Read Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh Online


Evelyn Waugh's second novel, "Vile Bodies" is his tribute to London's smart set. It introduces us to society as it used to be but that now is gone forever, and probably for good....

Title : Vile Bodies
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780316926119
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 322 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Vile Bodies Reviews

  • Paul
    2019-05-25 01:44

    2.5 starsWaugh’s second novel is a rather bleak comic satire on the “Bright Young Things” of the 1920s. It is a witty series of anecdotes, often rather disjointed. The title is from the funeral service and the style mimics Eliot and modernism. The pace is breathless and there is a line in a Disney song which runs “busy going nowhere”. Indeed there is an inscription from Carroll at the beginning “it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place”. The plot is fairly thin. It revolves around Adam Fenwick-Symes and his chaotic attempts to marry Nina Blount; or to be more precise, to get enough money to marry Nina. Most of the book follows a series of parties and happenings in the tradition of the real life Waugh is satirising. There are lots of ridiculously named people (the prime minister is Mr Outrage). Adam is a writer/journalist and writes (makes up) a gossip column following the suicide of the previous occupant of the role. There is a distinct change of tone in the second half of the book and this coincides with Waugh’s first wife leaving him; the comic bleakness becomes more marked and the ending is almost apocalyptic. Now, it must be said that Waugh can write and some of this is funny. He has been called the best prose writer of the twentieth century; that I don’t accept, not at all. He is inventive; remember the end of A Handful of Dust where the hero of the book is forced to read Dickens aloud for the rest of his life in a jungle prison. Now that is funny and inventive! The characters are shallow, transitory and throw-away and there is an obsession with the English upper classes. There is a brief section of entirely unnecessary racism; again not unusual for Waugh. What strikes me most about Waugh is his complete rejection of modern society with a nostalgia for time past, a world long lost. His conversion to Catholicism seems to me to be a part of this. I seem to be surrounded by reviews and reviewers who think Waugh is wonderful and I’m just not getting it. If you want to read about the English upper classes in a satirical and comic way in a world populated by ridiculous and shallow characters then read Wodehouse; he’s better. The “Bright Young Things” did not really need to be satirised; they managed to satirise themselves, consciously or not. Ok, this is amusing in places and the satire is sharp, but does not really better the real lives of the people being satirised and unfortunately Waugh’s contempt for the “lower orders” is also obvious. However there are some critics who are on my side here. Orwell wrote; “Waugh is about as good a novelist as one can be (i.e. as novelists go today) while holding untenable opinions.”Orwell’s further comments about not being able to be Catholic and grown up chime with Cyril Connolly idea of"Theory of Permanent Adolescence," whereby Englishmen of a certain caste are doomed to re-enact their school days. So I’m not alone in finding Waugh unconvincing.

  • Fabian
    2019-06-03 06:12

    Unputdownable; both excitingly modern & original, a novel about manners & society and all that jazz. I have seriously not read something this comical and smart and sad since (my all-time fave) “A Confederacy of Dunces.” The sharp dialogue is more than clever: it constructs a full little universe in which bright young creatures can party it up like there’s no tomorrow. Love everything about it: the tone, the pace, the interaction of so many personalities. Fantastic: I read all 321 pages in one sitting! This is a book to look up to, a towering achievement indeed. Inspiring, whimsical, hella original, and as witty as any play of manners by Oscar Wilde.

  • Shovelmonkey1
    2019-06-19 02:53

    "Ooooh what's that shiny thing, it's hurting my eyes.""Sorry, that'd be me, I'm a bright young thing. Avert your eyes lest they be burned from their sockets.""Wow, so what is a bright young thing then? Forgive my ignorance but I'm just not that cultured.""Don't worry, its an easy premise to grasp - here, let me explain... we bright young things are an erudite group of social laaah-de-dahs who favour a bohemian life style. We like the finer things in life and indulge our love of drinking, dancing and outlandish behaviour much to the joy of the press who like to follow us around documenting our frivolous and moderately hedonistic acts. We're also frightfully upper class and a tiny bit prone to navel gazing but some of us are quite arty. We can also be a little bit flaky and a wee bit emotionally sterile. Sometimes we talk a bit like the cast of Dawson's Creek would if they were transposed to 1920's London. If you'd like to put us in a modern context, we're like the cast of The Hills but we've got culture, money and talent on our side. Does that answer your question?""Yup, that seems like a fair summary to me. Thanks."

