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Men at Arms

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Guy Crouchback, determined to get into the war, takes a commission in the Royal Corps of Halberdiers. His spirits high, he sees all the trimmings but none of the action. And his first campaign, an abortive affair on the West African coastline, ends with an escapade which seriously blots his Halberdier copybook. Men at Arms is the first book in Waugh's brilliant trilogy, Sw Guy Crouchback, determined to get into the war, takes a commission in the Royal Corps of Halberdiers. His spirits high, he sees all the trimmings but none of the action. And his first campaign, an abortive affair on the West African coastline, ends with an escapade which seriously blots his Halberdier copybook. Men at Arms is the first book in Waugh's brilliant trilogy, Sword of Honour, which chronicles the fortunes of Guy Crouchback. The second and third volumes, Officers and Gentlemen and Unconditional Surrender, are also published in Penguin Modern Classics.


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Guy Crouchback, determined to get into the war, takes a commission in the Royal Corps of Halberdiers. His spirits high, he sees all the trimmings but none of the action. And his first campaign, an abortive affair on the West African coastline, ends with an escapade which seriously blots his Halberdier copybook. Men at Arms is the first book in Waugh's brilliant trilogy, Sw Guy Crouchback, determined to get into the war, takes a commission in the Royal Corps of Halberdiers. His spirits high, he sees all the trimmings but none of the action. And his first campaign, an abortive affair on the West African coastline, ends with an escapade which seriously blots his Halberdier copybook. Men at Arms is the first book in Waugh's brilliant trilogy, Sword of Honour, which chronicles the fortunes of Guy Crouchback. The second and third volumes, Officers and Gentlemen and Unconditional Surrender, are also published in Penguin Modern Classics.

30 review for Men at Arms

  1. 4 out of 5

    James

    ‘Men at Arms’ (1952) by Evelyn Waugh is the first part of Waugh’s ‘Sword of Honour’ trilogy of books (along with ‘Officers and Gentlemen’ and ‘Unconditional Surrender’). ‘Men at Arms’ tells the story of Guy Crouchback and his endeavours to, in his way – play his part, do his bit and get actively involved in World War II and The British Army. Unfortunately, I struggled to engage with either the narrative or the main protagonist. ‘Men at Arms’ is a novel that reads, at least for the most part, as a ‘Men at Arms’ (1952) by Evelyn Waugh is the first part of Waugh’s ‘Sword of Honour’ trilogy of books (along with ‘Officers and Gentlemen’ and ‘Unconditional Surrender’). ‘Men at Arms’ tells the story of Guy Crouchback and his endeavours to, in his way – play his part, do his bit and get actively involved in World War II and The British Army. Unfortunately, I struggled to engage with either the narrative or the main protagonist. ‘Men at Arms’ is a novel that reads, at least for the most part, as a somewhat uninspiring, pedestrian and underwhelming story of an over-privileged member of upper class English society – playing at war, playing with an honourable view of being a soldier, a member of The British Army; trying to play his part and do his bit. Eventually, Crouchback is commissioned into the fictional Royal Corp of Halberdiers, which seemingly operates in turns more along the lines of a gentleman’s club; an old boy’s network or a minor public school. (I am presuming that is probably the intention?). In the course of Crouchback’s military endeavours to do his bit – he finds himself regularly lost and somewhat out of his depth. Apparently Waugh’s ‘Sword of Honour’ trilogy is deemed to be a ‘satirical masterpiece’ – which unfortunately for me (at least based on this first instalment) it was not. Sadly, ‘Men at Arms’ lacked any real interest and was ultimately tedious and uninspiring more or less throughout. Over and above the somewhat dull central story of Crouchbacks attempts to ‘play his part’ – the core of the novel seems to focus tediously on the inadequacies and the poorly managed logistics concerning The British Army at that time, along with the interests of those therein. Disappointingly, ‘Men at Arms’ doesn’t entertain, amuse, inspire, excite or even greatly interest; neither does it paint an insightful and wisely satirical portrait of either our main protagonist, The British Army, the British ‘war effort’ or Britain and its class/social structures at that time. Mildly diverting at best – disappointing to say the least. On this basis I have no plans to read the remaining instalments in the trilogy, but do however still hold out high hope of Waugh’s ‘Brideshead Revisited.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Cecily

