Sunday, 25 February 2018

The Loved One - Evelyn Waugh

The Loved One is Waugh's satire on the American Way of Death, dedicated to Nancy Mitford (whose sister Jessica, if memory serves, wrote something similar). Dennis Barlow is a young war poet who has headed to California to try his luck in the movies. He has somewhat let the side down, not only by losing his place at the studio but - far worse - by taking common or garden employment, to whit assistant at the Happier Hunting Ground pet cemetery. Members of the Hollywood Cricket Club, expat writers, actors and general support players, have called to express their disapproval. Sadly, it is not Brown who takes their warning to heart. It is his landlord, Sir Francis Hinsley, celebrated author turned scriptwriter turned publicist turned nobody, who when he loses his last tenuous connection to Megalopolis Pictures, does the decent thing and tops himself.

Dennis has to take charge of making the arrangements. The Club has decided no expense should be spared, which takes our hero to Whispering Glades Memorial Park where he meets the dedicated mortician Aimee, and complications ensue...

The Loved One is a brilliant, beautiful book, 140 pages of magnificently elegant prose, very funny and very dark. I have become a Waugh fan in my later years but this is by some distance the most enjoyable of his fictions I have come across.

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