  • Lesley
    2019-06-10 06:48

    Updated thoughts can be found here - just finished reading the gorgeous 1930 novel, Vile Bodies by the old genius of a boy, Evelyn Waugh.I feel it's not too soon to admit to this already being one of my favorite books of all time. Just lovely in every way.I'd already seen the hilarious 2003 film adaptation by my hero, Stephen Fry but I actually think I like the book even more.So rich with wit and humor. so full of characters that one would love to share a bottle (or 40) of fizz with.My perfect little paperback edition of this novel literally fills me with joy every time I glance it's way.When this book was written I imagine it was non to popular with the well behaved masses.This charming volume is filled with every kind of debauchery you could partake of during the 20's, 30's and 40's.- Drugs, alcohol, sex. Not to mention females wearing trousers! Simply too too shy-making.Vile Bodies is the kind of novel that at once consumes you. Takes over all but your simplest of faculties. I want to be Agatha Runcible. I want to be friends with Adam Fenwick-Symes. I want to have adventures with Miles Malpractice. I want to be one of the Bright Young People who so corrupt 'modern' society.Everything about this story is decadence, and in being so makes the perfect escapist volume I've ever had the joy of coming across. I'd recommend this to just about any literary creature out there. Do not, please, be put off by the fact that it was written way back when. I promise it's as fresh today as it ever was. Maybe even more so in our days of corruption(oh my!).

  • Petra X
    2019-05-25 03:46

    Vile bodies, vile people, vile attitudes, only they could have named themselves 'bright young things'. Good book, Evelyn Waugh knows his own kind but also knows how to send them up.

  • Наталия Янева
    2019-06-01 04:45

    За пръв път чета Ивлин Уо и стилът доста ми напомни на Фицджералд. Така де, Бурните двадесет, Златните двадесет and all that jazz. Всъщност действието се развива малко преди Първата световна война, но духът на идещата епоха на джаза витае във въздуха. Определено вакханалията никога не е имала по-стилен образ.Пробуди съжаление у мен, тази Златна младеж на Уо. Едно такова опушено, матово, смътно съжаление. Защото си припомних, че вече съм я виждала някъде. Виждала съм същата процесия от унизени тела, същия панаир на суетата. Срещам ги всеки ден. Някой път са дори в огледалото. Златната младеж твърде ми напомня на собственото ми поколение, т.нар. поколение Y. Поредната неизвестна в безкрайните уравнения на историята. Ние сме същата онази Златна младеж, обаче на 21-ви век – залутани, объркани, неспокойни, постоянно търсещи. Всички възможности на света няма да са ни достатъчни. Способни сме да пропилеем целия потенциал, който успеем да намерим в себе си. Гордо развяваме привилегията, запазена сякаш единствено за младите – винаги всичко да ни е ясно и да умеем нещата по-добре от останалите. Бабите и дядовците ни са живели безсмислено, постъпките на родителите ни са глупави. Ние същия живот щяхме да го изживеем къде по-добре. Носим… Но за Златната младеж в романа ми беше думата, разсеях се.Огледайте се около себе си. Ивлин Уо е описал сегашните млади хора преди век. Дори Сократ ги е описал преди… абе, отдавна ги е описал. Както току се случва в някое поколение, Златната младеж е на кръстопът и се колебае накъде да поеме, и е вцепенена от собствената си нерешителност.„Познавам много малко младежи, но ми се струва, че всички те са обзети почти изцяло от една фатална жажда за непреходни ценности. Хората днес не се задоволяват просто да живуркат. И думата „фалш“, която толкова често използват… В днешно време те не могат да се примирят с лошо свършена работа. Някога моят наставник казваше: „Ако нещо си струва да се направи, струва се да се направи добре“. Днешните млади хора подхождат различно и, знам ли, може и да са прави. Те казват: „Ако нещо не си струва да се направи добре, не си струва да се прави въобще“.Историята е печално известна със склонността си да се повтаря. Мизансценът се променя, но все си се раждаме, живеем и умираме. Ако имаме късмет и помечтаваме малко някъде помежду. Мислим си, че сме най-добрата карта, която еволюцията е изтеглила от предишните епохи досега, и донякъде сме прави. Перлената ни самоувереност не е изцяло лустро. Ние сме подобрена версия на своите предци. Какво да правим с цялата тази отговорност, с цялата вложена в нас надежда обаче, ей този хлъзгав момент понякога ни спъва.„– Бих дал всичко на света за нещо различно.– Различно от мен или различно от всичко?– Различно от всичко… само че нямам нищо… Каква полза от говоренето?“

  • F
    2019-05-30 00:57

    Very interesting and a different world to today. So much scandal and great characters.I felt it was slow at parts. Some characters i loved and some i really didnt.Everyone just seemed like upper class socicalite rebels. I heard a quote that i found matched what I thought of the book:"Vile Bodies, Vile People, Vile Attitudes"

