Some Final Words on Helena

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I finished the book some days ago and have held off writing about it for a number of reasons. But now it is time.

The book, as I said before, is wonderful and distinctly different from the other works of Evelyn Waugh. There is still the biting observations of the foibles of men--as for example what Constantine decides to do with the nails brought back from Helena's search for the cross. In addition, his skewering of Fausta and her pet Bishop Eusebius are both highly pointed and entertaining.

The book has one minor flaw, which actually redounds to its credit is odd ways. To understand the title of the last chapter, one must read Waugh's introduction to the book. "Ellen's Invention of the Cross" makes no sense from the narrative point of view. But when you read the genesis of the tale, rather like Jane Yolen's The Devil's Arithmetic you'll see what it is all about.

Get and read this book. It should take only a couple of days (if that). It will serve as an introduction to some of the finest prose of the 20th century and perhaps those who have been Waugh-shy to take up some of the other 15 or so novels. The oeuvre, like that of Walker Percy and Flannery O'Connor, is not dauntingly large (unlike that of Graham Greene). A normal person can hope to have read the entire works in a year or two, interspersing them with other things to leaven out the bitterness. But Helena is a sweet start--yes, the curmudgeon is there, mostly hidden, but occasionally popping out to tweak us; however, the work as a whole is a magnificent tribute to the wonders of faith in general and the truth of Catholicism in particular.

Not merely recommended--required! Test on Thursday next.

(Later: My thanks to those who made the typos evident--sorry.)

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You're on a roll today. Good postings.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on March 22, 2005 7:32 AM.

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