Black Mischief – Evelyn Waugh

Published January 13, 2013 by bibliobeth

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Whats it all about?:

Black Mischief, Waugh’s third novel, helped to establish his reputation as a master satirist. Set on the fictional African island of Azania, the novel chronicles the efforts of Emperor Seth, assisted by the Englishman Basil Seal, to modernize his kingdom. Profound hilarity ensues from the issuance of homemade currency, the staging of a “Birth Control Gala, ” the rightful ruler’s demise at his own rather long and tiring coronation ceremonies, and a good deal more mischief.

What did I think?:

I’m finding it really difficult to review this book as I am completely torn in my opinions on it. This is only the second book I have read of Waugh’s – the first being the classic Brideshead Revisited which I really enjoyed. I appreciate the wit and the satire that Waugh uses, and it seems to be indiscriminate i.e. against everyone regardless of colour, race and class. He pokes fun at English toffs abroad who seem ambivalent to everything apart from their own needs, and some parts truly made me smile.

What I couldn’t deal with however, was passages such as the following:

“As the time approached Black Bitch’s excitement became almost alarming and her questions on etiquette so searching that the General was obliged to thump her soundly on the head and lock her in a cupboard for some hours before she could be reduced to a condition sufficiently subdued for diplomatic society.”

Okay, I get that no-one escapes his mocking, and although I appreciate his writing style, some parts are just a bit too close to the bone.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably not.

Star rating (out of 5):

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