  • Stela
    2019-06-17 05:01

    Reading Evelyn Waugh is like watching an elaborate, adult cartoon. His writing is beyond the usual satire, black humour, cynicism and all other attributes it was gratified with. Its extraordinary visual quality is supported by few epic features, and it is called a novel only in the absence of a better term, as justly observed Alan Dale in his review on Blogcritics. Therefore, if you look for a cleverly deployed plot, strong characters and coherent actions, or balanced oppositions and moral battlegrounds, Evelyn Waugh is definitely not for you. Indeed, his field is a sort of very intricate satire, which seems to use some tools usually encountered in playwriting, such as comedy of manners, of names, of situations without really mimicking classic comedy, however, for he blends many other eclectic techniques, “stolen” not only from theatre but also from cinema and other visual arts (it will be interesting to study, for example, some skills he borrowed from drawing, like random hatching, scribbling, or blending). The result? Absurd scenes scroll in front of our eyes, presenting a gathering of characters – inspired by those “bright young things” who made the gossip columns' delight of interwar London – caught in a frenetic attempt to fill their boring lives with outrageous actions. David Lodge said that Waugh creates comedy simply by using indiscriminately logic and surprise, familiar and incongruous and you certainly can see how, chapter after chapter, party after party, any possible rising action is replaced by rising laughable absurdity. Look at the following scene, in the first chapter of the book:The ship creaked in every plate, doors slammed, trunks fell about, the wind howled; the screw, now out of the water, now in, raced and churned, shaking down hat-boxes like ripe apples; but above all the roar and the clatter there rose from the second class ladies’ saloon the despairing voices of Mrs Ape’s angels, in frequently broken unison, singing, singing, wildly, desperately, as though their hearts would break in the effort and their minds lose their reason, Mrs. Ape’s famous hymn, “There ain’t no flies on the Lamb of God”.Here you have an orgy of images and figures that recreate the impression of the ship movement in a most realistic tradition. Here you have the herculean effort of an angel choir to perform on this rimbaudesque drunken boat, in a modernist, suspiciously ironic crescendo. And, finally, here you have the performance, mocking the previous stylistic demureness.Vile Bodies is full of such memorable scenes: a customs officer who finds a book on Economics subversive and Purgatorio objectionable, a judge who has a prostitute swinging on a chandelier in a hotel room and sees that police cover her accidental death, a journalist who commits suicide after being banned from high society, a charlatan drunken major who becomes general when war is declared, and so on, and so forth. Even the names are so obvious that instead of completing the characters' portraits, become the characters: a heavily smoking priest is called Bishop Philpotts, a silly but valiant lesbian is called Agatha Runcible, calling a journalist – even a homosexual one – Malpractice isn’t enough if his first name is not Miles and what better name for a prime minister other than Outrageous?There is no much difference between this world Adam Fenwick-Symes inhabits and the world he invents for his gossip column. The characters freely circulate from fiction to reality and vice versa – they are nothing more than embodiments of their society and their papers’ stereotypes, vile bodies with no chance to turn someday into glorious. It is not pretty, Evelyn Waugh’s image of the world. Unfortunately, nor is it false. Thank God it’s funny enough to forget its truthfulness. At least for a while.

  • Sue
    2019-06-08 01:04

    An odd, fun read, more broadly humorous than I expected. Set among the out of control bright young things of London who are quite crazily sent up by Waugh, Vile Bodies is enjoyable and crazy yet also shows some of the pathos of the time lurking in the background. I think I prefer Waugh's more subtle work but would have to read more to be sure.Then there are some great passages that I really did love such as the following.The truth is that motor cars offer a very happy illustration of the metaphysical distinction between "being" and "becoming." Some cars, mere vehicles with no purpose above bare locomotion, mechanical drudges such as Lady Metroland's Hispan-Suiza, or Mrs. Mouse's Rolls Royce, or Lady Circumference's 1912 Daimler, orthe "general reader's" Austin Seven, these have definite "being" just as much as their occupants.... Not so the REAL cars, that become masters of men; thosethose vital creations of metal who exist solely for their own propulsion through space.... (p 227)Certainly Waugh reveals a strong, developing talent in this novel.

  • Scott
    2019-06-19 07:00

    "Who's that awful looking woman?""She's no one. Mrs. Panrast she's called now.""She seems to know you.""Yes. I've known her all my life. As a matter of fact, she's my mother.""My dear, how too shaming."If you’ve got a taste for Ronald Firbank’s prose and you enjoy seeing Thomas Hardy getting skewered, I think you’ll gleefully sink your teeth into Waugh’s Vile Bodies (1930). The book’s a nice slab of satire that hasn’t lost its humor, though now its bite may resemble more a vicious gumming than a threatening snap and snarl. At its heart there’s only a whiff of a plot: Adam and Nina may want to get married to one another, though neither has the money to pull it off. Adam’s fortunes rise and fall through a madcap series of comic episodes that read best as a miscellany of Dickensian character sketches drawn from London’s high society during the waning years of 1920s. You’ll meet the American evangelist, Mrs. Ape and her choir of trampish "angels"; the absentminded and well lubricated Edwardian hostess, Lottie Crump; the scatterbrained but ever so sly Col. Blount; and a host of Bright Young Things partying around the clock, led by one of Waugh’s most precious creations, the dithering, drunken, dissipated Agatha Runcible. Vile Bodies is the British version of Hemingway’s lost generation eulogy, but told, thankfully, with wit and flawless timing. You won’t burst out laughing too often, but it’s hard to read many pages without snickering or smirking with that luscious feeling of self-righteous condescension that really good satire gives you. My only grievance is that the book carries on far too long. Keeping a dark joke going for over 300 pages calls for a little more skill than Waugh had at this point in his long career. If you ever think of reading Waugh’s best known book Brideshead Revisted, you may want to set the table for it first by reading some of his satires. Their vast casts, wispy plots, and period jokes will take a little patience, but in the end you may better enjoy Waugh’s style and essentially moral outlook by first playing with him while he’s young and nipping. I think you’ll find that the flash and fizz of these early books will deepen the nostalgia, poignancy, and somber tones that color his later work.

