Book: Vile Bodies

Vile Bodies
Evelyn Waugh
1930

This novel centers around the social circle in London called the “Bright Young People”. At the very center of the action is Adam and his fiancé Nina. Adam has serious money troubles, but that never seems to bother him. The young socialites sail through their lives scandalizing their elders and generally forgetting anything that happens almost as soon as it ends. Obviously this book is largely commentary on society, but Waugh seems to be forecasting it’s downfall as well. I found it interesting that he also predicts a major war and was right, but that’s another point. Anyway, he clearly sees the problems with such society and some of the dangers are pretty clearly laid out (Miss Runcible’s fate in the book is pretty horrific). One of the things that is refreshing about the society, though, is that very tendency to put themselves in dangerous and exciting situations. Everything from throwing parties in blimps to driving race cars is in there.

This novel sounds great read aloud. All of Waugh’s stuff seems to have that quality (I haven’t read all of it) and it adds a lot for me. Each character is pretty two-dimensional, but that seems normal for people who plan on getting married because “it’s such a bore not being married”. Their voices are similar, but not quite the same, which is nice. That happens in circles of society and the fact that the book reflected that did a lot for supporting the point. I also liked that it wasn’t just the “bright young people” who were portrayed as being less than idea. Nina’s father and Lottie in particular were good examples of the older generation’s flaws. No one really came out looking good in this book, but such is the case with satires (which this only sort of is, but you know what I mean).

I really enjoyed reading this book, but I really felt that Brideshead Revisited is a better book. This did make me want to read more of Waugh’s work, which for some reason Brideshead never did. I particularly liked the title of this book. It was so appropriate and set just the right tone, but took me a few chapters to get it (which I actually like). I liked that location rarely mattered to the action, but was usually described anyway. The descriptions were great. But at the same time, the fact that Waugh rarely described people was also really good. I got a good idea of who they were just by listening to their conversations, which in many ways works better than just descriptions. The “Virtues” in particular were shown through conversation rather than description and it worked beautifully.

There is a fairly recent movie based on this book called “Bright Young Things”. I hadn’t any interest in seeing it before reading the book, but now it has made it onto my Netflix queue. I still don’t have high hopes for it at all, but I’m willing to give it a try and see how it interprets the movie.

I would definitely recommend this book, but Brideshead Revisited really is better.

- Publisher’s Description
- Book Blog Post (First Impressions)
- Book Blog Post (World)
- Book Blog Post (Title)
- Book Blog Post (Final Thoughts)
- Buy it from Amazon

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