The Novel that Made Me Catholic (Introducing the Carrots Classic Book Club)

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It sounds strange, but Evelyn Waugh’s 20th century British novel, Brideshead Revisited influenced my decision to become Catholic perhaps more than anything else. I read the Church Fathers and studied Catholic theology and my intellectual obstacles to becoming Catholic were slowly crumbling. But at my core, I need story. My brain works narratively. I slog through non-fiction, but I can devour fiction. Brideshead was the narrative that drew me to the Church.

Brideshead Revisited is a convert’s story and my favorite novel of all time. Charles. Sebastian. Julia. Cordelia. I know them.

Brideshead is widely considered to be the finest Catholic novel of the 20th century. It’s beautiful and moving and absolutely hilarious. But over the weekend when I sat down to write a post about exactly why the book affected me so deeply, I realized I couldn’t explain in just one post. And I didn’t want to spoil the plot for anyone who hasn’t read it, yet. I was expressing my dilemma to some bloggin’ friends and they said, “I’ve always wanted to read that! Do a book club!


The Carrots Classic Book Club.jpg

Starting with Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. We’ll read some classic fiction and discuss as we read and we’ll meet as an event through the Carrots FB page every couple of weeks. Then maybe a live wrap-up chat through Google Hangouts or something similar when we finish the whole book?

Here’s what you need to know:

We’ll start our discussion Tuesday May 27th in the book club event on the Carrots FB page.

Get thee to your local library for a copy of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited OR order your copy from Amazon (affiliate link. Thank you, kindly!)

Start reading! We’ll cover the Prologue and the first section, Et in Arcadia Ego, at the first meeting (and if you want to jump in with question or comments on the event page before May 27th, go for it! We can get the conversation started!


A note of caution:

If you’re the sort of person who likes to watch film adaptions after finishing a novel (*raises hand*) please PLEASE don’t watch the recent film starring Emma Thompson. The cast looks amazing, so you’d THINK it would be good, but it’s the worst thing ever and completely ruins everything the book is about. So sad. But, the 11-hour long miniseries starring Jeremy Irons is really, really good and true to the book.

So who’s with me?!

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  1. narniaelf says

    I think I should read this book. I saw the film adaptation with Emma Thompson when I was younger, and thought the story actually made Catholicism look bad. I don’t know if it’s the adaptation or I was to young to understand. However, so many devout Catholics recommend this book, so I think I should give it another chance!

  2. Ali @ says

    Yes! I’ve been wanting to read this book for a few months now and even went and bought it but have yet to pick it up. I’m excited to have someone to share it with! Thanks for hosting 🙂

  3. says

    Count me in! At the beginning of this year I totally put a book list in place and decided not to read anything else before those books…except I’ve already broken that “rule” for 3 books! I just can’t resist a good book club, especially when it’s fiction! 🙂 Thanks for the inspiration/push to read a book I’ve heard SO much about!

  4. Julia M says

    Oooh, yay! I’ve read Brideshead twice but not since my husband and I started RCIA. This sounds fantastic.

  5. says

    I haven’t read it yet, but I did interpret for a class that was reviewing it. The discussions were captivating and I always kept it in my I-need-to-read-this list. I’m excited and in!

    Also, I race through fiction too. But, am so grateful when I can read through any good spiritual read. If only I could remind myself that every time I pick up my next fiction!

  6. says

    Oh this may be perfect timing! I finished Jennifer Fulwiler’s book this morning and have been thinking all day what I should read next..

  7. Kristin says

    I so want to do this! Torn because I am a few chapters into “Cancer Ward” by Solzhenitsyn, which is very long… may have to wait for the next book! (Read Brideshead years and years ago…. need to reread it…)

  8. says

    Yes yes yes yes yes, the miniseries with Jeremy Irons! Yes! So good! I have tried reading it before, but to be honest, I was not able to completely finish it. So I am excited to be joining in. I hope I can keep up with the deadlines despite an upcoming family trip. So excited Haley.

    • Haley says

      Yay! I think I’m going to treat myself to the miniseries after I finish my re-read. It’s the best!

  9. Ruth Arensdorf says

    I’m in!! I have had such a hard time getting back into reading since having my baby girl. Very excited about this!!

  10. Lauren says

    I am a long-time reader but I think this is my first time commenting. Brideshead Revisited is one of my favorite novels and I agree with you that the Jeremy Irons BBC mini series is wonderful. I was first introduced to this book in college and subsequently have reread it twice. There is so much wisdom in this novel and it affected me deeply as well. I will dig up my class notes for the discussion. Thank you for hosting. I am really looking forward to this.

    – Lauren

  11. says

    I’m in! I’ve actually never read it, and my real-life book club is meeting this coming Sunday so I’ll be all freed up for a new read. Thanks for the inspiration!