  • Katie
    2019-06-03 04:08

    First impression? Hilarious. Total spot-on satire of 1930s, pseudo/wannabe posh society in Britain - and I can say that with such confidence because I was there and all. Well, no, not quite, not by about 53 years and an ocean, but I do live in New York, where desperate social climbers - the "see and be seen-ers" - and tacky people with a bit of money proliferate against my wishes. The difference is that somewhere along the road, we stopped satirizing these people and took to glorifying them instead. Case in point: the person who wrote the 2000s version of this story - pretty young things with too much money, too few brains and too strong a sex drive - had it serialized in print and brought to life on TV, now known and idolized by millions as Gossip Girl. I love a good satire; perhaps it's the scathing cynic in me, but I so enjoy when sharp, observant authors can cut into a ridiculous population or philosophy with a pen. Waugh clearly does this well, but I just wonder if Vile Bodies is a bit too long. The point of a satire is the satire itself - the plot is secondary at best, and since one isn't supposed to care about the characters, satire that's gone on for too long gets tedious. The brilliance starts to fade, the dark humor fizzles, and the reader is left trying to get through a book that, tiresomely, has turned into an overwrought joke.

  • Alex
    2019-06-01 03:52

    "Our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the saviour...Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself."Philipians 3:17-21This book, the best-titled book by one of literature's great titlers, snuck up on me. It's really fun and quick to read - satirical and absurdist - and suddenly toward the end I started to think that maybe it's not a little but quite a bit deeper than it looks. I'm going to have to put some thought into it - and I'm loaning it to Diane at work, maybe she'll help me sort it all out. It's at least very good; it might be wicked good.That ending is quite an "Oh shit!" moment. Very nicely done.Other random notes:- A quote that comes up a lot in discussion of this book, from Waugh: "Psychology - there isn't such a thing. I regard writing not as investigation of character but as an exercise in the use of language, and with this I am obsessed. I have no technical psychological interest. It is drama, speech and events that interest me." That seems accurate. There isn't any overt psychological description. I did find the central romance between Adam and Nina interesting: for all their blaséness, they seem to be legitimately in love. And I think they're quite aware of it; while they never say a thing to each other that isn't drenched in detached irony, I think they know they're really sincere. It's not as clear to us, through most of the book.Waugh was staunchly against psychological investigation of characters: "All characters are flat. All a writer can do is give more or less information about a character, not information of a different order." Which is a bewilderingly assheaded thing to say; he was apparently bitching about modern writers like Woolf and Joyce, but hadn't he read Eliot or Tolstoy? Jeez.- This terrific (although long and somewhat stuffy) essay argues for Vile Bodies as a parody of a traditional romance novel. The traditional plot involves a young man in love but deemed unworthy of the woman, often for economic or social reasons; he acquires a fortune or suddenly discovers he's actually the son of a baron or something and the plot ends in marriage. (You know, like a Shakespeare comedy or Tom Jones.) Here, Adam is constantly in pursuit of that fortune - represented by the drunk Major - but (view spoiler)[like the Jarndyce settlement in Bleak House, when it finally arrives it's completely devalued, and the book ends in one final display of pointless extravagance as the world ends. (hide spoiler)]- I love Waugh's use of -making, as in, "This cab ride is terribly sober-making." Totally gonna start using that.- Apparently many of these characters were thinly-veiled portraits of Waugh's actual acquaintances, and it was a big thing to rush out and get his books and try to figure out who was who. And when some of the satires got a little too pointed, Waugh got invited to fewer parties. (Somewhat like the Chatterbox series of incidents.)- To what extent is Waugh indebted to Wilde?- Let's try to get through this without making any Paris Hilton references, shall we? It would be ever so bored-making.

