Original date of publication: 1958
My edition: 1999 (Back Bay Books)
Why I decided to read: I was inspired to read it after reading Bright Young People
How I acquired my copy: Local library sale, November 2009
I bought this book a year ago, after a member on Shelfari recommended it to me. It came back on my radar after reading Bright Young People, DJ Taylor’s biography of the Bright Young things of 1920s English society. Vile Bodies is a parody of that group, and several characters in this book are clearly exaggerated versions of real people that Evelyn Waugh knew. Our main character, Adam Fenwick-Symes, is clearly a projection of Waugh, on the fringe of the society that he writes about.
Vile Bodies is a very funny, highly stylized version of 1920s and ‘30s society. On one hand, these are highly glamorous people Waugh is writing about; on the other, they’re superficial and empty. As with most satirical writing, this book tends to be very over-the-top at times, but that’s one of the things I really enjoyed about this book.
It’s a very fast-paced novel, and most of the dialogue takes place over telephones. You get this kind of “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” feeling about the pace of this book; miss a sentence or even a word, and you’re completely lost. In many ways, the tone of this book reflects the people Waugh is trying to satirize. I’m not sure that I completely “get” the book, but it’s one of those books I should re-read in order to totally understand it.