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Mad World: Evelyn Waugh And The Secrets Of Brideshead - Paula Byrne Paula Byrne set out to write this book because she believed that [a:Evelyn Waugh|11315|Evelyn Waugh|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1357463949p2/11315.jpg] had been consistently misrepresented as a snob and a curmudgeonly misanthropist. I, for one, am very glad that she did. Paula Byrne eschews the "cradle to grave" approach, instead focussing on those key moments in [a:Evelyn Waugh|11315|Evelyn Waugh|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1357463949p2/11315.jpg]'s life, and in particular those that informed his work.

A few weeks before reading '[b:Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead|6705000|Mad World Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead|Paula Byrne|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1347513250s/6705000.jpg|6900761]', I read and thoroughly enjoyed '[b:Brideshead Revisited|111620|Brideshead Revisited|Evelyn Waugh|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1339284588s/111620.jpg|2952196]'. '[b:Brideshead Revisited|111620|Brideshead Revisited|Evelyn Waugh|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1339284588s/111620.jpg|2952196]' is an absorbing and sumptuous eulogy for the end of the golden age of the British aristocracy and, if you haven't read it yet, I envy you. I recommend reading both books fairly closely together. I felt I gained a lot from having Brideshead fresh in my mind. That said, I found I also gained plenty of interesting insights into other Evelyn Waugh books I'd read ('[b:Decline and Fall|1240095|Decline and Fall|Evelyn Waugh|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1298062090s/1240095.jpg|1228767]', '[b:Scoop|30919|Scoop|Evelyn Waugh|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1328007769s/30919.jpg|1001166]', '[b:A Handful of Dust|531262|A Handful of Dust|Evelyn Waugh|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1344266314s/531262.jpg|3115332], and '[b:Black Mischief|30934|Black Mischief|Evelyn Waugh|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1344266638s/30934.jpg|1020646]) - some of which I read many years ago.

'[b:Brideshead Revisited|111620|Brideshead Revisited|Evelyn Waugh|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1339284588s/111620.jpg|2952196]' is [a:Evelyn Waugh|11315|Evelyn Waugh|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1357463949p2/11315.jpg]'s magnum opus, and I was amazed at the extent to which it was based on [a:Evelyn Waugh|11315|Evelyn Waugh|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1357463949p2/11315.jpg]'s own experiences and those of people he knew. When one of [a:Evelyn Waugh|11315|Evelyn Waugh|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1357463949p2/11315.jpg]'s friends asked him how he got away with using real life models for fictional characters, his reply was that you can draw any character as near as you want and no offence will be taken provided you say that he is attractive to women. That may be so, however there must have been plenty of people portrayed in [a:Evelyn Waugh|11315|Evelyn Waugh|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1357463949p2/11315.jpg]'s fiction, particularly those he disliked, who would surely have taken offence. The other remarkable thing about [a:Evelyn Waugh|11315|Evelyn Waugh|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1357463949p2/11315.jpg]'s biographical approach to fiction is how, frequently, the truth was stranger or more outrageous than the fiction it inspired. One notable example is the Lord Marchmain character in '[b:Brideshead Revisited|111620|Brideshead Revisited|Evelyn Waugh|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1339284588s/111620.jpg|2952196]', for whom [a:Evelyn Waugh|11315|Evelyn Waugh|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1357463949p2/11315.jpg] drew heavily on Lord Beauchamp (of the Lygon family who inspired many of the characters in '[b:Brideshead Revisited|111620|Brideshead Revisited|Evelyn Waugh|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1339284588s/111620.jpg|2952196]'), with one significant difference. In deference to the Lygon family, he removed almost all traces of Lord Beauchamp's homosexuality. It was this homosexuality that was at the centre of a scandal that caused his downfall, and exile from England. The real story is far more surprising and tragic than the backstory hinted at in '[b:Brideshead Revisited|111620|Brideshead Revisited|Evelyn Waugh|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1339284588s/111620.jpg|2952196]'.

The best biographies bring their subjects alive, and so inspire their readers to investigate further. This biography succeeds in bringing [a:Evelyn Waugh|11315|Evelyn Waugh|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1357463949p2/11315.jpg], and his world, vividly to life. Before reading this biography I was already convinced that [a:Evelyn Waugh|11315|Evelyn Waugh|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1357463949p2/11315.jpg] was one of the greatest novelists of the twentieth century. After reading '[b:Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead|6705000|Mad World Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead|Paula Byrne|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1347513250s/6705000.jpg|6900761]', I feel I understand him better and feel inspired to read those books I have not read, and to re-read those that I already know. If you have any interest in either [a:Evelyn Waugh|11315|Evelyn Waugh|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1357463949p2/11315.jpg], or the era and social milieus he depicts in his books, then I feel sure you'll devour this biography - as I did.