  • Nicole
    2019-06-24 04:55

    I often wonder about book blurbs, because really how many times can you describe a book with the words funny and hilarious and have the book actually be funny and hilarious. My edition of this book has a blurb by the New York Time's that says "It may shock you, but it will make you laugh". Well New York Times, let's see the tally shall we: times I was shocked by this book = zero; times I laughed = maybe two and a half, but it wasn't a hearty laugh, it was more of a sarcastic "Ha!" Now, a better blurb in my opinion would have been: "It will make you roll your eyes incessantly." This is my third Evelyn Waugh, and I'm beginning to suspect that he is a one note writer (or rather he was). He employs the same techniques over and over in his novels, and while I found them 'funny' and 'hilarious' and 'witty' in a A Handful of Dust, they left a bitter taste in my mouth when I read The Loved One, and they made me want to shuck this book, but I didn't because the book cover is just so beautiful I didn't want to put a dent on it. There's another blurb for you: "Exquisite cover art!" but that's really a nod to the Illustrator and not to poor Mr. Waugh.Waugh's novels are really tragedies, covered in a heavy film of satire and sprinkled with a bit of irony, but after a few of them you feel like you are reading the same book over and over. I guess I'll have to wait a few weeks before I can muster any excitement over reading "Brideshead Revisited" which Newsweek describes as "A many-faceted book...beautifully told by one of the most exhilarating stylists of our time," I wonder if Newsweek actually read the book...

  • Andrea Zuvich
    2019-05-30 00:13

    Superb satire, downright funny at times, with silly characters flailing about and making poor decisions, but I feel strangely melancholic about the ending - which, I suppose, was Waugh's intent.

  • Mikela
    2019-06-15 06:59

    This book really snuck up on me. For the first 100 pages I kept thinking it was a cute little book but only worth 3*. The more I read though the more I enjoyed it and appreciated its wit and charm. Still it was only a 3.5* read. I finished and thought about it for awhile when like a thunderbolt the true value of the book hit me. The parody of the romantic comedy centers around Adam Fenwick-Symes, reportedly a bright, young, up and coming novelist who has as his love interest, another bright young thing, Nina. We find them and their friends at all the right and seemingly endless parties, with all the right people, doing all the right things. The obstacle in their path, the one thing holding them back from marrying is their lack of money. Adam's quest for enough money to marry is hilarious as is Nina's reaction when the funds are within sight then out again. The cast of characters, some aptly named for their position and disposition add to the enjoyment. The situations they find themselves in are wildly improbable and great fun. In the end, I realized that the book was much better than I had first thought.

  • Kristopher Jansma
    2019-05-31 05:44

    Vile Bodies is no Brideshead Revisited, but then, if you read my (much) earlier post on Brideshead, you'll know that even Brideshead itself didn't quite live up to it's own first 100 pages for me. What I'd really like to do is just read the beginnings of Evelyn Waugh novels from now on. From the first pages of Vile Bodies I was filled with the delicious anticipation of forthcoming satirical wit, but just as I experienced with Brideshead, Handful of Ashes, and even Decline and Fall, the rest of the book left me still wanting. Vile Bodies opens grandly on a ship in a storm, and bounces around from character to character - Father Rothschild, bearing someone else's suitcase containing a false beard; Evangelical Mrs. Ape and her seven children (named Charity, Fortitude, Prudence, Divine Discontent... etc.) who sing hymns and wear wings; Prime Minister Outrage (only in office a week) and on and on... all of whom seem bursting with potential for scandalous, lovely satirical hijinks... and yet... while they reappear throughout the book in various little episodes, never feel skeweringly sharp or nearly as clever as they were going to be in my imagination, back on page 5.The vignette that is clearly central and by far the most entertaining, was that of Adam, a young writer who has just finished his first novel, for which he's been paid a hefty advance. Upon getting off the boat, Adam encounters a customs officer who confiscates most of his books and then burns his manuscript, due to its supposed indecency. Adam meets with his publisher and concludes that he'll have to write a novel every month for a year to meet his newfound debt, and that he won't be able to marry the lovely Nina Blount as planned. Throughout the rest of the book, Adam resurfaces on and off, always suddenly falling into some small fortune, telling Nina the wedding is back on, and then losing everything and cancelling the wedding again. The best of these episodes surrounds Adam's breif stint as a gossip writer named Mr. Chatterbox, and he writes a weekly "Page 6"-ish column about the "bright young things" of society and all their crazy night lives. He soon gets bored and just begins inventing important people, or hyping restaurants and clubs that are not nice at all and thus tricking everyone else into flocking there. He is promptly fired, of course, but not because his bosses care that he's making things up (they seem to expect this) but because he wrote that someone was wearing a bottle-green bowler hat and no one could conceive of such nonsense. So he's fired and the wedding is off... at least until the next escapade.While predictable, this manages to be very funny for the most part and keeps the novel humming along. Adam encounters many of the odd characters from the introduction as he goes along, but they never seem very important, or interesting, and are gone before long.In a move reminiscent of Brideshead, the novel concludes with a surprise flash-forward to Adam in the midst of "the biggest battlefield in the history of the world" wherein he reads a letter from Nina, now happily married to someone else and very much still flighty and out-of-touch. Now in a warzone, the silliness of all the preceding chapters is thrown into sharp contrast and here, but really only here, the irony is deliciously sharp. However, it didn't quite feel like the payoff I wanted from the previous 300 pages. I did appreciate one thing, though - the book came out in 1930 and in the forward, Waugh writes that the book is set in "the near future, when existing social tendencies have become more marked" - all of which makes this final chapter, in the "biggest battlefield in the history of the world" eerily pre-escient.

