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Sword of Honour Trilogy - Evelyn Waugh

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Author: Evelyn Waugh / Genre: Classic Literature

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      18.09.2012 22:14
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      Outstanding plot and humour

      A Sword of Honour is a Second World War novel but in many ways has little to do with the actual realities of life at the front. There is little real action for the blood and guts enthusiast but what there is is a brilliant account of the absurdities of life in 1940's Britain.

      The protagonist is Guy Crouchback, the last male heir to a long lived and distinguished British Catholic family. At the start of the trilogy Guy finds himself living alone in a castle in Italy, in his mid thirties, divorced with no children and no apparent occupation. The looming of war inspires him tobecome an officer in the British Army if for no other reason than to lay his life down for some cause. Guy eventually finds himself training with the (fictional) Royal Corps of Halberdiers and after several humorous episodes he is commissioned as a Second Lieutenant.

      Guy subsequently undertakes commando and parachute training, sees action in a daring raid in West Africa and the humiliating withdrawal from Crete and serves as a liaison officer in Yugoslavia. Guy is confronted at every turn by incompetence and varying degrees of insanity at all levels. He has his card marked by several unfortunate coincidences and is wrongly suspected of being a fascist spy. Guy is hopelessly entangled with a promiscuous ex-wife who provides a romantic sub-plot and comedy in Guy's situation, with his strong catholic belief (or rather the weight of tradition) binding him to her.

      Waugh provides a gripping satire on military life and society in the 40's with a well thought out plot based on the author's own war experience. Guy's escapades show the absurdity of a war dictated by bureaucracy in a manner similar to Catch 22 whilst his position as an outsider (an Italy-dwelling Catholic) exposes the fickle nature of British society in the first half of the last century. Waugh will keep you turning the pages as his reluctant hero lurches from one crisis to the next whilst trying to do what he believes is expected of him. The final chapter provides something of a well deserved break for Guy but is not present in all editions.

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