The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh

This book was first published in 1948 and my copy is an ancient Penguin which originally belonged to Grandad. Interestingly, the book was dedicated to Nancy Mitford – well I find it interesting.

With a lot of novelists you more or less know what to expect when you pick up their books to read but for me anyway I find Evelyn Waugh’s books to be so different from each other. Yes, there is usually humour but the subject matters tend to be quite diverse so I never know what to expect, which is probably a good thing I suppose.

The Loved One is set in Hollywood and Dennis Barlow a young English poet has not had his contract at Megalopolitan Studios renewed and now he is working in The Happier Hunting Ground, a funeral parlour for pets. The other British people involved in the movie industry offer him money to go back to England but to their disappointment he declines it. The ex-pats don’t want to be tainted with his failure.

On his way to work Dennis passes Whispering Glades a funeral home for humans and when his friend dies Dennis arranges the funeral there which gives him the chance to see how death is dealt with American-style.

Dennis is shown around by the aptly named Aimee Thanatogenos who had been a beautician but discovered that she preferred working with the dead, well I don’t suppose they could complain! A relationship develops.

Anyway, this was a very short novella, just 126 pages, and I can’t say that it was one of my favourites. The humour is quite dark as you would expect from the subject of death. This was another one from my 2011 Reading List. I can’t make up my mind which one to read next, and I’m aware that I’ve been avoiding Smollett and Walter Scott but I suppose I’ll have to bite the bullet sometime.

Damn it! I’ve just discovered that I should have been reading A Handful of Dust – The Loved One isn’t on my 2011 reading list, it was just on the wrong shelf. Such is life!

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