FICTION//Scoop- Evelyn Waugh

Happy new year!

Do you have those books that are kind of ‘filler’ books? As in, they hang around your house for ages and you pick them up when you’re in-between books? I started this as I needed a paperback to read in the bath and I didn’t want to start anything too long as I was waiting for reservations to be delivered to the library. I’d also had this for ages, so figured the down time at the start of the year would be a good time for it.

I’ve read a bit of Waugh in the past (Vile Bodies) and I like reading about the inter-war era. My degree is also in journalism, so when I came across a novel lauded by The Observer as ‘the funniest novel ever written about journalism’, I had to give it a go.

The premise is that Lord Copper, a newspaper magnate, needs someone to go and cover a war in Africa. Through a comedy of errors relating to various offshoots of the same family- the Boots- a quiet and unassuming country diarist ends up being sent to cover a conflict he knows nothing about. What happens is that, well, not an awful lot happens during most of the book.

Oh, dear reader, how can a slender book of 220 pages be such hard work? I don’t know whether I was just tired and ill when I read it (I was both) or whether I just felt frustrated that the muddle that the characters find themselves in extended to me. Maybe I wasn’t getting the joke?

There’s also the matter of the fact that this book is VERY of its time- originally published in 1938, I doubt it would be written now. Waugh was a racist and an anti-Semite and these views are here in this book. It is very odd, as a modern reader, to read such views freely expressed and maybe this is why I found the book difficult and uncomfortable. I don’t feel the humour stacks up to modern sensibilities, either.

I understand that some people love Waugh’s work. I guess I’m just not one of them.

Format: Secondhand paperback, bought in York.

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