2009: 89. Vile Bodies

“It was clearly going to be a bad crossing.”

Vile Bodies, Evelyn Waugh

        I have been putting off writing about this book, because I was so disappointed upon re-reading it.  I had a memory that I had enjoyed the book, as a light and fizzy satire of the “bright young things,” and I was looking forward to re-reading it, especially after having recently enjoyed Decline and Fall, its immediate predecessor.  Instead of finding it frothily enjoyable, I found it unpleasant, and had a hard time forcing myself to finish.*  I don’t know, maybe it was just me and the mood I was in, because when I think on it, Vile Bodies isn’t really much different from Decline and Fall.  Instead of being the story of a student whose life is inadvertently ruined by the bright young things, this is a story of one of those bright young things, a young man named Adam Fenwick-Symes, who comes home from France, where he’s been writing his novel, to marry his fiancee Nina, but whenever he thinks he’s scrounged up the money, disaster strikes and he needs to try again.  Things continue in this vein for a while, with set pieces taking a bite out of London society, and it’s pretty fun, even if the vocabulary is inside baseball enough to require a bit of deciphering by a modern reader.**  But then (SPOILER), things turn unredeemably bleak, and not so funny at all and the book ends with Adam in a war torn Europe, alone.  So maybe I do know why I didn’t like it - like A Handful of Dust, it became too mean spirited to enjoy the satire anymore.  I want my black comedy characters to be kicked in the dirt a bit, not run over with a bulldozer.***

*And might not have bothered, if I hadn’t (OOPS) recommended it as my book club’s latest read.  I feel like a jerk, and am so not looking forward to the discussion that I have postponed scheduling our next meeting.  I’m tired of picking books that everyone hates! 

**Like my friend B, who, not knowing about Aimee Semple MacPherson and her evangelical ways couldn’t figure out who the “angels” were, without the internet.

***According to the wikipedia, Waugh’s first wife left him halfway through this novel, which accounts for why the thing turns so sour all of a sudden...

Date/Place Completed:  July 2009; D.C.

Categories: Fiction, Book Resolutions, The Evelyn Waugh Project , Re-Read, Book Club

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017