Monday, September 1, 2014

Recently Read: Vile Bodies

Author: Evelyn Waugh
Genre: Classic/Satire
Year Published: 1930
Page Count: 321
Rating: 3.5/5

Vile Bodies is my first Waugh novel and one of his most popular novels. It took me a lot longer to finish this book than it should have, but I blame that on the first week of the new semester.

This novel revolves around the "Bright Young Things" of London in the 1920's. At the heart of this satirical piece is the on-again-off-again engagement of Adam and Nina. This book is a permanent party where gossip runs wild.

This book is a satirical take on the pre WWII generation of London, with their carefree attitudes and blind optimism. This book really illustrates the generation gap that the two World Wars caused between the old and the young. After WWI the generation that was coming of age started moving towards living life for happiness and pleasure instead of just living life to survive. Practicality took a back seat to pleasure. The first World War had a very large impact on the whole world, but the young generation that witnessed the war first hand was particularly effected and shaken up by the violence they had scene and the lack of solid reasoning behind the violence. This book really highlights that gap, and the almost dooming and dreadful optimism that plagued the generation coming of age after the war. Page 183-184 in my copy of the book (near the middle of chapter eight) does this brilliantly. This is where this generation is referred to as Bright Young Things by an older gentlemen who is commenting on the youth and their difference in attitude from his generation. This discussion of the youth is my favorite scene from the book.

This book reminded me of the party scene in Breakfast at Tiffany's on repeat. The parties are constant and always a big ball of confusion, the atmosphere was great, and I immediately wanted a film version of this book. (Which there is, Bright Young Things which was directed by Stephen Fry and released in 2003, I need to check this one out.) I enjoyed the humor in this novel, as it was very reminiscent of Oscar Wilde's witty humor, and the cast of characters is crazy and quirky. Every character is outfitted with a ridiculous name and a ridiculous personality to match. The characters can be tricky to keep track of since the list is so long, but as long as you keep track of the main few, you will be just fine.

I think this is a great example of satirical fiction. Everything about this novel contributed to the satirical themes. The tone was chaotic and carefree and a little melancholy at times, much like the tone of prewar London and the plot was somewhat superficial and the characters had no real plans or chances for their future, just like the prewar generation. This book comments on the effect of both World Wars on the older and younger generations as well as the generation gap between the two generations. The demur ending parallels the ending of the young generation's carefree living with the arrival of WWII.

Although I really enjoyed this piece as satirical fiction, I felt pretty neutral about it overall. There were so many characters in this novel that I never really got attached to any of them and the plot wasn't overly exciting. I didn't love this novel as much as I thought I would, but I still enjoyed it.  

I am interested in checking out more of Waugh's works in the future, as I have heard lots of good things about his other novels as well. Next on my list for Waugh is Brideshead Revisited and Decline and Fall


  1. This sounds like it turned out well! I always wonder about older satirical books and how much of it I'm likely to 'get'.

    1. I think the satire in this novel is very obvious, even to those reading it almost seventy-five years after its publication.
      thanks for stopping by!