Waugh’s war trilogy Sword of Honour has been named on several recent lists as recommended summer reading. The Irish Times polled a number of readers who also happen to be writers, and novelist John Banville included SoH:
David Brown’s new biography of F Scott Fitzgerald, Paradise Lost, is a fine and fascinating, and highly entertaining, re-evaluation of this largely misunderstood, or at least misinterpreted, writer, one of the last Romantics. Brown is a historian, and emphasises Fitzgerald’s role as a chronicler of his time, when modern America was being born. I have just re-read Men at Arms, the first volume of Evelyn Waugh’s superb Sword of Honour war trilogy. The novel is evocative, elegiac and wonderfully funny – and there are two more volumes still to savour…
Banville’s novels include Booker prize-winning The Sea as well as Ancient Light and, most recently, The Blue Guitar.
An anonymous blogger on mirabiledictu.org is reading SoH and has posted a progress report relating to volumes 1 and 2:
These novels are absorbing, but not too brainy (good for summer reading). Partly autobiographical, partly a moral examination of war, they are also satiric. Though Sword of Honour is as far as you can get from War and Peace, Waugh, like Tolstoy, ridicules the muddle of military strategy. Everybody is forever getting lost, military operations go awry, and battles are randomly won and lost. In Waugh’s world, companies don’t see action for months or years: they are posted in England or Scotland…Then in Officers and Gentlemen … Guy observes the height of military incompetence. … These books are very enjoyable, even though they are about the war.
Finally, Roman Catholic news blogger Tod Worner has decided to read SoH. His plans are posted on aleteia.com in an article with 7 other recommendations which also include a suggested drink to be enjoyed while reading:
This summer I have decided to tackle Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honor trilogy. … Evelyn Waugh tells a story as only Evelyn Waugh can. With cocked eyebrow and tongue firmly in cheek, he introduces us to figures and behaviors which at first make us wince or laugh until we realize that Waugh is puckishly needling us about those sometimes inspiring & often less savory nuances of our own.
To accompany this book, I should recommend a particular whiskey splashed into a heavy-bottomed snifter. But, instead, I favor an Odell’s India Pale Ale (or for the brave of heart, Myrcenary, Odell’s double IPA) in a chilled glass mug. Let’s read and drink. Evelyn would be proud.
UPDATE (9 July 2017): Today’s Guardian has a list of recommended summer reads in which John Banville is again polled. Having apparently finished the book about Fitzgerald, he mentions Colm Toibin’s House of Names and Michael Longley’s Angel Hill, and concludes with this:
I shall not be going anywhere – hate holidays – but will stay happily at home, rereading Evelyn Waugh’s second world war Sword of Honour trilogy (Penguin £14.99). Pure bliss.