Through Guy Crouchback, the detached observer and would be knight, who thought his private honour would be satisfied by war, Evelyn Waugh perfectly captures the bureaucracy, pettiness, absurdity, humour, and confusion of war. It all rings true with numerous little details that make this book so satisfying. It's everything that great literature should be - beautifully written, evocative. poignant, funny, tragic and profound.
I wonder how many of the great characters are also based on real people. I really want Jumbo Trotter, Apthorpe, Ludovic, Box-Bender, Trimmer Virginia, Peregrine, and - of course - Brigadier Ritchie-Hook to be real characters, as I do, the denizens of Bellamy's club.
In April 2013, I finally read Brideshead Revisited and was captivated from start to finish. You probably don't me to tell you it's a masterpiece. Before embarking on Sword of Honour, I would never have believed that Evelyn Waugh could have written two masterpieces. He has. Brideshead Revisited andSword of Honour. That's in addition to all the other wonderful fiction and non-fiction.
Epic and extraordinary. You really should read Sword of Honour. A wonderful book. 5/5
NOTE ABOUT DIFFERENT EDITIONS:
Sword of Honour was originally published as three separate volumes Men At Arms (1952), Officers and Gentlemen (1955), and Unconditional Surrender 1961, however Waugh extensively revised these books to create a one-volume version "Sword of Honour" in 1965, and it is this version that Waugh wanted people to read.
The Penguin Classics version of "Sword of Honour", contains numerous informative and interesting footnotes and an introduction by Angus Calder, each time Waugh changed the text there was a note. Most of these are notes about sections that Waugh has removed with a view to ensuring that his "hero" Guy Crouchback is perceived as more worldly and experienced than was the case in the original version of the books. I can see why Waugh would choose to change the emphasis in this way and I think it makes the overall narrative more convincing and effective.