    Part 1 of Sword of Honour. What fun - a bit like a cross between MASH, PG Wodehouse and Brideshead! An upper class British Catholic divorcé leaves his home in Italy at the start of WW2 to try to join the army, and eventually succeeds. The story is populated by quirky characters and strange coincidences, with glimpses of poignancy. Most of the characters are in a perpetual state of genial incomprehension and incompetence. Waugh served in WW2 and if his experience was anything like what was described, Part 1 of Sword of Honour. What fun - a bit like a cross between MASH, PG Wodehouse and Brideshead! An upper class British Catholic divorcé leaves his home in Italy at the start of WW2 to try to join the army, and eventually succeeds. The story is populated by quirky characters and strange coincidences, with glimpses of poignancy. Most of the characters are in a perpetual state of genial incomprehension and incompetence. Waugh served in WW2 and if his experience was anything like what was described, it's amazing that we won. However, there are clearly some parallels, as the book is peppered with mentions of specific dates and events (helpfully explained in footnotes, in my edition). Apthorpe's too literal "thunderbox", the old colonel that should have retired but no one quite wants to tell him he's not needed any more, bizarre and nonsensical bureaucracy, all beautifully written. And best of all, there are two sequels - let's hope they're as good. My (brief) reviews of the other two in the trilogy: Officers and Gentlement and Unconditional Surrender

  3. 4 out of 5

    Brendan Hodge

    If you, like me, have been reared on tales of the second World War as the just and virtuous struggle of the "greatest generation", Evelyn Waugh's arch novels (based loosely on his own war experiences) are an important and darkly enjoyable filling out of that two-dimensional view. The stakes here are still high. But the inevitable absurdities and inhumanities of a huge bureaucracy trying to lurch itself into action is here too. As the first novel of the Sword of Honor trilogy nears its climax, of If you, like me, have been reared on tales of the second World War as the just and virtuous struggle of the "greatest generation", Evelyn Waugh's arch novels (based loosely on his own war experiences) are an important and darkly enjoyable filling out of that two-dimensional view. The stakes here are still high. But the inevitable absurdities and inhumanities of a huge bureaucracy trying to lurch itself into action is here too. As the first novel of the Sword of Honor trilogy nears its climax, officers in the regiment are engaged in a life-and-death struggle for property rights over a portable Victorian chemical toilet while (as Waugh notes several times through the book) "Far away, trains rolled to the east with their innocent cargo."

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sebastian

    After having been somewhat underwhelmed with Waugh's Decline and Fall, I had modest expectations for Men at Arms, but I ended up really enjoying it, and anticipate reading the last two books of the Sword of Honour (no omitting U's, please, we're British) trilogy. Full of dry and absurd humor, and infused with the gravity of World War II, the book follows in serial form the misadventures of our protagonist, Guy Crouchback, as he transitions from dreaming of playing solider to facing the daily mun After having been somewhat underwhelmed with Waugh's Decline and Fall, I had modest expectations for Men at Arms, but I ended up really enjoying it, and anticipate reading the last two books of the Sword of Honour (no omitting U's, please, we're British) trilogy. Full of dry and absurd humor, and infused with the gravity of World War II, the book follows in serial form the misadventures of our protagonist, Guy Crouchback, as he transitions from dreaming of playing solider to facing the daily mundanity and drudgery, interspersed with the occasional thrill, of life in the military. Seems pretty quintessentially British -- imperialism, stiff upper lip, the whole bit. I'm tickled to be reading the same paperback copy that my mom had in college. Hope I can pass down some books like this one day. Entertaining, well written and engaging.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette

    Quite unlike any other book about WWII that I have read. A bit dry at times but also extremely funny. While I didn't care terribly much for the character of Guy Crouchback, I found him a bit of a depressing bore, the book was saved by the antics of Apthorpe. The thunder box incident is probably the most entertaining and memorable thing I have read in a long time.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    The best thing about finishing this book is knowing that, as the first in a trilogy, I can take the next two off my TBR and make room for other books.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    "But whether orders made sense or not de Souza could be trusted to carry them out. Indeed he seemed to find a curious private pleasure in doing something he knew to be absurd, with minute efficiency. The other officer, Jervis, needed constant supervision." Waugh's light, comic touch is always welcome. But here, I can't help but compare this to Anthony Powell's magnificent 12-volume saga (A Dance to the Music of Time) of both wars in which the English are caught up in recuperating from the first "But whether orders made sense or not de Souza could be trusted to carry them out. Indeed he seemed to find a curious private pleasure in doing something he knew to be absurd, with minute efficiency. The other officer, Jervis, needed constant supervision." Waugh's light, comic touch is always welcome. But here, I can't help but compare this to Anthony Powell's magnificent 12-volume saga (A Dance to the Music of Time) of both wars in which the English are caught up in recuperating from the first war and at the same time ramping up for the next one. Still, I'm definitely going to read the next two in this "Sword of Honor" trilogy.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Roger Burk

