I once told someone I enjoyed the prose of Evelyn Waugh. He turned to me and said "Urgh, how can you? How can you like anyone who can do that to his characters?".
And the primary evidence in the trial of Evelyn Waugh was Sebastian Flyte: The brilliant teddy bear-carrying academe and bon vivant who is perhaps one of the greatest characterisations ever written.
A character Waugh slowly and maliciously turns into a sun-seeking invalid and booze-soaked lay-about.
The descent of the character is absolute. He is the creation that keeps you reading, initially, because he is so entertaining. Somehow, despite the entire tome descenting into a celebration of mediocre success, middle-aged vanity and upper-class immorality, it is still Sebastian who keeps us reading, despite the soul of his character being evicerated by his creator. Flyte becomes a shadow - both in character and in motif. Hope of his resurrection keeps you reading, long after all hope is lost.
Waugh gives all the sentimentality to setting and scene and saves none for his characters, prefering to torture them - and the reader - slowly.
This I could handle but the hero is DULL. Everyone is soooo dull. I recognise that Waugh was trying to show-up the flaws, hypocrisy, immorality and deficiencies of the upper classes but he could at least have given us SOMEONE to put our faith in.
So anyway... I read the book ages ago and seeing as Kate has just read it too, I wanted to put this out here in the hopes some of you other peeps might have something to say as well.