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Brideshead Revisited

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a novel by Evelyn Waugh, published in 1945. The novel, which takes the form of an extended flashback, is narrated by Charles Ryder, an army officer billeted at the eponymous country house, owned by an aristocratic Roman Catholic family headed by Lord and Lady Marchmain. Charles had visited Brideshead with Sebastian Flyte, the Marchmains' younger son, when both were Oxford undergraduates. In the course of the narrative Ryder conveys his fascination with the family, all of whom are eccentric or unhappy in some way: the gifted but unstable Sebastian has alcoholic tendencies; Lady Marchmain is unhappily married but refuses to divorce her husband, who lives in Venice with his mistress; the heir, Lord Brideshead, is as fanatically devout as his mother, and even the sisters, Julia and Cordelia, seem ill at ease with their role. Interspersed with passages describing the somewhat fraught family gatherings at Brideshead are those evoking the hedonism of Oxford between the wars; amongst the minor characters is the decadent aesthete Anthony Blanch (based on Brian Howard, one of Waugh's Oxford contemporaries). Events such as the General Strike of 1926 are described in passing, but do not really impinge on the plot, which remains principally concerned with the vicissitudes of the Flyte siblings: Sebastian, now a confirmed alcoholic, goes to live in North Africa, where his condition deteriorates rapidly; Julia, unhappily married, admits her love for Charles, also married, and the two plan to divorce their respective spouses, but are prevented from doing so by Julia's religious convictions. The final scenes are dominated by Julia's struggle with her conscience and her eventual decision to relinquish Charles, most of which takes place as her father, Lord Marchmain, is dying. The closing pages, which form an Epilogue, return to the opening wartime setting; the work ends, despite the narrator's nostalgic sadness for all that he has lost, on a note of cautious optimism. The novel was adapted for television in 1980.

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