Book Meme: ‘Psichore’s Day Eighteen

The Book Meme Challenge: A book that disappointed you

Sometimes you read a book expecting to dislike it, especially when forced to by The Man, or The Schoolteacher, or what have you.  And then you may be proven right, or else happily surprised.

But here are two titles which I expected to like, at least more than I did:

Tess of the D’urbervilles

I hate to be a spoiling Sue, so I’ll do my level best to stay away from the tail end of this book.  There’s enough disappointment in the first two-thirds or so, really.  It joins Romeo and Juliet on the shelf of books wherein great failures to communicate bring about terrible misfortune.

Trouble begins when Tess’s father, John Durbeyfield, learns that he has come from a noble family and  responds by (alas) behaving less nobly.  It is no way for a husband and father to act.  The responsibility and strain of getting to market, and later working to support the family, falls on Tess, who must “claim kin” and live some miles away.  She was willing to do it, but in the end I think she bore more than she ought to have done…

(there’s a double meaning in that)

Trouble continues, and then abates awhile, and then unhappiness manifests itself in new, more unpleasant ways.  Supposedly the book is meant to explore how modernity pulls men away from nature, to their detriment, and depict the tragedy of certain double standards.  But the fact remains that the characters are too afraid to speak the truth and thereafter suffer for failing to do so; they make other poor decisions besides; and at those times when it is most important for them to be generous and forgiving to each other, they aren’t.


This is a simpler matter.  Pay attention in Victorian to Modern British Literature class when your professor mentions how Waugh’s later works differed substantially from Brideshead Revisited.  If you pick up Scoop hoping for something like Brideshead, there will only be tears.  Or, rather, there will be laughter, but at satire on the press rather than youthful ardor and Rex Mottram’s poor understanding of Catholicism.


3 thoughts on “Book Meme: ‘Psichore’s Day Eighteen

  1. Er, yes. Tess made me angry. I was reserving judgment until the end – on account of the beautiful prose – but that last scene destroyed my faith in Harding. It took all of Jude the Obscure to make me grudgingly respect him again.

    And for Scoop . . . really not Waugh’s best work. But it is much more his normal style than is Brideshead. In fact, Waugh later regretted writing in the Brideshead in such a “charming” style. His “Vile Bodies” is my favorite among his satires.

    • I think that is what disappointed me about it. I *like* charm!
      …but perhaps I’ve now got the whiplash out of my system and will like Decline and Fall better for it…

      • Do try “Vile Bodies” and a “Handful of Dust” . . I read those before BH and loved Waugh for those. He is just like a dark Wodehouse!

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