    Pious, innocuous, nebbishy Guy Crouchback, last scion of an ancient and undistinguished Catholic family of the English landed gentry, decides to join the war effort in 1939 as a second lieutenant, despite his middle age and lack of military experience. It gives some purpose to his life, after his wife abandoned him for a series of subsequent exciting husbands. He has some trouble finding a regiment that will take him, but finally gets into officer training with the Royal Corps of Halberdiers. He Pious, innocuous, nebbishy Guy Crouchback, last scion of an ancient and undistinguished Catholic family of the English landed gentry, decides to join the war effort in 1939 as a second lieutenant, despite his middle age and lack of military experience. It gives some purpose to his life, after his wife abandoned him for a series of subsequent exciting husbands. He has some trouble finding a regiment that will take him, but finally gets into officer training with the Royal Corps of Halberdiers. He earnestly tries to do everything right, while his fellow and foil Apthorpe gets into all kinds of preposterous scraps. It's all inexplicable training, orders and counterorders, hasty movements followed bay days of waiting, as the military situation in faraway France goes from phony war to retreat to disaster. Finally the regiment ships out to see some action, of sorts. Guy distinguishes himself, in a way, and always tells the truth. Appalling, enthralling, and funny. Before there was Heller or Vonnegut, there was Waugh, just as amusing but without the bitterness.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Debbie

    Winner of the 1952 James Tait Black Memorial Prize, Britain’s oldest literary award, Men At Arms is the first part of Waugh’s The Sword of Honour Trilogy , his look at the Second World War. It follows Guy Crouchback, the nearly-forty-year-old son of an English aristocratic family who manages to get accepted to officers training in the early part of 1940, and is eventually posted to Dakar in Senegal West Africa. While there, he inadvertently poisons one of his fellow officers and is sent home in Winner of the 1952 James Tait Black Memorial Prize, Britain’s oldest literary award, Men At Arms is the first part of Waugh’s The Sword of Honour Trilogy , his look at the Second World War. It follows Guy Crouchback, the nearly-forty-year-old son of an English aristocratic family who manages to get accepted to officers training in the early part of 1940, and is eventually posted to Dakar in Senegal West Africa. While there, he inadvertently poisons one of his fellow officers and is sent home in disgrace. That’s about all the plot there is. But the book was interesting for its look at British officers’ instruction in WWII, in contrast with other reading I’ve done which focuses on the training of rank and file soldiers, and for the insight into the chaos that was the British Army in the early part of the war: “The brigade resumed its old duty of standing by for orders.” Waugh’s wickedly dry sense of humour is brilliant. Read this if: you’re a fan of Downton Abbey – different war, but same country and class; or you love the subtle humour of traditional British writers. 3½ stars

  10. 5 out of 5

    Patrick McCoy

    I am very found of Evelyn Waugh's writing and this year I have decided to tackle the Sword of Honor trilogy, and I have just finished the first volume, Men At Arms (1952). It is the story of 35 year old Guy Crouchback's enlistment into the military at the start of World War II. It is said to have been based on Waugh's own experiences as an older man enlisting. It is something of a British "Catch-22" in the satire and absurdities of the military. That being said it is almost more the story of Cro I am very found of Evelyn Waugh's writing and this year I have decided to tackle the Sword of Honor trilogy, and I have just finished the first volume, Men At Arms (1952). It is the story of 35 year old Guy Crouchback's enlistment into the military at the start of World War II. It is said to have been based on Waugh's own experiences as an older man enlisting. It is something of a British "Catch-22" in the satire and absurdities of the military. That being said it is almost more the story of Crouchback's fellow officer Apthorpe, an eccentric fellow. His main story is an episode of high farce, the two have a battle of wits and military discipline over an Edwardian thunder-box (portable toilet) from which Crouchback observes, amused and detached. I'm very much looking forward to the next installment.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Barrow Wilfong

