by Evelyn Waugh
The effect of reading Waugh to a hardened Wodehouse-phile such as I is very disconcerting. The style has many similarities, and the milieu of feckless upper class young folk between the wars adds to the sense of familiarity. This just means that certain things end up feeling plain wrong. For instance, people have sex in Waugh books, something not even really hinted at by Wodehouse. Though we all know what went on with Jeeves and Wooster behind closed doors.
Also, while Wodehouse took in the world with a good hearted gaze, there is a distinct misanthropy, and certainly racism, underlying Waugh. While I certainly wouldn’t condemn a book this old for it’s attitude, it can impact on enjoyment.
If I were able to take Black Mischief on it’s own, then I would probably think it a fine book. It is certainly funny, and an engaging read. It also has the added benefit of informing you about the mood of the times, and making the period come alive. However, the darkness, especially in the ending, just seems so wrong that this book actually disturbed me. It was like finding the mutilated corpse of Richard Briers.