  • Cecily
    2019-05-31 01:46

    Stephen Fry filmed it under the title Bright Young Things. Implausible aristos and hangers on, and often written in brief banal sentences that are more reminiscent of Janet and John reading primers than good literature and perhaps shows how shallow and ephemeral these people were. Nevertheless, very readable.

  • Ali
    2019-06-08 05:12

    Vile Bodies was Evelyn Waugh’s second novel, first published in 1930 it is dedicated to Bryan and Diana Guinness –the sister and brother-in-law of Nancy Mitford, Diana of course later becoming the infamous Diana Moseley. "Ooooh what's that shiny thing, it's hurting my eyes.""Sorry, that'd be me, I'm a bright young thing. Avert your eyes lest they be burned from their sockets.""Wow, so what is a bright young thing then? Forgive my ignorance but I'm just not that cultured."Vile Bodies is a wonderfully biting satire of London society in the years following World War I. At the centre of the story is Adam Fenwick Symes and Nina Blount who would quite like to be married to one another but neither of whom have the funds to carry it out. Nina’s father Colonel Blount is a shambling sly old duffer, marvellously vague and often confused – he is just one of number of comic creations in this novel. Adam and Nina are part of a set of Bright Young People, led by the hilariously dotty Agatha Runcible- when a seriously hung-over Agatha discovers she is breakfasting in Hawaiian costume at number 10 Downing Street – I nearly snorted all over the bus I was travelling on. The lives of these Bright Young People as they have been named -are a continuing round of parties and gossip, their antics frequently shocking traditional society through the colourful accounts that appear in the newspapers. We are introduced to a host of highly amusing characters, including gossip Columnist Lord Simon Balcairn, who early on in the novel decides to stick his head in a gas oven, American evangelist Mrs Ape, and her troupe of angels, a drunken Major who may or may not owe Adam thirty five thousand pounds, and a young man named Ginger. The way these characters speak to one another is sublimely hilarious, their antics and adventures reminiscent slightly of P G Wodehouse – but with added spite."Who's that awful looking woman?""She's no one. Mrs. Panrast she's called now.""She seems to know you.""Yes. I've known her all my life. As a matter of fact, she's my mother.""My dear, how too shaming."As the novel progresses, Adam’s fortunes fluctuate continually, and his relationship with Nina waxes and wanes as Adam chases after money – and has a couple of hilarious interviews with Nina’s wily old father. On the surface perhaps, Vile Bodies seems much lighter in tone than Brideshead Revisited and other later works. However there is an unmistakable sharpness in it too, there is a dark bitterness at the heart of all the froth and frivolity which is fascinating. Waugh was obviously a consummate imitator and satirist of the society in which he must himself had begun to move.

  • Tony
    2019-06-12 05:48

    VILE BODIES. (1930). Evelyn Waugh. ****.This was Waugh’s second novel, and full of his wit and cleverness that so impressed his early readers. It was the story of Britain’s “Bright Young Things,” the young people who rose to the top of the social scene in the period between the two Wars. In fact, Waugh even predicted WW II, since the novel ends up being told from one of its battlefields. There are lots of members of the “Things” introduced in his story; if you are trying to pick out the main characters you will have difficulties until you are further into the book. You eventually settle on Adam Symes as the person of interest. Symes is a writer – or wants to be one. His first manuscript (which he was delivering to his publisher) was confiscated by customs agents at the immigration point on his arrival from France. It was a difficult read, and, since the agent couldn’t understand it, he had it destroyed rather than let it into the country. This put Adam into a bind, since he had already accepted (and spent) his advance. He gets himself involved into the circle of BYT’s and goes to party after party with them, trying to tap into some of their members who had money which he badly needed. After a series of meetings with his fellow members of the group, he eventually takes a job with a newspaper as “Mr. Chatterbox,” the local gossip columnist. There’s plenty of material that he can use as a result of his party-going, but is soon banned from using the names of most of the prominent members. He then decides to make up all the gossip he needs to fill the space available. Much of the book is absolutely hilarious, though not in a knee-slapping way; it is more of the typical British dry humor that we have become accustomed to hearing. You will have a great time following the adventures of Adam and his various love affairs in this book. If you have not read Waugh before, this book may encourage you to read more. He is one of my favorite authors. Recommended.

  • ElSeven
    2019-06-23 01:52

    I really wish I could rate by half stars too. This is really a Three-and-a-half star book.I enjoyed this. It was fairly typical of pre-war Waugh. It's light, breezy, wonderfully written, and takes itself about as seriously as its characters take themselves. What it felt like, really, was a Wodehouse novel with a mean streak. Much of Waugh's social critique could be leveled at today's society as well. His characters seemed, for all their dated speech and clothing, to be people that I knew. Shiftless, uncertain folks who aren't quite at peace with the world, or their place in it. The conversation that Outrage, Lord Metroland and Father Rothschild have about 'Young People,' toward the end of chapter VIII, is positively contemporary. "My private schoolmaster used to say, 'If a thing's worth doing at all, it's worth doing well.' My church has taught that in different words for several centuries. But these young people have got hold of another end of the stick, and for all we know it may be the right one. They say, 'If a thing's not worth doing well, it's not worth doing at all.' It makes everything very difficult for them."