    This is the second book I have read by Waugh. The first was Brideshead Revisited and while it was interesting, it was a bit morose. "That little tick wants his bottom kicked, " said Major Erskine. "I think I shall kick it. Good for him and pleasant for me." That is my favorite line and I like repeating it to myself. That is also a good sample of the wit Waugh exercises on every page of Men at Arms. Consequently I liked Men at Arms much better than Brideshead Revisited. Our hero Guy Crouchback is to This is the second book I have read by Waugh. The first was Brideshead Revisited and while it was interesting, it was a bit morose. "That little tick wants his bottom kicked, " said Major Erskine. "I think I shall kick it. Good for him and pleasant for me." That is my favorite line and I like repeating it to myself. That is also a good sample of the wit Waugh exercises on every page of Men at Arms. Consequently I liked Men at Arms much better than Brideshead Revisited. Our hero Guy Crouchback is too old to enlist for WWII but wants to and finally is accepted into the Halbediers Unit. He is one of two older men, the other being Apthorpe. Both of them go through preliminary training with young men who call them "Uncle". Finally they are sent off to war and we learn how they fair there. Most of the book takes place during their training time and we meet quite a bundle of interesting characters. Waugh is able to make his characters comical without being cartoony, which I appreciate. This book is really funny, even though it deals with a serious subject matter. The story is from Guy's point of view, but with third person narration. One could almost feel sorry for Guy as we see the younger men try to take advantage of him and Apthorpe himself seems to manipulate Guy in ways that Guy can only appreciate later as a less than fortunate thing. But Guy has strains of tenacity and learns to fend for himself, while he circulates with men, some of who are not altogether sane. I won't give away the story, there isn't much of one. This is a character-driven book and the characters are interesting. Not a dull one anywhere and if you enjoy reading about the funny and sometimes zany antics of a bunch of grown men trying to prepare themselves to fight in a war, you will like this book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    E

    This is the first leg of Waugh's semi-autobiographical WWII trilogy. In it our hero (or is he an antihero?) Guy, aged 36, plots and schemes his way into an obscure Army regiment. Most of the book is taken up with training escapades. The novel is not absurdist at the level of Catch-22, but it nevertheless contains quite a few absurd scenarios. You can see why the regiment spends 300 pages planning for war instead of being send to France to fight the actual war! By the end of the novel they do eng This is the first leg of Waugh's semi-autobiographical WWII trilogy. In it our hero (or is he an antihero?) Guy, aged 36, plots and schemes his way into an obscure Army regiment. Most of the book is taken up with training escapades. The novel is not absurdist at the level of Catch-22, but it nevertheless contains quite a few absurd scenarios. You can see why the regiment spends 300 pages planning for war instead of being send to France to fight the actual war! By the end of the novel they do engage in the (real-life) Dakar Expedition, only to fail horrendously. Guy gets another guy drunk and is sent back to England. And thus the novel ends. The book meanders at points, probably because Waugh was trying to include as many idiotic real-life experiences as possible. The "Catholic" moments are priceless (Waugh was, after all, our most poignant 20th-century Catholic novelist), as are the clashes between highly formal Army traditions and the plain fact that this regiment is led by a bunch of officers (including Guy) who have no business being in the army. There is one exceptionally annoying character; I won't say what happens to him, but let's just say we won't see him in the last 2/3s of the trilogy. I look forward to reading the rest.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Issicratea

