Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh – A Quick Book Summary



Affiliate Disclaimer: We may receive commissions for purchases made through links on this website.


Welcome to our comprehensive book summary of Evelyn Waugh’s acclaimed novel, Brideshead Revisited. This guide offers an insightful look into the story’s plot, characters, themes, and its author’s background. Dive in to explore this iconic representation of British aristocracy and the transformative power of faith.

“The world is full of moral men and immoral women.”

– Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited

Book Information:

Title: Brideshead Revisited
Author: Evelyn Waugh
Genre: Historical Fiction
Year Published: 1945

Brief Overview:

Brideshead Revisited follows the story of Charles Ryder and his entanglement with the aristocratic Flyte family, set against the backdrop of the waning British Empire.


Author’s Background:

Evelyn Waugh, a British author known for his satirical novels, was deeply influenced by his own experiences and conversion to Catholicism, elements reflected in Brideshead Revisited.

Publication Context:

Published in 1945, Brideshead Revisited offered a nostalgic view of British aristocracy during a time when class structures were significantly changing due to the impact of World War II.

Character Summary

Main Characters:

1. Charles Ryder: The story’s narrator, a middle-class artist.
2. Sebastian Flyte: Charles’s Oxford friend, an enchanting and troubled aristocrat.
3. Julia Flyte: Sebastian’s beautiful sister, another object of Charles’s affection.

Character Development:

The characters undergo significant transformations, particularly Charles who evolves from an outsider to someone entangled with the Flyte family and their Catholic faith.

Plot Summary


Brideshead Revisited narrates Charles Ryder’s relationship with the Flyte family and his struggle with faith and societal norms during the decline of the British Empire.


The story is mainly set in Brideshead, the Flyte’s ancestral home, and Oxford University, both iconic symbols of British aristocracy and tradition.

Themes and Motifs

Key Themes:

1. The decline of the British aristocracy
2. Struggle with faith and Catholicism
3. Forbidden love

Motifs and Symbols:

1. Brideshead Mansion: Decline of aristocracy
2. The teddy bear, Aloysius: Lost innocence

Takeaway Morals


The novel highlights the dangers of excessive indulgence and the importance of personal faith.


These lessons remind us to maintain a balance in life and respect individual beliefs, applicable even today.


Literary Devices:

Waugh skillfully uses foreshadowing, irony, and lush descriptions to convey his themes.

Style and Tone:

Waugh’s style is detailed and evocative, with a nostalgic and melancholic tone reflecting the loss of the past.

Critical Reception

Initial Reception:

Upon publication, the novel received mixed reviews due to its romanticised view of aristocracy and overtly Catholic themes.

Current Standing:

Today, Brideshead Revisited is considered one of Waugh’s masterpieces, praised for its prose style and depiction of societal changes.

My Thoughts

Personal Opinion:

Reading Brideshead Revisited was a bit like being served an exquisite platter of gourmet cheese – initially, it’s a bit pungent and confounding, but soon you find yourself relishing it. Waugh’s portrayal of the aristocracy had me chuckling – it was like watching a reality TV show about royals, only with way more subtlety and less plastic surgery.

I particularly enjoyed his wicked humour and the novel’s nostalgic glow. The journey through the labyrinth of faith and morality had me hooked like a cat on a laser pointer. By the end, I felt like I had taken a whirlwind tour of the British Empire, minus the threat of dysentery.

Personal Recommendation:

If you’re a fan of Downton Abbey or have ever fantasized about wandering the halls of a grand English mansion, this book is for you. The immersive storytelling and rich, layered characters are guaranteed to make you lose track of time.

Brideshead Revisited is also ideal for readers seeking a deeper exploration of personal faith and morality. It’s like a philosophical discussion with a side of crumpets and tea – distinctly British and profoundly stimulating.

However, be warned, it might make you inexplicably nostalgic for an era you probably didn’t live through, and find yourself yearning for a teddy bear companion like Aloysius.

About the Author


Evelyn Waugh (1903–1966) was a British writer, known for his satirical novels and in-depth character studies.

Literary Career:

Waugh’s career was marked by critically acclaimed novels like A Handful of Dust and Scoop. He is often considered one of the greatest British novelists of the 20th century.

Book Details

Publication Details:

Brideshead Revisited was published by Chapman & Hall in 1945.

Structural Details:

The novel is divided into two books, with a total of eleven chapters spanning 432 pages.



Brideshead Revisited is an intricate exploration of faith, love, and aristocratic decline in post-war Britain, told through the enchanting yet tragic story of Charles Ryder and the Flyte family.

Final Thoughts:

Brideshead Revisited offers a compelling journey through a period of profound change in British history. Waugh’s masterful storytelling, alongside his nuanced exploration of faith, love, and the decline of aristocracy, makes it an enriching read.

It’s an exquisite tapestry of human emotions, societal norms, and historical events that leaves an indelible impression. The novel is an inviting window into the past, while simultaneously encouraging reflection on contemporary issues of faith, privilege, and personal identity. So, in essence, reading Brideshead is like time-traveling without a DeLorean – quite the ride!

  • Antigone, by Sophocles – Quick Book Summary

  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”, by Mark Twain – Quick Book Summary

  • The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck – Quick Book Summary

  • The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde – Quick Book Summary

About the author

Latest posts