Critical Overview

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 280

Scoop was well received by critics on publication in 1938, and this confirmed Waugh’s reputation as a writer of humorous and effective satire on whatever subject he chose. Everyone agreed that the novel was amusing and entertaining. The anonymous reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement, for example, praised Waugh’s “ribald wit” that “spurts in a brisk uninterrupted flow upon the caprices of sensational journalism.” But the reviewer also found that the character William Boot “is too much the simpleton, too facile an instrument for satire,” and he thought it fitting that the knighthood at the end should go to John Boot rather than to William.

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Novelist John Brophy, in an appreciative review in the Daily Telegraph, commented that Waugh as a writer was extremely good at making people laugh. But this alone did not make him a satirist, “for indignation founded on some belief is necessary to satire, and I have never been able from his books to discover what Mr. Waugh believes in.”

In the Spectator, Derek Verschoyle declared Scoop to be an “enchanting book,” admiring the calm way in which Waugh demolishes his satirical targets, without “surprise, sentiment or resentment.” Verschoyle picked out the depiction of the Boot family as the highlight of the book: “[it] reveals an inventive power which it is little exaggeration to call that of genius.”

Since its positive initial reception, however, Scoop has not usually been ranked with the very best of Waugh’s achievements. It often takes a back seat to Waugh’s earlier satires of the 1930s, especially Vile Bodies and Black Mischief. However, with the general reader, Scoop has been and remains one of Waugh’s most popular novels.

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Essays and Criticism