Captain Tuttle’s #CBR5 Review #11 – Brideshead Revisited (The Sacred & Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder) by Evelyn Waugh

This is a re-read for me. It’s one of those books that I will always go back to (to which I will always return, pardon my grammar). I love everything about it, much like I love everything about Evelyn Waugh’s writing. I have to admit that my first introduction to the story was via PBS, although that’s nothing to be ashamed of. The book came much later, in adulthood.

The story opens during WW2, where a nearing-middle-age Captain Charles Ryder is reflecting on his time in the army and realizing that he is miserable and does not care at all what happens. His company is assigned to a place in the English countryside. They arrive in the middle of the night, and Charles has no idea where he is. In the morning, he thinks to ask where they are stationed, and when he finds out,

[I]t was as though someone had switched off the wireless, and a voice that had been bawling in my ears, incessantly, fatuously, for days beyond number, had been suddenly cut short; an immense silence followed, empty at first, but gradually, as my outraged sense regained authority, fully of a multitude of sweet and natural and long forgotten sounds: for he had spoken a name that was so familiar to me, a conjuror’s name of such ancient power, that, at its mere sound, the phantoms of those haunted late years began to take flight.

Charles is at Brideshead, the ancestral home of some people he once knew. Charles tells one of his men, “I’ve been here before.” Much like Proust’s madeline, the mansion transports Charles back 20 years, to the point where. . . .

Charles is at college. He has ground floor rooms, although he had been warned against them (too many visitors). Charles had been at school for a couple of terms, and was doing fine. A few friends, deep conversations, things like that. He had seen Sebastian Flyte around school. Everyone knew who Lord Sebastian was, because he was beautiful, and because he carried a large teddy bear around. Charles disapproved. Then one night, when Charles had a few friends over, there was noise in the quad. It is Sebastian and his friends, wandering drunkenly about. Sebastian leans in Charles’ window and vomits. His friends carry him away, and one returned to apologize. It’s the best apology ever. “The wines were too various, it was neither the quality nor the quantity that was at fault. It was the mixture. Grasp that and you have the root of the matter. To understand all is to forgive all.”

Sebastian’s apology is typically excessive, his teddy bear is mortified, and Charles is invited to lunch. The lunch changes Charles’ life. He is introduced to an entirely new way of living. The boys become friends. Love grows between them, although Waugh keeps most of the action off stage. Charles starts to neglect everyone and everything, as he is more and more consumed by Sebastian. Sebastian is terribly unhappy, apparently because his family is Catholic and he can’t seem to fit himself into the expected roles. Charles just seems to float along, not terribly affected by anyone or anything.

Sebastian brings Charles to Brideshead and introduces him to Nanny Hawkins. Charles eventually meets all of the Flytes, and quite becomes part of the family. The Flytes are more screwed up than most families, but Charles is somehow only slightly touched by all of them. Years pass, Sebastian drifts away into drink and isolation. Charles marries someone else, has a couple of kids whom he doesn’t see at all, falls in love with Sebastian’s sister, and ends up on the other end alone, unloved, and reminiscing about what has passed and what might have been.

I love this book, and will read it over and over again until my copy wears out. Then I will buy a new one.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR5 Review #10 – Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis

I decided to read this because I get to be Mame in a scene in acting class. In my head, I could only see Rosalind Russell, and what was in the movie. It was the scene where Mame has just found out that Mr. Babcock of the Knickerbocker Bank is coming. When I first started the scene, all I could picture was the Mr. Babcock in the movie, and my teacher told me I had to find my own Mr. Babcock. It sounded weird, but then I was able to see my own conservative bogeyman who was coming to steal my kid, and the scene totally changed.

Anyway, like I said, I love the movie, and the book lived up to all of my overblown expectations. The story is a little more detailed, but it’s exactly as you would expect it to be. One of the funniest scenes is when young Patrick comes to Auntie Mame’s apartment after his father has died. He shows up with his nurse, and they completely misunderstand the slang that’s being bandied about. The nurse thinks they’ve fallen into a den of iniquity, and they’re both terrified, until Mame arrives, open armed, and announces, “I’m your Auntie Mame!”

The book is more of a collection of vignettes than a novel, but it paints a picture of early 20th century America (New York, really), and shows a way of living that is long gone. It makes me a bit sad that we can’t live that way anymore.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR5 Review #4 – Dodger by Terry Pratchett

I got this book as a freebie (or a cheapie) for the Kindle (sorry if I keep sounding like an advert for Kindle, but I do love it. I was solidly anti-e-reader, pro-paper book, until I started reading the Song of Ice & Fire series, which was difficult to lug around, and since I was getting the books from the library, there was the whole sanitariness issue. But I digress). Anyway, I felt like I had read Pratchett before, but it turns out I haven’t. Guess I just heard people talking about him. This book was an excellent introduction, and I kind of feel like I need to dive into the whole Discworld thing.

