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Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh

Vile Bodies (1930)

by Evelyn Waugh

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,794513,172 (3.79)263
  1. 30
    Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh (Nickelini)
    Nickelini: If you like one of these Evelyn Waugh novels, chances are you'll like the second.
  2. 10
    A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh (John_Vaughan)
  3. 00
    Highland Fling by Nancy Mitford (amanda4242)

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» See also 263 mentions

English (50)  French (1)  All languages (51)
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I've got Bright Young Things in my DVD queue even though I'd read unfavorable reviews comparing it to its source. Vile Bodies is a swirl of parties full of the bright young people who don't really know what to do with themselves. The central characters are Adam and Nina who are sometimes obscured by the swirl. It's often funny, with satires of evangelism, journalism and the stock car racing scene of the day. It's also a little depressing - even in 1930, the author knew that war was immanent. The quietness of reading made me think that it might actually do better as a movie. (March 26, 2005)
  cindywho | May 27, 2019 |
My first Waugh. I hadn’t realised when I decided to work my way through Waugh’s books quite how old they were. I’d known he was writing during the 1940s and 1950s, but it seems much of his fame rests on the novels he wrote in earlier decades satirising the “bright young things” of 1930s London. I do enjoy fiction from that period, although I prefer post-war, but I have at least something to which I can compare Waugh… And the obvious candidate is Henry Green, whose fiction I like a great deal. And who Waugh himself takes a few potshots at in his novels (perhaps not in this one but certainly the one below). Waugh is generally considered one of the best novelists the UK has produced but on the strength of Vile Bodies I’d say Green was better. Vile Bodies, which is apparently a sequel to Decline and Fall (which I also have), opens with the characters crossing the Channel from France, and then getting into various upper-crust scrapes in London. One long-running joke involves the dim-witted father of the female lead, whose less-than-illustrious fiancé wants to marry her, doesn’t have enough money, so he approaches the future father-in-law several times for help. There’s also a trip to a motor race to support a race driver friend, in which an air-head aristocrat socialite finds herself taking the race driver’s place and disappearing off into the wild blue yonder out of control. It’s all very obvious and yet all very cleverly done. And well-written, if not up to Green’s standards. I’ve got most of Waugh’s oeuvre to read, thanks to my mother, and I shall work my way through them. But it’s not looking like he’ll ever become a favourite. ( )
  iansales | Jan 9, 2019 |
Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh was published in 1930 and is a humorous satire on the bright young things of upper class London society who were the rage between World War I and World War II. Their territory was Mayfair and their time was spent in various capricious escapades involving dancing, cocktail parties, promiscuity and sports cars.

The main character is struggling writer, Adam Fenwick-Symes who takes the job of a gossip columnist so that he can afford to marry his fiancee, the aristocratic Nina Blount. He is soon to be found writing about his own social set as they wander aimlessly through life, always looking for their next great sensation. The lampooning starts immediately in the first chapter as various characters are introduced and we discover last-week’s prime minister is called Outrageous and a homosexual journalist has the moniker of Miles Malpractice. The situations in which Waugh places his characters in are no less unconventional and absurd.

This book absolutely skewers this segment of a generation that emerged in the years after WW I, and along with being outrageously witty and humorous, Waugh doesn’t hesitate to expose the darkness and vulnerability that lurks just beneath the surface of these upper crust people. It seems that every generation has it’s own group of “bright young things’ that everyday people want to read about, in the 1950’s they were “the smart set”, and in the 1960’s, “the beautiful people”, even today Twitter and other sites are full of the exploits of the Kardashians, Hiltons and other members of the glitterati. Vile Bodies has more than it’s share of silly characters making poor decisions but overall, I found this book to be a very entertaining but slightly dated read. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Mar 2, 2018 |
For me this was too bitty in plot and heavy-handed in the satire. Full review on my blog: http://annabookbel.net/beautiful-young-things-behaved-badly ( )
  gaskella | Feb 12, 2018 |
The manneredness is more cloying than last time I read this b--in high school, I think, and we know how teenagers are--my class in particular, whom Mr. Bowker, our English teacher, dubbed the "most affected group he'd ever taught." You see at least some of the world and people and you go from being very taken in by the cool poses of the young to viewing them as brittle and embarrassing to mellowing and looking back with tolerance and affection, and then incidentally on to--from what I see of old men--just being mad all the time for no reason, but I'm not there yet). This was of course a thinly fictionalized version of Waugh's own set, and he was only 27 when he wrote the book, and so perhaps still a little too convinced that they were absolutely as outré a thing as London (as distinct from, you know, Paris) had seen--there are moments when not as an older person but as a jaded modern you want to take these guys under your wing and say Look, bright young things, try just doing all the sex (try doing the sex better! banish the Victorian or Catholic Waughian strain that goes Waugh! Waugh! Waugh! this premarital casual sex will be good for him and bad for her and treat it as an aesthetic practice for god's sake!) drugs and hokey twenties jazz and not cracking up or giving your whole fortune to a dodgy major. Buy property in Central London, your precariously living great-great-grandkids will thank you.

