Book Review: Vile Bodies

01 Aug 2012

The book is by Evelyn Waugh, who I read about on the cover of some other book I was reading. The reviewer praised the author saying he was ‘almost as good as Waugh’. Curious, I googled for Evelyn Waugh and found even more praise - he has been called the ‘satirist of the century’ and compared to P.G. Wodehouse.

Vile bodies is very much like a P.G. Wodehouse story, in that it is about the upper class British society and has ludicrous situations that are funny because of their far-fetchedness. (Is there such a word?). What is different in the book is that there is not as much word play and a lot more death. He explains in the preface that his life too went through an uncomfortable phase when he was writing the book and that it affected the story he was trying to tell too.

The story is about a young Englishman who returns from France hoping to sell his autobiography and marry the woman he loves (whom he’s never met and has only corresponded with). At customs, his manuscript is burnt and he finds himself in debt to the publishing company. Luckily, the local gossip columnist…well ‘quits’ and he gets the job. His run too, while peppered with successes, soon comes to an inglorious end. During this upheaval, his lady love stays by him and encourages him to ask her father for her hand. The father, (who seems straight out of a P.G. Wodehouse book) is a forgetful Colonel who never quite seems to understand what he’s there for. Other characters come into the story, do their bit and often die unhappy deaths. His love story too doesn’t quite seem to be destined for a happy ending.

All in all, an entertaining book. I’d prefer P.G.Wodehouse but that is because I like ‘happy’ books. If you enjoy satire - this would probably be an interesting book to read. Is small too - will only take a weekend.