Expelled from Oxford for indecent behaviour, Paul Pennyfeather is oddly unsurprised to find himself qualifying for the position of schoolmaster at Llanabba Castle.
His colleagues are an assortment of misfits, including Prendy (plagued by doubts) and Captain Grimes, who is always in the soup (or just plain drunk). Then Sports Day arrives and with it the delectable Margot Beste-Chetwynde, floating on a scented breeze.
As the farce unfolds and the young run riot, no one is safe, least of all Paul. Taking its title from Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Evelyn Waugh's first, funniest novel immediately caught the ear of the public with his account of an ingénu abroad in the decadent confusion of 1920s high society.
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Quaint, clever, wry.
The narration is absolutely perfect and gave me so much more expressive characterisation than I'd have been able to conjure in my own head - thank you, Michael Maloney!
It's honestly as if he wrote the novel himself, so perfectly does he capture each snort, sneer, grimace and tick - he narrates each character with a sort of audible physicality which makes it easy to visualise the characters, and it's laugh out loud stuff. It's ridiculous, it's over the top, and it's jolly good fun.
I found it very amusing, diverting, and just what I needed to wind down to each night for a week. Waugh's not to everyone's taste, but if you like a class-based period comedy, boom, here it is. They don't make 'em like this anymore...
I read that David Suchet will be appearing in a new TV adaptation, and I can see that working very well; having seen him as Lady Bracknell recently, he can do comedy brilliantly.
- Raal Harris