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Mad World: Evelyn Waugh And The Secrets Of Brideshead
by Paula Byrne
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A terrifically engaging and original biography about one of England’s greatest novelists, and the glamorous, eccentric, debauched and ultimately tragic family that provided him with the most significant friendships of his life and inspired his masterpiece, ‘Brideshead Revisited’. Evelyn Waugh was already famous when ‘Brideshead Revisited’ was published in 1945. Written at the height of the war, the novel was, he admitted, of no ‘immediate propaganda value’. Instead, it was the story of a household, a family and a journey of religious faith – an elegy, in many ways, for a vanishing world and a testimony to a family he had fallen in love with a decade earlier. The Lygons of Madresfield were every bit as glamorous, eccentric and compelling as their counterparts in ‘Brideshead Revisited’. In this engrossing biography, Paula Byrne takes an innovative approach to her subject, setting out to capture Waugh through those friendships that mattered most to him. Far from the snobbish misanthropist of popular caricature, she uncovers a man as loving and complex as the family that inspired him – a family deeply traumatised when their father was revealed as a homosexual and forced to flee the country. This brilliantly original biography unlocks for the first time the extent to which Waugh’s great novel encoded and transformed his own experiences. In so doing, it illuminates the loves and obsessions that shaped his life, and brings us inevitably to a secret that dared not speak its name.
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