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Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh

Decline and Fall (1928)

by Evelyn Waugh

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,552432,363 (3.87)189
  1. 30
    Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh (Nickelini)
    Nickelini: If you like one of these Evelyn Waugh novels, chances are you'll like the second.
  2. 00
    Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis (hazzabamboo)
    hazzabamboo: These are two of the only books that make me laugh out loud. Also, both are entertaining (and very English) accounts of young men coming of age with more than a little truth to them.
  3. 00
    A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh (John_Vaughan)
  4. 00
    Put Out More Flags by Evelyn Waugh (John_Vaughan)
  5. 00
    Scoop by Evelyn Waugh (John_Vaughan)
  6. 01
    Crome Yellow by Aldous Huxley (John_Vaughan)

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A picaresque novel in the tradition of Lazarillo de Tormes, etc, only in 20th century England. Completely absurd, and funny, and even more absurd.

**spoilers below!**

Paul Pennyfeather is expelled from his college (I think--this novel would be much more enjoyable for someone who understands the English school system and old money/new money/titled social expectations) for "indecency" for accidentally crossing paths with a rich student's drunken mob.

He then becomes a school master at a boarding school in Wales. A sloppily run boarding school--so how does it attract wealthy students? That is not answered. Or maybe they are all like this?

He quits and gets engaged to one of his students' mothers. All is going swimmingly until he is arrested for white slavery while doing a business favor for his fiance. He is sent to prison. His fiance marries someone else. They arrange for him to get out of prison and fake his death. He goes along with it all, and ends up back in school to be a clergyman.

Meanwhile, he meets the same people over and over--he ends up in prison with another employee of the boarding school, while the school's chaplain is now the prison chaplain and so on and so forth. There is a lot of sarcasm and wit regarding British society and culture, but I definitely do not have the background needed to find it as funny as it probably is.

All in less than 200 pages. ( )
  Dreesie | Apr 12, 2016 |
The novel tells us the story of Paul Pennyfeather, a student at the fictional Scone College, Oxford who is sent down for running through the college grounds without his trousers, having been inadvertently immersed in the activities of the fictional Bollinger Club. Having defaulted on the conditions of his inheritance, he is forced to take a job teaching at an obscure public school in Wales called Llanabba, run by Dr Fagan. Attracted to the wealthy mother of one of his pupils, Pennyfeather becomes private tutor to the boy, Peter, over break and is soon engaged to be married to Peter's mother, Margot Beste-Chetwynde (who later becomes "Lady Metroland," and appears in Waugh's other novels); Pennyfeather, however, is unaware that the source of her income is a number of high-class brothels in South America. Arrested on the morning of the wedding, after running an errand for Margot related to her business, Pennyfeather takes the fall to protect his fiancée's honour and is sentenced to seven years at a thinly disguised Dartmoor prison. Margot marries another man with government ties and he arranges for Paul to fake his own death and escape. In the end he returns to where he started at Scone. He studies under his own name, having convinced the college that he is the distant cousin of the Paul Pennyfeather who was sent down previously. The novel ends as it started, with Paul sitting in his room listening to the distant shouts of the Bollinger Club.

  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
Frank Kermode's introduction to the 1993 Everyman's Library edition does an excellent job of connecting Decline and Fall to Waugh's development as a novelist and as a human being generally. His perception of the roots of Waugh's later religious convictions struck me as subtle. Great value-added to a novel which seemed easier to laugh at when I first read it in heartless early youth, when scorn for human folly was untinged with compassion.
1 vote booksaplenty1949 | Sep 19, 2015 |
  Betty.Ann.Beam | Feb 13, 2014 |
"'Prendy's not so bad in his way,' said Grimes, 'but he can't keep order. Of course, you know he wears a ig. Very hard for a man with a wig to keep order. I've got a fale leg, but that's different. Boys respect that. Think I lost it in the war. Actually,' said the Captain, 'and strictly between ourselves, mind, I was run over by a tram in Stoke-on-Trent when I was one-over-the-eight. Still, it doesn't do to let that out to everyone. Funny thing, but I feel I can trust you. I think we're going to be pals.'"

Evelyn Waugh was a master of satire. He had that wonderful way of mocking the stereotypical attitudes of people that rings so true and is laugh-out-loud hilarious.

"One way and another, I have been consistently unfortunate in my efforts at festivity. And yet I look forward to each new fiasco with the utmost relish."

Paul Pennyfeather has his life flipped upside down and inside out by an odd twist of wrong place-wrong time, and is joined in his pursuits by a most amusing and eclectic cast of characters. Don't try to make any predictions about what's going to happen here, because it's a complete roller coaster and you cannot possibly anticipate the loops and drops it'll take!

"'[...] Shall I tell you about life?'
'Yes, do,' said Paul politely.
'Well, it's like the big wheel at Luna Park. Have you seen the big wheel?'
'No, I'm afraid not.'
'You pay five francs and go into a room with tiers of seats all around, and in the center the floor is made of a great disc of polished wood that revolves quickly. At first you sit down and watch the others. They are all trying to sit in the wheel, and they keep getting flung off, and that makes them laugh, and you laugh too. It's great fun.'
'I don't think that sounds very much like life,' said Paul rather sadly.
'Oh, but it is, though. You see, [...]'"

Sadly I must cut off there, because the passage that follows is a longer paragraph, and really continues for the next two successive paragraphs as well, and in a way it would give a certain kind of a spoiler. But, it's rather an adept and poignant view of life, and you must read the book for yourself to see what it is. It comes about rather unexpectedly (like most things in Waugh's satire, which is all completely unpredictable) and it just made me sit back and go "Well huh. How apt!" Waugh is always good for an interesting surprise.

Absolutely loved this, recommended to all who enjoy humorous intellectual looks at the world around them. ( )
1 vote .Monkey. | Feb 4, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (43 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Evelyn Waughprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bentley/Farrell/Burn…Cover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maloney, MichaelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ott, AndreaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Harold Acton
In Homage and Affection
First words
Mr. Sniggs, the Junior Dean, and Mr. Postlethwaite, the Domestic Bursar, sat alone in Mr. Sniggs's room overlooking the garden quad at Scone College.
Chapter One:
"Sent down for indecent behaviour, eh?" said Paul Pennyfeather's guardian.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316926078, Paperback)

Subtitled "A Novel of Many Manners, " Evelyn Waugh's notorious first novel lays waste the "heathen idol" of British sportsmanship, the cultured perfection of Oxford, and the inviolable honor codes of the English gentleman.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:01:22 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Sent down in outrageous circumstances, Paul Pennyfeather is the new schoolmaster at Llanabba Castle. His colleagues are an assortment of misfits, rascals & fools. Sports day arrives, & as the farce unfolds & the young run riot, no one is safe.

» see all 6 descriptions

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4 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141187484, 0141193425


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