Book Meme: ‘Psichore’s Day Two

The Book Meme Challenge: A Book that You’ve Read More than 3 Times

This could refer to all manner of books, but I’m thinking Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited fits best here.  Unlike several other books I read in high school, Brideshead did not suffer for being under the intense scrutiny necessary for what literary analysis I was then capable of doing, such that I enjoyed it well enough when revisiting it in a British literature course, and re-read it before watching the 2008 film, and again last summer as part of a discussion group.

What keeps drawing me back to this book is the first section, Et in Arcadia Ego, with its descriptions of Charles meeting Sebastian, what mischief they get up to in and out of Oxford, the Brideshead Estate, and the rest of the Marchmain family.  It is perhaps the best example of the aforementioned Kingfisher Days, and Melpomene has mentioned how educational Charles and Sebastian are vis-à-vis drinking wine.  There is, of course, nothing quite so fun as drinking lots of cocktails while imitating Anthony Blanche.  Nor does it hurt that I’ve gotten to visit Oxford, all too briefly, and thus can envision Anthony Blanche “being put in Mercury” at Christchurch, or the Turf in Hell Passage, or the various winding roads.  The narrative is just rich with detail, and has a golden luxurious feel that I quite enjoy – though it’s been noted that Waugh himself, in later life, found the book “infused with a kind of gluttony…which now, with a full stomach, I find distasteful.”  We shall see how well I like it in later years, I suppose.

But the halcyon days hardly comprise the whole book, which is named by the frame of the story, wherein Charles, a middle-aged army man who has lost all love for army life, comes with his regiment to Brideshead, and remembers all the days spent there before.  The golden days of college (alas!) could not last; as Sebastian feels more and more constrained by his mother’s Catholic faith and the watchful eyes of Mr. Samgrass, he sinks further and further into alcoholism.  The old circle of friends breaks up, Charles and Sebastian drift further and further apart, while Charles and Julia drift closer together.

Ultimately, the book is about the operation of grace, though it would take a good deal more space to illustrate that (nor do I want to spoil the book utterly for the neophytes).  Were I a better reader or a better person, that would draw me back more than the youthful days presided over by Aloysius.  Cordelia’s quotation of Father Brown sums it up best:  “I caught him, with an unseen hook and an invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world, and still to bring him back with a twitch upon the thread.”  Read on, and hark how “him” can refer to any sinner.  Then, should you ever be old or ugly or miserable, read it again and remember.


2 thoughts on “Book Meme: ‘Psichore’s Day Two

  1. Ooh, good choice! You know, I don’t believe that I have read BR through in its entirety more than three times. Mostly I have been skimming and picking up here and there for Halcyon Days Infusions. This should be rectified. When I have a life. But the first part of BR will always always inspire me to exclaim, “Glory be to God for Dappled Things!”

    How did you find the 2008 movie? I have seen the old mini-series, but could not make myself watch the new version.

    Also, if you click on the tag for Academia yours is the post that is “featured” at the top of the list. 😉

  2. Peachy and I went to see the 2008 one together. I remember that we both called BS on a particular instance of Charles crossing his legs under the elms (so unnatural and uncomfortable!); beyond that, I’ve a vague sense that while the film got most of the plot elements correct, it missed the larger point of the book (namely, the operation of grace). So I don’t blame you for skipping it.

    We started watching the mini-series, but still haven’t gotten the second disk from Netflix. When we have a life! But at least the mini-series is quite solid so far.

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