More Modernism, more biography. This is unlike any other biography I have ever read as it focuses on such a specific part of Evelyn Waugh’s life. There is a little general history but it is specifically about how he came to write his most famous work Brideshead Revisited. Every issue discussed in this biography shaped not only Waugh as a person but the story of Brideshead.
I loved Brideshead Revisited it has all the glamour of rebellion of the 20s and Personally I think Evelyn Waugh is the British F.Scott Fitzgerald. So this book was not just a biography for me it was a contextual analysis of Brideshead. I know that according to Barthes ‘Death of the Author’ theory the life of the author should have no effect on a work or your reading of it but I feel that these two books together are the argument against that. Having read Mad World I feel so much more in touch with the world of Brideshead and the case is just too strong, the parallels are just to prominent to suggest anything other than Brideshead is an autobiographical work.
That is not to say that Brideshead Revisited is an account of Waugh’s life, it is a fictitious depiction of the world he observed but was never quite a part of. That is primarily what I learnt from Mad World, Waugh never quite belonged and he made it his work to document the fading world that he had somehow stumbled across.
Mad World on its own is a fabulous book. It gives a true depiction of an exclusive part of life in 1920s Britain. It shows all the scandals and how the new ideas were choked by the old. There is tragedy and soul searching and all the things that I love about Modernist literature but it is all real. It is hard to believe that the characters you are reading about, because that is what they feel like, are the people in the photographs in the centre.
However, I suggest that you read Brideshead Revisited first. If you need convincing any further you can read the review I have already written of it here. Mad World is a bit like the special features on a DVD; all the behind the scenes bits about how it came together and interviews with the cast. Now they are fascinating to watch but there purpose is to enrich your experience of the film, the same goes for Mad World.
I enjoyed reading this book so much. I was completed transported to another place, which I never thought I would experience from a biography.
Would recommend to: read once you have read Brideshead. Then read Brideshead again.