    I started reading this inspired by a good Channel 4 dramatization of Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy, starring Daniel Craig. I hadn’t read it before, though Waugh’s hilarious manic early novels were formative reading for me. I didn’t get on particularly well with Brideshead Revisited and assumed I only liked Waugh in his most straightwardly comic mode. I was wrong! Men of Arms, which I read in the slightly modified version Waugh prepared in 1965 for the single-volume The Sword of Honour Trilogy, I started reading this inspired by a good Channel 4 dramatization of Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy, starring Daniel Craig. I hadn’t read it before, though Waugh’s hilarious manic early novels were formative reading for me. I didn’t get on particularly well with Brideshead Revisited and assumed I only liked Waugh in his most straightwardly comic mode. I was wrong! Men of Arms, which I read in the slightly modified version Waugh prepared in 1965 for the single-volume The Sword of Honour Trilogy, is an immensely enjoyable read. There’s undoubtedly a certain somberness to the narrative material. The protagonist—emphatically not “hero”—Guy Crouchback, is mildly depressed at the beginning of the novel, which starts with the outbreak of WW2 in 1939. Despite his initial embrace of the war as supplying meaning to his life, and his rather touching, schoolboy-crush feeling of warmth towards the regiment he joins, the fictional Royal Corps of Halbadiers (apparently loosely based on Waugh’s own regiment, the Royal Marines), the relationship is already deteriorating by the end of the novel, with a fair prospect of worse to come. Guy’s military training is presented as a rather surreal chapter of accidents, begotten by bureaucratic inefficiency out of borderline lunacy. Rules are followed, social niceties observed, pink gins consumed, myopic target practice endured, while inconceivable savagery is unleashed in continental Europe, not so far away. At a couple of points, Waugh reminds us of the “trains of locked vans still rolling East and West from Poland and the Baltic, that were to roll on year after year bearing their innocent loads to unknown ghastly destinations” (I assume the moral equivalency of the Nazi death camps and the Soviet gulags was an important statement on Waugh’s part at the moment of publication). Given this generally miserable subject-matter, what I was amazed by was what an enjoyable read it was. Men at Arms has a large component of the antic spirit that is such a delight in Waugh’s earlier novels. Guy’s eccentric training comrade Apthorpe, a master of the surreal non-sequitur, is a magnificent comic character. I am not the greatest fan of toilet humor, but the extended sequence concerning Apthorpe’s battle with a mad-dog brigadier over possession of an Edwardian portable “thunderbox” is a masterpiece of its kind. The brigadier, Ben Ritchie-Hook, with his manic energy and sinister relish for “biffing” (a.k.a war) is also very fine (though Waugh had some help with reality here. The Wikipedia entry for the figure on whom this character is supposed to be based, Lieutenant General Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart, states that he was “shot in the face, head, stomach, ankle, leg, hip and ear, survived a plane crash, tunneled out of a POW camp, and bit off his own fingers when a doctor wouldn't amputate them. He later said ‘frankly I … enjoyed the war.’”) There were so many lines in this novel that made me laugh out loud that it seems invidious to single out one. But I did particularly love this acute Freudian insight, from an army doctor in Africa, where the disturbing final section of the novel is set: Queer bird, the mind. Hides things away and then out they pop. But I musn’t get too technical.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jason Towers

    Straddles the line between comedy and absurd truth. Very readable prose, quite the page-turner in its own way.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Amelie

    A dry, dark look at the early days of World War II. Funny, acerbic and sad - quintessentially Waugh.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Corto

    Cynical and unsentimental. Good Waugh. Looking forward to the next two.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sally Wragg

    Its many years since I’ve read Waugh’s ‘Men at Arms’ but this time, I’ve more enjoyed and appreciated its satirical black humour. The story concerns shy and self-effacing Guy Crouchback, a man who lives his life by a decent and strict moral code and is thus easily betrayed by the system, in this instance, the army he is so desperate to join and for whom he only wishes to do his bit. Throughout the book, he has little control over what happens, for instance, despite frantic efforts on his own beh Its many years since I’ve read Waugh’s ‘Men at Arms’ but this time, I’ve more enjoyed and appreciated its satirical black humour. The story concerns shy and self-effacing Guy Crouchback, a man who lives his life by a decent and strict moral code and is thus easily betrayed by the system, in this instance, the army he is so desperate to join and for whom he only wishes to do his bit. Throughout the book, he has little control over what happens, for instance, despite frantic efforts on his own behalf, he’s only finally accepted into the army, because a Major Tickeridge, a resident of the hotel where Guy’s father is staying and to whom he’s introduced, puts in a good word for him with the Captain-Commandant of his regiment, the Halberdiers. But by gradually revealing Guy as a man possessing a surprising courage, capability and common-sense, all of which are so easily betrayed by the system he’s only trying to help, Waugh highlight’s the futility both of war and of army life. The author famously said he has no ‘technical psychological interest’ in his characters and it’s true they are one dimensional, such as Brigadier Ben Richie-Hook, glaring out of his ‘single, terrible eye’, but they are representative of a type that shows society, or in this case the army, at its worst. I’m looking forward to re-reading ‘Officers and Gentlemen’ and ‘Unconditional Surrender'.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jordan

    Listened to the audiobook. Outstanding. Guy Crouchback has become one of my favorite literary characters, and the themes of religious devotion, military duty, and love of homeland were worked into the story wonderfully well, and with healthy doses of irony and wit. The chaos, muddle, and waste of war, even when not in combat, are expertly depicted. Incidentally, the first thing by Waugh that I've ever read. Looking forward to the other two books in the trilogy.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jake

