I’ve been thinking more about Waugh and my ambivalent reaction to books other than Brideshead Revisited. And I’m realizing that it isn’t much different than my reaction to other authors I’ve discovered when the first thing I read by them was their best work and then seeking more of that I found disappointment after disappointment. I felt the same way about A. S. Byatt. I absolutely loved Possession but everything of hers I read after that was a real let down.
When you start off with the best, the others are almost bound to disappoint. And it seems to me that most authors have one truly great work in them and the rest are really second-rate. Unfortunately one most often discovers an author by reading their best known work, which is usually also their finest work.
Joseph Pearce, my favorite Catholic critic, writes about Waugh’s conversion and Brideshead revisited and claims that BR is “arguably the finest of Waugh’s novels and undeniably one of the greatest novels of the 20th century.”
Pearce also says that ” In many respects, Waugh’s finest novel is a reiteration of the theme found in his article for the Daily Express. It is a tale of hope among the ruins of a vanishing civilization in which the light of Christianity shines out amidst the chaos.” I think it is this theme, perfected in BR that make me like the book.
Although one could argue that Sword of Honour also revolves around the idea of the light of Christianity shining out amid the chaos, I don’t think it exemplifies that theme as finely as does BR.
(This is a follow-up to my previous post on Sword of Honour)