanding of the faith that alienated them all, in their different ways, from society. For what it's worth I think Charles and Sebastian were drawn to one another, but it wasn't a sexual relationship. It was as Cara described it. Sebastian's sexual innocence was denoted by the teddy bear. Not to say he wasn't gay but that wasn't the nature of his relationship with Charles.

Please create an account

To comment on this thread you need to create a Mumsnet account.

Sign up to continue reading

Mumsnet's better when you're logged in. You can customise your experience and access way more features like messaging, watch and hide threads, voting and much more.

Already signed up?