    Demands the same sense of humor that finds Wodehouse and Flashman hilarious. If you're looking for a "normal" war novel rather than an acid send-up, stop here!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    This novel is the first in the Sword of Honour trilogy, followed by Officers and Gentlemen and Unconditional Surrender. When we meet Guy Crouchback he is living in Italy and is returning to England for the first time in eight years with plans to "serve his King", as war has just been declared. Guy comes from an old, Catholic family, now sadly in decline. His father has given up Broome, the family home, and is living (quite cheerfully) in a hotel. As Guy is divorced, and unable to re-marry as a C This novel is the first in the Sword of Honour trilogy, followed by Officers and Gentlemen and Unconditional Surrender. When we meet Guy Crouchback he is living in Italy and is returning to England for the first time in eight years with plans to "serve his King", as war has just been declared. Guy comes from an old, Catholic family, now sadly in decline. His father has given up Broome, the family home, and is living (quite cheerfully) in a hotel. As Guy is divorced, and unable to re-marry as a Catholic, and his two brothers are both dead, the only member of his family that has children is his sister. We gradually learn these facts as Guy returns to England and meets up with the various members of his family. It is fair to say that Guy has great plans when he first arrives back in England, but with typical English cynicism, is quickly disabused of his necessity. He is informed he is too old and men who have managed to obtain a uniform are quick to put him down. By pure luck, he manages to be invited to join the old corps of a Major Tickeridge, who is friendly with his father and who has billeted his wife and daughter in the same hotel for the duration of the war. The book then follows Guy's career in the Halberdiers, a corps with pride, history and prestige and populated with characters that only Evelyn Waugh could invent. Two in particular that will long stay with you is Brigadier Ritchie-Hook, who enjoys 'biffing' the enemy and the glorious Apthorpe, whose 'thunder box' will perplex an Italian spy. During this book Guy Crouchback learns that glory is hard to find, as his corps is moved to locations as diverse as Scotland and Southsand-on-Sea. They board ships, only to disembark again and sleep on trains all night only to find they have not left the station in the morning. There is a real sense of the early months of war, when England is unsettled but stoic and only one officer realises that Churchill is the man that can stop them losing a war none of them had contemplated could not be won. The book ends with a rather abortive attempt to land in Africa before Guy is sent back to England to continue his adventures. He is an elusive man, "respected but not loved", who has an inglorious meeting with his ex-wife Virginia which leaves him slinking back to camp, but who always tries his best and that you will certainly warm to as you get to know him. His Catholicism is central to his character and this is often an important theme in Waugh's books, which I am delighted to see are now on kindle. If you have not discovered Waugh before, I envy you - he is a master of his art.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Val

    Men at Arms is satirical. We follow an idealistic Guy as he leaves his Italian castle, visits a crusader saint and sets off to England to fight for his country, Christian values (as he sees them) and his honour. At first his country does not seem to want him, but eventually he becomes a trainee officer in an old and very traditional regiment. He does not have an exciting war, the Nazis overrun northern Europe before he gets to France and there is a lot of apparently pointless moving about and ch Men at Arms is satirical. We follow an idealistic Guy as he leaves his Italian castle, visits a crusader saint and sets off to England to fight for his country, Christian values (as he sees them) and his honour. At first his country does not seem to want him, but eventually he becomes a trainee officer in an old and very traditional regiment. He does not have an exciting war, the Nazis overrun northern Europe before he gets to France and there is a lot of apparently pointless moving about and changes of orders. Guy and a few soldiers from the regiment take part in an unauthorised minor scuffle near Dakar, but most of the time he is waiting around in various places for something to happen. There are lots of wonderful comic characters and incidents, so although Guy is bored or confused much of the time, the reader is not.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Huw Evans

    I came upon the phrase "Bildungsroman" in a piece of Litcrit the other day. It is used to describe the novel as psychological development of the principle character. Guy Crouchback needs development and aspires to greatness by becoming a war hero. In three novels he is dissected and reconstructed, not necessarily as a better man but as a better human being. As with all Waugh it is the precision of the writing that I adore and the Trilogy is, I think, his greatest achievment better even than Brid I came upon the phrase "Bildungsroman" in a piece of Litcrit the other day. It is used to describe the novel as psychological development of the principle character. Guy Crouchback needs development and aspires to greatness by becoming a war hero. In three novels he is dissected and reconstructed, not necessarily as a better man but as a better human being. As with all Waugh it is the precision of the writing that I adore and the Trilogy is, I think, his greatest achievment better even than Brideshead.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lawrence

