8.09.2017

On Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Okay, so I finished this book a couple days ago, and I just need to talk about it real quick.  Excuse the goofy cover.  The book is not goofy.

I'd heard about the novel Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh numerous times, but the reason I finally tracked it down and picked it up was because the Rabbit Room podcast told me to, which is the reason I do many things.  This book was talked about in two old episodes (26 and 27) all about the art of spiritual subtext, in which Lanier Ivester and Sarah Clarkson talk about two books that have illustrated to them how an author's faith underlies their creative work – in this case their fiction.  Lanier's discussion of this novel in particular made me push it to the top of my list.

On a whim, then, this past weekend, I added it to my pile of stuff to read before school starts and got stuck into it.  Today I want to hint at the plot and the spiritual subtext of this novel in a way that won't spoil it or reveal too much of what you really need to discover for yourself, but in a way that will make you want to read it, too.  Also, go listen to those two podcast episodes – though I would probably recommend reading the novel and listening afterward, as the hosts do not shy away from spoiling things.  And as in stories like the Chronicles of Narnia, it is always more powerful to be surprised and moved by themes and whispers of grace on your own than to have everything explained first.

Brideshead Revisited is a quiet story about a bunch of messed up people and how they are pursued by grace throughout their lives: through their sin, through their sorrows, through the people they love.  Evelyn Waugh wrote this novel in 1945 after his conversion to Catholicism and the narrative is thick with the presence of God.  The thread of grace, or rather, the subterranean river of grace that pervades Brideshead is subtle – perhaps so subtle that if one is not attune to it they may easily miss it altogether – but it pervades the story.  Conversations drip with hints and allusions to it; mistakes are redeemed by it; the most stubborn characters are moved by it.  This most ordinary story of human struggle and failure is saturated with grace from beginning to end.  This is not a book you'll see in the "Christian Fiction" section of a bookstore, it doesn't hit you over the head with the Gospel, and the characters who live and love in its pages are not those imaginary creatures who vaguely struggle without God, then find Him, and with Him a perfect life.  The grace of Brideshead Revisited – the subterranean river that barely ever bubbles up to the surface but seeps into the story so that the story of human failings and losses is haunted with the presence of God – reminds the reader of the way grace is at work in his as well.  Brideshead is a story of the way God woos sinners and draws them to Himself, the way He pursues relentlessly and chases after and works through even the worst failings of fallen creatures who refuse to lay down at His feet.

Read Brideshead Revisited to be reminded of the grace of your ever-chasing, unrelenting God – the one who woos and redeems and pursues even me, even you.

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