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The second part of the trilogy which began with Men At Arms (1952) continues the leisurely perspective of World War II, and while the narrative itself is perhaps a fitful one- it is animated not only by the splendid display of its satiric invention- but also by its compassionate concern. For Waugh, in this series which may well be his magnum opus as well as the outstanding British novel to come out of this war, is a far gentler commentator than in his earlier books, and Crouchback, his central character, is his spokesman- a gentleman, a romantic, a Roman Catholic. He is also one of the dispossessed who hopes to regain- through the war- a sharper definition to his life. Physically the action proceeds from London, to the Isle of Mugg where Crouchback is temporarily stationed, to Egypt, and then Crete-- and among the "happy warriors" there are many brilliantly, and few extravagantly, conceived characters; Trimmer, once Virginia's (Guy's former wife) hairdresser, who with his raid on the French coast known as Operation Popgn becomes a hero; Ivor Claire, with whom Guy senses a remote kinship; Brigadier Ben Ritchie-Hook who is still brandishing his ferocious form of heroism; etc., etc. But for Guy, there are many moments of faltering faith; in others- a priest who proves to by a spy, in Ivor- who deserts, in the British Army- during the humiliating dispersal in Crete; and in himself- when after this particular action- he is to "resign an immeasurable piece of manhood" after his escape in an open boat..... From the first book which had a glowing press- but a perhaps less impressive response- you can best determine your market here which will be at an intellectual rather than popular level.
Pub Date: July 7th, 1955
ISBN: 0140182454
Page count: 248pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1955