    It's Catch-22: the Catholic version. Basically, the major theme is the futility of modern bureaucracy but I think it's a critique of stringent traditions as well or maybe that traditions and modernity are incompatible. Interesting insights about manning up and how we are emasculated by society and women. I'm not sure if Apthorpe is supposed to be a hero or an example of what's wrong with tradition. The language barrier is quite immense. I had problems getting into it at the beginning but it became It's Catch-22: the Catholic version. Basically, the major theme is the futility of modern bureaucracy but I think it's a critique of stringent traditions as well or maybe that traditions and modernity are incompatible. Interesting insights about manning up and how we are emasculated by society and women. I'm not sure if Apthorpe is supposed to be a hero or an example of what's wrong with tradition. The language barrier is quite immense. I had problems getting into it at the beginning but it became quite a quick read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    D

    Amazing how people actually tried to get involved in the purposeless slaughter that, unlike WWII, was the great war. The description of the goings on at the (probably fictional) Halberdier regiment are extremely funny.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tony

    Maybe you have to be British to get it. And 70.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Realini

    Sword of Honour by Evelyn Waugh, adapted for The BBC 9 out of 10 Notes and thoughts on other books are available at: - https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list... and http://realini.blogspot.ro/ Evelyn Waugh is one of my favorite authors and the author has masterpieces included on the lists of the best books: - A Handful of Dust, Scoop, Brideshead Revisited These three are on The Modern Library list of 100 Best Novels, which includes the best works written in the last century: - http://www.modernlibrary. Sword of Honour by Evelyn Waugh, adapted for The BBC 9 out of 10 Notes and thoughts on other books are available at: - https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list... and http://realini.blogspot.ro/ Evelyn Waugh is one of my favorite authors and the author has masterpieces included on the lists of the best books: - A Handful of Dust, Scoop, Brideshead Revisited These three are on The Modern Library list of 100 Best Novels, which includes the best works written in the last century: - http://www.modernlibrary.com/top-100/... Guy Crouchback is the hero of the narrative and we follow him as he joins the effort in World War II in various locations. He first joins the Royal Halberdiers, a name that sounds funny and to some extent, it is a rather unmilitary regiment. One of the men in the regiment is Apthorpe and he is involved in a laughable incident, as he insists on having his own “thunder- box” a portable toilet that he thinks will keep him away from disease, only to see it appropriated by a superior officer. Guy Crouchback is not living with his wife, Virginia, but one night, he tries to have sex with her and she is upset with him. On mission in Africa, during the Dakar Expedition, the British have to retreat from the shore with a surprising guest on board, a general that they had not known would join them. Apthorpe dies in Freetown and Guy had been trying to make his suffering less severe by giving the patient a bottle of…whiskey. This was not just against regulations, but it may have caused the deterioration of the man’s condition and Guy was sent home. Back in Britain, the authorities did not know what to do with the protagonist, but he eventually has a place in a…commando. Guy Crouchback is involved in the evacuation of Crete, which entails chaos, and an operation with casualties. After they make it to Egypt, in a small boat and helped by a Corporal of Horse named Ludovic, the hero is helped by a Mrs. Stitch. Back in England, Guy Crouchback has to try again to find a suitable place for himself, and the war seems to be boring for him. Meanwhile, Virginia is suffering hardship on account of the war and has to deprive herself of some benefits. And she becomes pregnant, tries to get some help from a doctor and the scene was funny to some extent and sad. When the man tells her she is pregnant, Virginia is really unhappy and seems somewhat surprised, prompting the doctor to say something about sexual intercourse with the husband when the woman says it is a terrible situation… I have not seen my husband in four years is the reply and then she wants to have something done to end the pregnancy. The doctor is not only unwilling, but very upset to be asked, although after being asked to understand gives the address of someone who can do it. At the address the illegal operation was closed and Virginia is looking for alternative solution to the problem. Guy Crouchback’s father has died and left a considerable fortune, with important sums given to institutions and individuals in distress. This is where it is not clear if Virginia decides to re-marry her former husband because of changed feelings of for his wealth. Guy Crouchback, after Italy, Africa, Crete and Egypt arrives in what used to be Yugoslavia, where he meets some partisans. I am not sure if they could be called “complex characters” because they had fought the Nazis with fervor. It is more likely that the suitable manner would be to just call them villains, given the way they treated men and women in distress. Guy Crouchback tries to help a group of Jewish people but finds it nearly impossible, given the opposition of the partisans and their leader.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jon

