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The Foxglove Saga by Auberon Waugh
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The Foxglove Saga (1960)

by Auberon Waugh

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Auberon Waugh's first novel, The Foxglove Saga, is a comic novel very much in the style of his father's earlier books and the result is very successful. Its hero, Martin Foxglove, is an abominably flawless paragon. While at school Martin chooses a set of friends considered inappropriate by his family and he abandons his Christian faith. His story and that of his friends, particularly the ugly, middle-class Kenneth Stoat and the unfortunate Martin O'Connor, makes for a slyly humorous and sometimes sadly funny novel.
The plot is intentionally absurd, built around the central character's desire to implement the seven corporal Works of Mercy. The catholic Lady Foxglove parades them one by one, treating the list as if it provided some definitive road map to saintliness, while liberally reinterpreting her own self-interested actions as charitable ones, in order to cross another required work from the list. The irony here is that while the list provides some guidance as to how the merciful should act in advancing the welfare of others, Lady Foxglove's interventions always reduce the happiness of her intended beneficiaries.

I do not claim to have understood all of the sardonic details that Waugh includes but the story has plenty of references that are clear to anyone familiar with twentieth century British literature, especially if the name Waugh is below the title. The comic attitude of the book seems to be that any official machinery—the school, the hospital, the Army—can be made to go wrong by individual determination and lying. I would suggest that it is not Mr. Waugh who is amoral and cruel, but the machinery in which his characters are caught. Anarchism of this sort is viable, if not as a basis for life, at least for a comic novel and in his creation Auberon compares well with his more famous father as his first novel continues the family tradition of irreverent humor. ( )
1 vote jwhenderson | Mar 14, 2014 |
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For Bobby, Grizelda and Toad
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In the calefactory Brother Thomas's illness was discussed with a certain restraint since nobody seemed quite sure how far one could go in anticipating his death with good taste.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0860720810, Paperback)

Auberon Waugh's first novel, The Foxglove Saga, is an imaginative and savage satire. Its hero, Martin Foxglove, is a golden boy. In the eyes of his devout and beautiful mother, Lady Foxglove, he can do no wrong. Despite her unceasing, protective care, Martin chooses a set of wholly unsuitable friends and abandons his Christian faith. He is hell bent on making a bid for freedom, and he holds all the cards, playing them one by one.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:52 -0400)

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