EVELYN WAUGH wrote a good novel, this is his first from 1928, and I especially enjoyed the first book within (there are three “books” or sections). His strength is dialogue and capturing the voices of his characters via dialogue. If the whole book had consisted of these lengthy dialogues, it would have been much the stronger. His descriptive writing can be grand, if restrained, but it’s more difficult to read on and on about, say, the house King’s Thursday, when really what we want is the dialogue between Peter and Paul, or Paul and Margot. Also, like Scott Fitzgerald in Tender is the Night (1934), he picks up the tempo toward the end, and introduces some forgettable characters into rather forced and forgettable scenes that could have been left out or minimally recognized. How many characters can we grapple with then? Who was who, what, and when? All together, I enjoyed The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold a bit more, but I will in no way say I did not enjoy nor learn from Decline and Fall. I was relieved to learn that Waugh actually did teach at a school in North Wales, and this was all not just the workings of his imagination, but rather a satire on his real life.
FAVORITE QUOTE: “Anyone who has been to an English public school feels comparatively at home in prison. It’s the people brought up in the gay intimacy of the slums who find prison so soul destroying.”