Part of what drew me to this book was my family’s habit of naming our pets after Dickens characters. I had a dog named Dodger. He was adorable. That, and my love for Oliver Twist. This may or may not be that Dodger. He’s a teenager living in the slums of London, making his living as a pickpocket and a tosher (a dude that rummages around in the sewers, picking up the stuff that gets swept and/or dropped down there). He comes up into the street in the middle of a rainstorm, and sees a young woman being assaulted. He saves her, because this particular Dodger is a paragon. As he’s trying to help her, they’re accosted and aided by Charles Dickens and the guy who started Punch. This begins a mystery, because no one knows who this girl is; it also begins the story of Dodger’s rise in the world.

Throughout the book, Dodger encounters real and fictional characters (Sweeney Todd, Benjamin Disraeli, and Sir Robert Peel, among others). He dodges and outsmarts pretty much everyone, while figuring out who the girl is, and solving the mystery of why she was being chased and beaten.

One of the neat things was that Dodger lived with an older Jewish man, who had been all over the world, and was respected both in the slums and by the gentry. It’s definitely an interesting take on Fagin, almost a redemption of the Dickens character.

There is plenty in this book that defies even the strongest suspension of disbelief, but somehow it all worked for me. I enjoyed this book thoroughly, and would recommend it to pretty much anyone. If you like Dickens, historical mysteries, Zelig-type stories, or just a ripping yarn, then I’d grab this one.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR5 Review #3 – Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

I read this book years ago, and didn’t realize that it was the beginning of a series. I’ve heard/seen a few others talking about the whole Outlander thing, and coincidentally found my original paperback copy, which promptly fell apart when I opened it. Luckily I figured out how to do the library book on the Kindle thing, so I was pretty happy about that.

It’s a romance/time travel/historical novel. We start with Claire and Frank, reconnecting after WW2 by re-honeymooning in Scotland. She was a nurse, and is interested in plants and herbal remedies (remember that for later). She goes exploring, and steps through the rocks of a henge. Instead of just walking through, she hears weird sounds, and ends up 200 years in the past. She (coincidentally?) encounters her husband’s ancestor, who’s not such a nice guy; then she falls in with a bunch of Scots.

Claire acts and talks like a modern woman, and uses her medical/herbal knowledge to help people out, including young and studly Jamie Fraser. They fall for each other, and oh my goodness, do they have lots of the sex. Gabaldon gets pretty detailed with the naughty bits. Claire and Jamie go from peril to sex to peril to sex, and back to peril again. It gets pretty tedious after a while, and it’s an awfully long book, but I figured I was in for a penny, in for a pound.

Outlander is not an un-put-downable book, but it’s plenty serviceable, especially if you like the romance aspect of it. The historical element is interesting as well – Gabaldon also gets pretty detailed about life in 18th century Scotland. I had to look up a few things, just to make sure I understood what was going on. If a book makes me want to look something up, then it’s ok in my books (so to speak).

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR5 Post #1 – Pride & Prejudice & Zombies by Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.”

All of my friends told me I needed to read this book about the moment it came out. I even had people telling me I needed to name my boy Darcy because of my whole Austen thing. (I didn’t). And yet somehow I managed to miss it for years. What was I thinking?  It’s a hoot.

The book is basically P&P, but with some zombie stuff added in. I read somewhere that it’s 85% of the original, but I didn’t bother to do the math. Most of the story is there, but now there’s a zombie plague in England, and the Bennett girls are warriors trained by Chinese monks to fight the evil undead.  You know, like you do. The standard bits are there, with a bit of a twist. Like, when Jane goes to Netherfield to dine with the sisters Bingley, instead of catching cold in the rain, she has to fight zombies.  In the rain. And catches a cold.

There’s very little to not like about this book especially if you’re an Austen fan. Although, if you’re a Charlotte Lucas-Collins fan, you might be a little bit put out. I was alternately amused and bummed out by Charlotte’s involvement in the story, although her reasons for marrying Mr. Collins this time make a bit more sense.

Anyway, I’m guessing anyone reading this review will have already read this book, so I’m not going to bother recommending it.  If you’ve been holding off reading for fear of treading on Jane’s sacred memory, get over it. There are a lot worse Austen-adjacent books out there.  Believe me, because I’ve read a bunch of them.