The website of booksellers Barnes & Noble is quick off the mark to issue a review of the US edition of the new biography of Evelyn Waugh by Philip Eade which is published this week. This is by Katherine Powers who writes a regular review column for the B&N site called “The Reading Life.” She is the daughter of American novelist J F Powers, whose early career was boosted by Waugh, starting a regular correspondence that lasted until Waugh’s death. She recently edited a collection of her father’s letters entitled Suitable Accommodations.
After placing the new biography in the context of those that preceded it, Powers notes that
Eade spends more time than previous biographers poring over questions of whom Waugh slept with, what he did in that regard with whom, when, and for how long. To this end, he includes a photograph of the nude person and nice bottom of Alastair Graham, Waugh’s “friend of [his] heart” and one of the models for Sebastian Flyte of Brideshead Revisited.
Powers is most impressed with Eade’s treatment of Waugh military career which offers a different approach from those of his earlier biographers. After summarizing his book, Powers concludes that Eade
is far less tactful than Waugh’s friend Christopher Sykes’s and necessarily less detailed than Martin Stannard‘s rather plodding 1,000-plus-page, two-volume behemoth. It is not written with the pitch-perfect tone, alertness to irony, and all-around panache of Selina Hastings’s 1994 Evelyn Waugh: A Biography, but that book, like Sykes’s, is out of print. So, this one will have to do. There’s nothing really wrong with it except that, with the exception of Eade’s straightening-out of the Crete affair, there is nothing new. The best parts are, as in every biography of Waugh, the quotations from the letters of the great man himself.