FATHERS AND SONS by Alexander Waugh


The Autobiography of a Family
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A sprightly memoir about the succession of cranky, writerly Waugh men, concluding with the author (born 1963).

The most famous Waugh was of course Evelyn, author of Brideshead Revisted and many other novels, who died in 1966. Older brother Alec was notorious for his novel The Loom of Youth (1917); son Auberon (Alexander’s father) was a well-known journalist for the Daily Telegraph for nearly 40 years. Alexander, member of the family’s fourth generation of authors and critics, writes frankly and sweepingly of the often deeply ambivalent feelings between Waugh fathers and sons. He begins with “the Brute”: sadistic, Victorian Dr. Alexander Waugh, a country doctor who bullied son Arthur for his asthmatic weakness. Arthur, in turn, grew passionate about dramatics and a literary career, established himself in London and was eventually noted for his literary criticism and work as a managing director of Chapman and Hall. The careers of Arthur’s two sons form the most compelling chapters here; favorite Alec and irritable Evelyn are portrayed in knee-slapping good stories that spare no one’s feelings. Expelled from Sherborne for homosexual activity, Alec enjoyed some early literary successes but was forced to recognize that his younger brother was the better writer. Evelyn, despite great professional and financial successes, never quite won his father’s love, and indeed waged continual, patricidal literary war against him. Auberon, Evelyn’s first-born son, developed a hatred for discipline and became an accomplished liar. He died in 2001, and Alexander describes his final days with great pathos: “I had not kissed my father since I was twelve years old and had never said ‘I love you’ to him, even as a boy…we never, in all our time together, had a single serious conversation. He had not trained me for it.”

A candid, intimate and touching portrait of the author's masculine forebears, composed in nimble prose.

Pub Date: May 29th, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-385-52150-5
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Talese/Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2007


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