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Summary

What happened to the characters of Decline and Fall and Vile Bodies when the war broke out? Put Out More Flags shows them adjusting to the changing social pattern of the times. Some of them play valorous parts; others, like the scapegrace Basil Sea, disclose their incorrigible habit of self-preservation in all circumstances.

Basil's contribution to the war effort involves the use of his peculiar talents in such spheres of opportunity as the Ministry of Information and an obscure section of Military Security - adventures which incite Evelyn Waugh to another pungent satire upon the coteries of Mayfair.

©1942 Evelyn Waugh (P)2015 Hachette Audio

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Basil Seal

This novel is best when the narrative focuses on Basil Seal as trusty as a floorboard with dry-rot. In the whirl of other characters toward the beginning I wanted a bit more definition, but it might have been the narration. Basil is toe-curling and am not sure about his epilogue - I need to explore more. Waugh's world is still populated by many of the kinds of characters that make you long for the 1945 general election. There are clearly poignant episodes which reflect where the future is moving. The lynes are so well portrayed. For me, I prefer 'Vile Bodies' for its foot-certain progress. Michael Maloney is a likeable enough performer, but - just sometimes - I wanted greater care with with sentence-sense.

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Brilliant

I hadn’t read this book for 40 years, and I’d forgotten how brilliant it is. Excellent narration brings it alive.

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  • Julian
  • 29-11-17

For the Waugh mongers

Evelyn Waugh's first wartime novel captures the moment when England realised she was at war again, but couldn't work out whether to be pleased or frightened. As a long-standing Waugh fan I had never found this in print, so to encounter it in audio form is almost miraculous. It functions as a kind of "What Katy did next" for assorted characters in Waugh's earlier satirical novels, principally the serpentine Basil Seal, voiced brilliantly by Michael Maloney as an upper-class cad and chancer treating the war as the wiping clean of his personal slate. Those coming to Waugh for the first time will inevitably miss some of the resonances and references, so a little pre-reading would not go astray - Decline and Fall and Black Mischief should cover it. There is a satisfying measure of redemption for most of the characters but you will need to go to Brideshead Revisited for the full working out of Waugh's religious worldview.

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  • M. J. Walsh
  • 21-05-20

Waugh in transition

Clearly this is not Waugh's best work. It's a transitional piece about a time of change as Britain prepares for war in that oddly becalmed time between the declaration and the commencement of real fighting. It was war on paper and faith in the Marginot line. The story is also Waugh's transition from the frivolous mockery of his books in the 30s to a richer, more rounded style as a war novelist. However, more than tepid praise is warranted. The eccentric, wickedly mocked characters still abound and there are a number of very funny set piece episodes. Through it all the droll Basil Seal continues to pursue the main chance with amoral aplomb. Waugh below his best is still superior to most other writers at the top of their game.