  • Rupert Smith
    2019-06-15 06:06

    This is the novel I would most like to have written myself. (I know, I know.) I love everything Evelyn Waugh wrote up to and including The Loved One; after that I think it goes a bit awry, and I’ve never liked the Sword of Honour trilogy. As he got older, Waugh seemed to distance himself from his comic-satiric genius, as if he thought it was unfitting to a man of his status. But the comedies are the works that have endured, and none is better than Vile Bodies. It’s bitter and sharp, sometimes vicious, sometimes sad, and at times highly literary. The love story of Adam and Nina is very moving in its dry-as-martini way, and the grotesque supporting cast (Agatha Runcible, Mrs Ape, Miles Malpractice etc) is straight out of Restoration comedy. Above all I love the strong drive of the narrative – the story starts with a disaster from which everything unfolds like the petals of a particularly noisome flower. And oh God what a great title.

  • Sarah
    2019-06-14 03:13

    It's a satirical and deceptively whimsical take on wealth and debauchery in the 1920's. Sort of like a children's book for adults! There are an awful lot of characters, but I suppose it's the nature of this book to flit about. And actually, I think it carries more depth than is generally acknowledged. In any case, it does a beautiful job of bringing that period to life.I've heard that Nina was based on Nancy Mitford, but I'm not certain of that.

  • dianne
    2019-06-05 06:58

    A delicious story about a doomed sort of confused "aristocracy" (just ask them). Lots of laugh out loud moments (really, just ask Tim who was trying to sleep). Best not to think too much about the reality that they have once again taken control of All Matters on Earth. Just giggle at the adorable Colonel Blount.

  • Ashleigh (a frolic through fiction)
    2019-06-09 23:45

    Rated 2.5/5 stars

  • Roger Pettit
    2019-06-14 23:02

    I fear that, if 'Vile Bodies' is typical of his work, I shall have to add Evelyn Waugh to the list of critically acclaimed and popular writers whom I simply can't get to grips with. (EM Forster and Charles Dickens are already on that list.) 'Vile Bodies' is a dull and very disappointing book. First published in 1930 (when Waugh was in his late 20s), it's one of the author's earliest novels. I've not read any of Waugh's other work. I can but hope that his writing improved considerably after this. Set primarily in London, 'Vile Bodies' is a dark, satirical comedy. Its principal character is Adam Fenwick-Symes, an impecunious writer. Adam returns to London after spending two months in Paris. He went there to complete his memoirs, the money from publication of which he needs so that he can support his wife to be, Nina Blount, and himself in the comfortable manner to which they are accustomed. However, customs officials take exception to some of the content of Adam's completed memoirs and, on his return to England, confiscate and destroy his copy of the manuscript, which is the only one that exists. Things move on from there as Adam tries to get enough money together to ensure that he and Nina can get married. It's fairly clear that Evelyn Waugh has in his sights the so-called 'Bright Young Things' of the inter-war years, i.e. the idle rich upper classes whose lives seemed to consist of one frivolous party after another. Perhaps more relevant to life as we know it today, he also has a dig at what we refer to as tabloid newspapers (and, by inference, their readers), at gossip columnists (some of whom are portrayed as resorting to fabrication when under pressure to deliver copy to their editors by a particular deadline) and at the vacuous concept of 'celebrity'. So, in many ways, 'Vile Bodies' is a topical and serious, as well as a humorous, novel. However, it just doesn't work for me. The characterisation is often facile and unconvincing. All kinds of incidents simply do not ring true. For example, Adam wins £1000(!) on a bet about a game, is immediately given the money in cash(!) and promptly hands it over to a complete stranger for it to be wagered on a racehorse(!). Utterly ridiculous. There are several other such improbabilities scattered throughout the story. Another problem for me is the preponderance of silly character names. We have: Fanny Throbbing, Miles Malpractice, Melrose Ape, Mary Mouse, Margot Metroland and Lady Circumference (to cite just some)! And Waugh's prose - while generally workmanlike and competent - fails to leap off the page, and can sometimes be stodgy and difficult to follow. There's an exchange, for example, between a character called Benfleet and two poets on pages 99 and 100 of the Penguin edition of the book that I read which is simply incomprehensible! I am also unconvinced by the intermittent references to characters speaking "Cockney". They seem to me to be forced and silly. There are some good comic moments. One character is described as being rigid "from wig to toe"! And I enjoyed the incident in which the youngest daughter of the Prime Minister invites some of her friends back to her home (10 Downing Street!) for a drink after an evening of partying and one of them stays there overnight. But for a supposed comedy, there just aren't enough laughs.I think that, for all his undoubted silliness and improbability of plot, PG Wodehouse satirises the idle upper classes rather more successfully (and in very much more stylish prose) than Waugh does here. When Wodehouse gives one of his characters a seemingly ridiculous name - e.g. Gussie Fink-Nottle - it is wholly convincing because it seems in keeping with the person being portrayed. And EF Benson pokes fun at the idle middle classes (in his Mapp and Lucia stories) much more effectively than Waugh does at his upper class characters. I think this is partly because the people in the Wodehouse and Benson books - Jeeves, Wooster, Emmeline Lucas, Georgie Pillson etc. - are essentially likeable. Most of those in 'Vile Bodies' are not. As a result, Wodehouse and Benson seem to have an affection for their characters that Waugh does not. The result is that their satire is ultimately more biting. I'll persevere with Waugh and try some of his other novels despite the fact that 'Vile Bodies' is a dreary and disappointing read and a largely forgettable book. 5/10.PS: I don't want to make too much of this but I should add that the word that begins with 'n' that is these days quite rightly regarded as racist appears a few times in the edition of 'Vile Bodies' that I have just read, a 1951 Penguin Books orange paperback reprint (see page 119). The words 'coloured' 'negress' and 'negro' also appear. There is, in fact, some casual racism in the story. I suppose it accurately reflects attitudes at the time. It's a moot point whether such references should be removed from more modern editions but, given the quality of sub-editing these days, I suspect the matter will have been given little or no consideration.

