Blunted Sword

A review of Waugh’s Sword of Honour appears in the latest issue of the journal of the Augustine Institute Faith & Culture. This is by Joseph Pearce who is also editor of the Saint Austin Review. Here are some excerpts:

…The truth is that I found Waugh’s Sword somewhat blunted by the sin of self-indulgence, in which far too many unnecessary and uninteresting characters are introduced into the mix without any obvious point from the perspective of the overall plot. The novel would have been far better had it been half the length and had half its characters been harmlessly excised. One thing’s for sure, it is not “Waugh’s masterpiece” as a reviewer in Time had claimed. …  In Brideshead Revisited, which, pace Time, is indubitably Waugh’s real masterpiece, there are relatively few characters, each of whom has a real personality and serves a real purpose to the plot.

Sword of Honour does contain elements of Waugh’s genius, such as the delightfully immoral and ironically named Virginia and the delightfully psychopathic Ben Ritchie Hook. There’s also the scathing satire on the vacuity of modernity, which is a recurring feature of Waugh’s oeuvre, and a sardonically satirical exposé of the sheer nastiness of communism. With regard to the latter, Waugh’s Sword has a real cutting edge in its treatment of the communist partisans in Yugoslavia during the war, combining the acerbic realism of Solzhenitsyn, the grimness of Orwell, and the dexterous lightness and humour of Wodehouse. …

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