Saturday, July 31, 2010

Mad World

I didn't plan to read this. Then,two women whose opinion I value, Tessa of Tessa Just Read and Miss Cynica of Sundays in the Valley recommended it on the same day.

Mad World is the back story of Evelyn Waugh's masterpiece "Brideshead Revisited".

Most of Waugh's writing is a compilation of autobiography mixed with stories told by friends, enemies and acquaintances. Brideshead was no exception, and was very much autobiography, with only the names and few details changed. At the time of its publication, those in the know knew everything about the story. Over time and distance the details are beginning to fade, Paula Byrne has done an admirable bit of research to bring history to life.

William Lygon, Earl of Beauchamp, the last historic, authentic case of someone being hounded out of English society. In 1930's Britain, his homosexuality was too open to go unnoticed so his brother in law, the Duke of Westminster, jealous of Lygon's accomplishments led the attack to have him disgraced. In Brideshead, Lygon becomes the adulterous Flyte.

If you've an interest in between the wars Britain, The Bright Young Things, Waugh and his cronies, or simply a curiosity to better understand "Brideshead Revisited", you will enjoy this immensely.



Shelley said...

You betcha! I'm currently reading Andrew Marr's The Making of Modern Britain and Waugh/Brideshead are mentioned. Must add this to my wish list!

Mistress Cynica said...

Toad, so glad you enjoyed it. I'm re-reading "Brideshead" now, for the first time in years. Knowing the background from "Mad World" brings a new depth and meaning to the book--Sebastian's deterioration is so much more devastating when you know the real story behind it and the very real pain experienced by the people who loved Hugh Lygon (Wauch metaphor of a bruised spot being hit repeatedly is so perfect). It's also fascinating to re-read the book in middle age, when one is near the age of the narrator Charles, looking back on the loves, follies, and heartbreaks of youth. I always appreciated Waugh's wit, but I failed to grasp his humanity and compassion.

~Tessa~Scoffs said...

Echoing Mistress Cynica's comment, I loved the insight into the Lygon sisters and the role they played in the story. Coote being so obviously Cordelia but Julia being more of a mixture of the older sisters. Such a good book!

Rebecca Woodhead said...

This sounds interesting. Thanks for sharing it Toad.

Rebecca Woodhead said...

Oh... by the way... I have news:

I don't remember if I mentioned it, but The Times in England quoted me. Also, I am featured on The Spectator's Arts and Culture blog now: We are the New History and a UK publisher has commissioned me to write a foreword for a book about literature on Twitter. Just wanted to share that with you, as you've been so kind.

It looks likely that my book will be out by the end of September. I had some funding issues, but my followers on Twitter have donated money for the publishing fund. The industry is too dodgy and litigious at the moment for me to do anything but self-publish. I'm happy about that. I like the idea of making books from scratch like my ancestor, Blake, did. Anyway, I'm pretty much there on the funding front, so it should be out by the end of September. Exciting times!

Dovecote Decor said...

Lady Astor's son was jailed in those days for homosexuality, so I applaud all my friends who have fought so hard to change the world. I am a Waugh fan, as well!