24 February 2010

Evelyn Waugh, The Loved One, 1948

This was described by Anna Haycraft (better known as Alice Thomas Ellis) as ”One of the funniest and most significant books of the century”. The friction that drives it is the awkwardness of British cultural attitudes in post-war Los Angeles, set mostly in the Whispering Glades Memorial Park – a kind of Disneyland for the dead – and involving a young British poet who falls for a young American corpse beautician while he himself works secretly as a mortician at a pet cemetery. Waugh is funniest when he lets his characters’ veneer of civility slip to reveal something far more feral underneath, and I can almost sense how he filled in some laugh-free zones with just that kind of unexpected viciousness to keep the humour levels up. Some mocking characterisation and a few very memorable turns of phrase make this a wickedly funny book.  PY


No comments: