I knew that Evelyn Waugh and Nancy Mitford were close friends, and I’d heard their work cited as similar, but I’d never really noticed it for myself. That is, until I read Put Out More Flags by Waugh. I was struck by the similarity in feel it had to Christmas Pudding and Pigeon Pie by Mitford, which is interesting as they were her earlier books and she was less pleased with them as time went on. Luckily, I loved them, and loved Put Out More Flags as well. It’s the story of Basil Seal, a lounge-about who has gotten away with living his own brand of life for quite a while. When WW2 begins, the women in his life decide that it’s high time he join the army and do something substantial. Of course he wants nothing to do with that, and his pursuits into other arenas are predictably amusing. (Not to say that they’re predictable, just that it’s safe to assume that the contortions Waugh puts him through will be entertaining.) Waugh has a nipping sense of humor (not quite biting), and captures character clearly and quickly. I feel like his characters exist, and enjoy visiting them. I think it’s time to try Brideshead Revisited again, now that I have a feel for him.
I reread Bonjour Tristesse and loved it again. In some ways it’s obvious that it was written by an 18 year old- the emotion and turbulence of that age are so fresh, so purely captured. In other ways I can’t believe that someone so young wrote so gorgeously, there’s not a wrong phrase in the whole thing.
Now I’m reading The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh, and loving it, epic monstrosity that it is. These two are so witty and so funny, and their affection for each other is so evident, that the letters are a joy to read. Seeing the progress of their books as they council with each other about them is fascinating, as is seeing the progress of the world as they mention it in passing.
Current total: 16
Just finished: Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan
Currently reading: The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh