Scoop by Evelyn Waugh

I have always enjoyed Waugh’s writing, and I am a HUGE fan of his contemporary Nancy Mitford Their depiction of the lives of the upper classes in the first half of the twentieth century is pure genius, and the witty language is guaranteed to put a smile on my face.

Scoop is a novel centred on the newspaper industry and the sheer confusion and hypocrisy of the whole business; something which appears to be incredibly relevant when looking at newspapers in the present day, The Leveson Inquiry springs to mind. There is a civil war brewing in Ishmalia and, due to a slight mix-up, the wrong Mr. Boot is on his way as ‘The Beasts’ foreign war correspondence. Boot doesn’t want to go and knows next to nothing about life as a journalist; his only experience in the matter lies in the nature column he writes for the newspaper. Before Boot knows it he is in a foreign country and expected to report on events there. And if nothing is happening, he has to stretch the truth ever so slightly.

Unfortunately for me Scoop did not live up to my expectations. I found it difficult to get in to, and I felt very little connection to the characters. The one character I warmed to, Mrs Stitch, who manages to get her car stuck in an underground toilet block, only really appears in the first few chapters, and then the action moves to foreign climes. As the narrative developed I found it harder to follow, primarily because I had very little interest in what was going on, and therefore could not concentrate on the story and lost that all important connection to what was happening. I was relieved when the novel came to an end.

For me Waugh is at his best when he is writing about life in Britain; his insights into the upper classes are hilarious, if a tad chilling in places. In hindsight I think it might be this movement away from British life that had such a negative impact on my enjoyment. It is not that I don’t like novels set outside of Britain, I just don’t feel that Waugh does it justice in this novel. Ironic really as one of my favourite Waugh storylines ends with an upper class man doomed to spend the rest of his days reading Dickens’ novels to a man in the colonies.

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