This crowded, witty biography follows Waugh from the ancestral home in Somerset (“The only bathroom featured a stuffed monkey that had, improbably, died of sunstroke”) to the jungles of Brazil. The supporting characters seem stranger, blunter, and more lovable, or hateable, than their doubles in “Decline and Fall” and “Vile Bodies”—in this case, life exceeded art. Eade plunges into correspondence and unpublished family papers to explore the writer’s obsessions with social status and Catholicism, his jackknife turns from affection to contempt, and his torturous ambition. “I know I have something in me,” a young Waugh wrote, “but I am desperately afraid it may never come to anything.”
The Sydney Morning Herald published a list of writers’ recommended reads for 2016. One of the selections of author Paul Ham was The Patrick Melrose Novels, which he compares favorably to the works of Evelyn Waugh:
With the completion of his five-novel autobiographical masterpiece, The Patrick Melrose Novels (Picador), Edward St Aubyn has skewered the English snobbocracy like no other writer since Evelyn Waugh. Unlike Waugh, St Aubyn is a member of that class and as a boy, he was repeatedly raped by his father. In less assured hands this might have turned into a self-pitying weepathon. In St Aubyn’s, the result is a savage social comedy in which the reader is never allowed to forget that the writer shares the poison of inherited privilege.
Finally, the Guardian has asked writers to submit questions for a holiday literary quiz. Novelist Sarah Waters submitted this entry for Part 1:
Sarah Waters: In Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies, what kind of hat does Mr Chatterbox unsuccessfully attempt to turn into a high-society trend?
A chrome-yellow fedora
A bottle-green bowler
A polka-dot fez
You can find the answer, as well as other questions, here.