Wednesday, August 29, 2018

A Terrible Book I'm Glad I Read

I love writing about the books I love.  Sharing the novels I want other people to read is easy. 

Writing about the books I didn't love can be equally satisfying. 

Today, I'm talking about a book that I couldn't stand.

I was an English major and often heard people talk about Evelyn Waugh and Brideshead Revisited.  I can't tell you what the plot of that novel is, but I know it comes up in literary conversations.  I have always wondered about this book but never enough to actually pick it up. 

oh, yes, of course I know that book!   everyone knows that book!

Recently, I've been trying out different Page One subscription boxes.  They are my favorite.  I got my classics box and it came full of goodies and an Evelyn Waugh book, Vile Bodies.  "Yipee," I thought.  A book I had never read by an author I was unfamiliar with but wanted to read. #winning

The page count wasn't super high and the cover was gorgeous, so I dove right in.  I can be shallow like that.  

ooooh, pretty cover

After a couple of chapters, I started to get a bad feeling.  This was horrible.  I mean, the book is well written and Waugh does an excellent job of satirizing his world, but there was nothing good.  No likable characters, no relatable circumstances, no hope.  Waugh was merciless in this depiction.  

Because I am an English major (with a focus on literature *ahem*), I finished it.  I can do hard things.  

Yes I can

Page One is an amazing company that offers to send another book if you didn't like the one they don't even have to send the dud back.  But, I won't be taking advantage of that.  

Because I did like reading it.  I just didn't like the book.  Does that make sense?  Probably not.

I wanted to read Waugh.  I learned Evelyn Waugh was a man (who knew!) and he was married to a woman named Evelyn (what are the odds!).  How did they handle the mail situation?  What about when someone called and said, "Is Evelyn there?"  I have so many questions.  

I wanted to get a grasp of what Waugh wrote about.  Apparently, he had an intimate understanding of spoiled young Brits in the '20's.  

Reading this book helped me know myself better.  I realized I love Fitzgerald because there is a thin thread of hope and optimism despite the vapid, vain characters.  I love Wodehouse because he adds a healthy dose of humor and makes his characters laughable, not despicable.  

So, it was a good read for me, just not a good read.  


Vile Bodies is kind of all over the place but the central struggle is that of Adam and Nina--two young people who want to get married.  They need money and they need her father's approval.  Both of these require a herculean effort and lead them into some absurd situations that seesaw from hilarious to horrible.  I would find myself kind of chuckling at something a character had said and then: Boom--someone was dead.  

The pace was unnerving and frantic which feels like an accurate representation of the times.  I kept thinking, "The center cannot hold, the center cannot hold."  It was one of those books where I was holding my breath and clenching my jaw each time I picked it up.  

Within the first ten pages a character remarks, "'It's just exactly like being inside a cocktail shaker,'" and, dear reader, that is exactly how I felt reading this book.  Lots of alcohol and bruises.  

I checked goodreads reviews and they seem to be mixed.  If you read it and loved it, why?  how?  I'm still up for Brideshead Revisited, maybe after a little time passes, but I think Waugh is smart and scathing.  

If you like rich people problems or watching train wrecks, Vile Bodies just might be your next favorite book.  As for me, I'm glad I'm done with it! 

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