  • Artfulreader
    2019-05-27 23:13

    Babbling. British. OK.

  • Evan
    2019-06-09 07:07

    Up til now I was 0-2 with Waugh, which might elicit a "Waugh is me," which, alas, it just did..."The Loved One," his famous satire of the death business in the USA mildly amused me in high school. I found it at least more interesting than "Scoop," a look at the news biz that I barely remember anything about at all other than the lingering memory of being bitterly disappointed by it."Vile Bodies" is often said to be his masterpiece, and so I just waded into the first 50 pages and find them mildly amusing as it follows the adventures of several sets of Brits (we're asked to consider quite a large cast of characters right off the bat), particularly one young stifled author, Adam, betrothed to a woman who hardly seems interested. In some ways she seems to embody the dispassionate tone of the book so far. The style of the book is supposed to be more complex than usual for Waugh. I find it equal parts infuriating and engaging enough as a peek into social mores of a time and a people. But, at this rate, I'm afraid I may be looking at 0-3. We'll see.OK, so on page 125 now and well more than halfway in and have to say this odd book has kind of crept up on me. The phony society columns Adam is writing, to the chagrin of the gullible in-crowd makes for funny situations. The reappearance and deft disappearance of the man with Adam's 1,000-pound horserace betting money is a nice circle-back.I found myself infuriated for most of the way to some degree by this book --- it's written in almost a machine-gun like way, snatches of dialogue and incident move it along rather than typical explanatory narrative segues. It gets more compulsively readable as it goes along. I can see this being a possible re-read to catch subtleties missed on the first go. Page 185. Have just gotten through the motorcar race segment and have to say this book has ingratiated and wormed its way into my affections. This, after initial struggle with it --- I fought it and thought it frivolous and even pointless at first, and had trouble with the style --- it now reads like a breeze and I'm finding myself laughing out loud. Should finish this up promptly...OK, finished. So the pampered Euro elites partying to their doom sort of thing... All right then. This was uneven but rewarding. No doubt my favorite Waugh so far. So maybe in reality I'm now 2-1 with Waugh, because I did sort of enjoy "The Loved One" enough to give it three stars.

  • Leslie
    2019-06-08 04:52

    Maybe even 4½ stars... I'll have to think about that. In any case, I found this too, too funny! The plot revolves around the Bright Young Things trying to get by with little money and no ambition but it is the characters that make this novel rather than the plot.

  • Parthiban Sekar
    2019-06-21 02:13


  • Amrita
    2019-06-22 03:11

    Do you you think that the neediness of seeing and being seen is a particularly human trait? If so, Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies is an embodiment of that trait. The distinguishing feature of the elite of the 1920s society was their shallow frippery and life-is-a-long-party attitude. Waugh's own comment, 'I regard writing not as investigation of character but as an exercise in the use of language, and with this I am obsessed. I have no technical psychological interest. It is drama, speech and events that interest me.' is an example of this shallowness.Rest assured,Vile Bodies is an enlightening and exciting read. It continued to shock and amuse me right till the end. '...nobody told me there was going to be a war!' Blissfully oblivious of the real world around them a group of Bright Young Things, led by the perpetually drunken Agatha Runcible, party around London. It is as if, they've wilfully decided to enclose themselves in a shroud of frivolity, gossip, costume parties and fun. Many people have died, families and homes lost in the previous war, there is also talk of another war waiting to happen. However, if you don't talk about it, it does not concern you or affect you. Such is the spirit of the age that Evelyn Waugh comments upon.This review is a part of a blog post written at