The Bright Young Things of 1920s Mayfair, with their paradoxical mix of innocence and sophistication, exercise their inventive minds and vile bodies in every kind of capricious escapade, whether it is promiscuity, dancing, cocktail parties or sports cars. A vivid assortment of characters, among them the struggling writer Adam Fenwick-Symes and the glamorous, aristocratic Nina Blount, hunt fast and furiously for ever greater sensations and the hedonistic fulfilment of their desires. Evelyn Waugh’s acidly funny and experimental satire shows a new generation emerging in the years after the First World War, revealing the darkness and vulnerability beneath the glittering surface of the high life.
There are four types of people in the world. Those who have never heard of Evelyn Waugh, those who think he’s a woman and those who know him only as the author of Brideshead Revisted. The very rare fourth type knows Evelyn Waugh is one of the most brilliant satirists of all time and that in fact, Vile Bodies is his best effort. The second of 40 novels, Vile Bodies is his most characteristic work, brilliantly witty, stuffed with farcically brilliant characters who drink cocktails, go to costume parties, ride in motor cars and do little else. It was this novel that spawned the expression “bright young things” and is an excellent starting point for a love affair with Waugh. If you try it and love it, read Waugh’s Put Out More Flags next.