So that charm of innocence comes through in a new way--not that oh they didn't know they were playing with fire, but that in another place in another time it'd'ven't been fire at all. And then rather than diffuse the tragedy and the book's dark end, that changes its nature, in the familiar thought about World War I: the edge comes not from the fact that they were doomed, but that they needn't have been. Less memento mori, less catharsis, and more sick gutshot, and in that sense this book has aged somewhat, but still a good read, and very often still rises from ponderous up into madcap in the early part. ( )
1 vote MeditationesMartini | Jun 3, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
There is no Grimes in Vile Bodies, and I suppose that humanity will gratify its deep need to be unpleasant by assuring Mr. Waugh that it is not so good as his first book. But it is actually better in many respects. It selects aspects of London and gives amazingly concise and complete renderings of them...

One is reminded of the technique that Anatole France employed when he wanted to give a picture of contemporary France in the Bergeret series. There he hangs side by side panels representing scenes in different houses affected by the political situation that was the real subject of the book; each is a calm, pretty, sunlit, elegant thing, like an eighteenth-century interior, offering a surface of deceptive calm until one looks into it and sees how it marks another stage in the progress of the subject. Mr. Waugh deals with contemporary London in something the same manner, speeding up his tempo to suit our age.
added by SnootyBaronet | editThe Bookman, Rebecca West

» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Evelyn Waughprimary authorall editionscalculated
Chantemèle, LouisTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Holder, JohnIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"Well in our country," said Alice, still panting a little, "you'd generally get to somewhere else—if you ran very fast for a long time, as we've been doing."
"A slow sort of country!" said the Queen. "Now,
here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!"

"If I wasn't real," Alice said—half laughing through her tears, it all seemed so ridiculous—"I shouldn't be able to cry."
"I hope you don't suppose those are real tears?" Tweedledum interrupted in a tone of great contempt.
Alice Through the Looking-Glass
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It was clearly going to be a bad crossing.
“All this fuss about sleeping together. For physical pleasure I'd sooner go to my dentist any day.”
One by one he took the books out and piled them on the counter. A copy of Dante excited his especial disgust. “French, eh?” he said. “I guessed as much, and pretty dirty, too, I shouldn’t wonder. "
She saw both Archbishops, the Duke and Duchess of Stayle, Lord Vanburgh and Lady Metroland, Lady Throbbing and Edward Throbbing and Mrs. Blackwater, Mrs. Mouse and Lord Monomark and a superb Levantine, and behind and about them a great concourse of pious and honorable people (many of whom made the Anchorage House reception the one outing of the year), their womenfolk well gowned in rich and durable stuffs, their men folk ablaze with orders; people who had represented their country in foreign places and sent their sons to die for her in battle, people of decent and temperate life, uncultured, unaffected, unembarrassed, unassuming, unambitious people, of independent judgment and marked eccentricities, kind people who cared for animals and the deserving poor, brave and rather unreasonable people, that fine phalanx of the passing order, approaching, as one day at the Last Trump they hoped to meet their Maker, with decorous and frank cordiality to shake Lady Anchorage by the hand at the top of her staircase.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316926116, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:18 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

The comic aspects of London society during the thirties are treated in Waugh's early novel.

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Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141182873, 0141193433, 0143566423

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