The reviews of Brideshead Revisited ranged from adoring to condemning when the book was first published in 1945. James F. Carens in The Satiric Art of Evelyn Waugh notes that while the magazine Catholic World raved about the novel and called it "a work of art," critic Edmund Wilson (as quoted by Carens) was less positive. Even though Wilson was an admirer of Waugh's earlier, more satirical works, he called Brideshead Revisited "disastrous" and declared that the author "no longer knows his way." John K. Hutchens, reviewing the novel in 1945 for the New York Times, wrote that the novel "has the depth and weight that are found in a writer working in his prime."
Carens encourages readers to weigh the book carefully, advising, "A novel that has provoked such diverse views deserves consideration. It may be an imperfect work; it can scarcely be a vapid one." Indeed, despite many critics' disappointment with the book's lack of satirical sharpness, Brideshead Revisited is the book that introduced American audiences to Waugh.
Much of the negative criticism of Brideshead Revisited has charged that in this book, Waugh leaves his earlier empire of hard-bitten satire and wades into the gentler world of romance. Some critics, such as Paul Fussell in the New Republic, appear to suggest that Waugh has become soft in his middle age. Comparing Brideshead Revisited with Waugh's short stories written...
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