Review of Helena in Roman Catholic Journal

The Roman Catholic online journal Crisis Magazine, published by the Sophia Institute Press, has posted a retrospective review of Waugh’s 1950 historical novel Helena, possibly his least read work of book-length fiction. The review is entitled “A Catholic Satirist at Work” and is written by Michael de Sapio. After summarizing the plot, the review continues:

Waugh was a wicked satirist, a man who loved to rail against the modern world and its inanities. He was also a writer who reveled in the pure use of language. In Helena, Waugh finds parallels between Helena’s era and his own and satirizes both. To make the story more vivid and contemporary he gives his characters the lingo of British aristocrats of his own day, like Jeeves and Bertie Wooster transplanted to the fourth century. By means of this arch speech Waugh draws an anatomy of snobbery, with characters that run the gamut from vacuous to fatuous. Waugh’s Constantine is a conceited airhead whose adoption of Christianity is done mainly for political convenience and show.

The review concludes with a discussion of why de Sapio believes Helena is relevant to Roman Catholics today. 

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