    The first novel Waugh's trilogy Sword of Honor, this one essentially provides an account of Guy Crouchback's training in the military at the start of World War II. In many ways, the timeline matches that in Waugh's own life. Too young to fight in World War I and too old to fight in World War II, Waugh/Crouchback joined a untraditional group of soldiers for officer training. Crouchback is divorced without kids. He suffers from a kind of feeling of worthlessness of life. The military, fighting for The first novel Waugh's trilogy Sword of Honor, this one essentially provides an account of Guy Crouchback's training in the military at the start of World War II. In many ways, the timeline matches that in Waugh's own life. Too young to fight in World War I and too old to fight in World War II, Waugh/Crouchback joined a untraditional group of soldiers for officer training. Crouchback is divorced without kids. He suffers from a kind of feeling of worthlessness of life. The military, fighting for a cause, will give him something to live for. Alas, it doesn't want him. It is only after a relative tells him of this special brigade that he is able to get in. What follows are a series of humorous little stories about training. Particularly funny scenes involve one in which Crouchback is about to get back with his former wife but keeps getting interrupted by phone calls from his best army buddy. Another involves the friend's thunder box, which the brigadier takes a liking to and which Crouchback and his friend constantly try to hide. Overall, one gets the sense that the military is a rather funny place. This is the Bill Bailey type military, one that succeeds, when it does, despite incompetence. There didn't seem to be much in the way of angst here, except a tiny bit toward the very end--and that mostly personal rather the military/war related. As such, the book didn't seem as tied in to most of the other post-1900 war literature I've read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Andy Dollahite

    Hit and miss. Rinse and repeat. I genuinely struggled to connect with the main character Guy Crouchback most of the novel. Perhaps it’s because the conflicts/trials he faces often connect to peculiarly Roman Catholic doctrines. The scenes with Virginia were alien to me. Waugh’s satirical portrayal of military training and life doesn’t seem too far fetched, although it begs the question how the Brits withstood the Germans so well. The thunderbox escapes were marvelously constructed, enabling some Hit and miss. Rinse and repeat. I genuinely struggled to connect with the main character Guy Crouchback most of the novel. Perhaps it’s because the conflicts/trials he faces often connect to peculiarly Roman Catholic doctrines. The scenes with Virginia were alien to me. Waugh’s satirical portrayal of military training and life doesn’t seem too far fetched, although it begs the question how the Brits withstood the Germans so well. The thunderbox escapes were marvelously constructed, enabling some level of connection to Apthorpe, and thus fueling the drama of the concluding chapters. There is enough potential there for me to read part two of the trilogy. Overall, I found this far inferior to Ferol Sam’s *When All the World Was Young* which admittedly is constructed for more serious effect.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Andy Bird

    Ok. This is not a great book, but it's not a poor book either. The problem is that just when you think it might burst into something good, it drops back down into mediocrity. I was expecting a lot, being a big fan of Brideshead, and the writing is good, after all it is Waugh. The characters are not bad either. The problem is with the story, it is just all over the place, it constantly changes direction. I did like it in parts, there are some quite humorous characters and situations. It is also a Ok. This is not a great book, but it's not a poor book either. The problem is that just when you think it might burst into something good, it drops back down into mediocrity. I was expecting a lot, being a big fan of Brideshead, and the writing is good, after all it is Waugh. The characters are not bad either. The problem is with the story, it is just all over the place, it constantly changes direction. I did like it in parts, there are some quite humorous characters and situations. It is also an interesting look at class and the army officers and organisation during the Second World War. Overall this is not a book I would recommend.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Merritt K.

    So Waugh was kind of an asshole and into some pretty lousy ideas. And the protagonist here, Guy Crouchback, is an author insert in that he's an English gentleman with very romantic ideas of honour and sacrifice. In that sense, there's sort of a tragic quality to Crouchback's (and thus Waugh's) felt inability to adjust to rapidly-changing English society, but you don't have to sympathize with the author's traditionalist politics to enjoy the book because it's just very, very funny.

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