  12. Yaika says

    LOVE this idea! I’ve wanted to read this book for forever but haven’t gotten the chance. Maybe this is a sign? It all depends on the insanity of having reading time, but we shall see! Also, I’ve also always been more of a narrative, fiction girl over non-fiction.

  13. says

    If I weren’t dealing with a massive end-of-the-semester grading pile that rivals Everest, I’d join you for a re-read. I’ve loved that book since we read it in my junior year English class (it was a Catholic school).

    Still one of my favorite quotations from the book (don’t worry, nothing spoilerish!):

    “Just the place to bury a crock of gold,” said Sebastian. “I should like to bury something precious in every place where I’ve been happy and then, when I was old and ugly and miserable, I could come back and dig it up and remember.”

    I’m a lot less cynical about growing older than Sebastian is, but that line gets me every time.

    • Haley says

      I’ve been looking through my favorite passages. And….it’s just so good. Watch the miniseries with Jeremy Irons! It’s the next best thing to the book. I love Sebastian.

  14. Anne says

    Yay!! Have been wanting to read it and am so excited! I am aching for a book club. Just finished Persuasion so I can join there too 🙂 In the middle of a tough pregnancy and so excited to get back these little parts of myself that have been in survival mode for so long…

    • Haley says

      Oh survival mode….it does feel good to enjoy some “normal you” things! I finished Persuasion, too. I had forgotten how good it is!

  15. says

    I am a new reader of your blog, and you and I (from what I can see) have just about all the same tastes in literature. I will join you for a reread. My husband regularly quotes it to me, but I have not read it since college.

    • Haley says

      Thanks for introducing yourself, Susanna! I’m so glad you’ll be joining in. It’s definitely a fun book to quote!

  16. Sarah says

    My favorite favorite book and I just brought it on vacation to read again! I would love to join in on the book club but recently deactivated my FB account. I’ll read along anyway :). Love your blog!

  17. says

    I’ve been wanting to read it for years. It’s my husband’s favorite book and it’s really a crime that I have no idea what he’s talking about when he references it. I’d love to join your virtual book club!

  18. Laura says

    I was assigned this book for a humanities class in college and didn’t read it. Honestly, I had seen parts of the Emma Thompson version and felt uncomfortable enough with it that I didn’t feel comfortable with reading the book. Nevertheless, I kept the (beautiful) copy I bought for class and am happy to take another crack at it! I look forward to the discussion.

    • Haley says

      So glad you’re gonna give it another go, Laura! The Emma Thompson film completely ruined EVERYTHING.

  19. says

    I saw the movie with Emma Thompson before reading the book and thought it`s one of the worst movies ever. I didn`t get why would anyone want to be Catholic when that`s what it`s like. Even though Emma Thompson is one of my favorite actresses. Later I read the book and found it better and in parts even funny but I still much much prefer Elizabeth Gaskell`s version of what it means to be Catholic in Wives and Daughters. Of which I have so far seen only the miniseries but plan on reading soon. The tiny part that one Catholic character has in it gave a lot more to aspire to, for me.
    I will watch the Brideshead miniseries, too, to see if I get it there.
    Thanks for starting the book club! 🙂 I love discussing books:)

  20. says

    So happy to do this. I loved the story in Brideshead, but never really understood why it’s called the finest catholic novel of the 20th century! I actually read it for the first time while honeymooning in Oxford (!) and Italy. So the story will probably bring back lots of fond memories.

    Does Miner read your blog? Get thee back to Waco. xoxo

    • Haley says

      Um….reading it in Oxford and Italy?! That sounds AMAZING.

      I’m not sure if Miner reads my blog. We’re FB friends so maybe? And I’m working on it, friend! 😉 Miss you!

  21. Trista says

    Brideshead Revisted is my favorite book as well! Inspired by your 2014 reading list post, I re-read it in February. This book club gives me an excuse to read it for a fifth time (twice in six months). I first read this before my conversion, as God was softening my heart to the Catholic Church. While it didn’t have the same effect on my soul as it did on you (Les Miserables was the story that got me… especially the Bishop), I did fall in love with the story. Each time I re-read it, I’m struck by something different, but always enjoy Waugh’s wit, prose, and story-telling. I’ve only ever read it for pleasure, so this will be a great opportunity to read it a bit analytically. Thanks for the great idea Haley.

    • Haley says

      I love the Bishop! I’m about 350 pages into Les Mis. It’s really good but it’s hard to get through in 5 page segments, haha. I rarely have a big chunk of time to make some decent progress but I’m trying desperately to have it finished by Christmas!

  22. Clare says

    I’m in! I’m excited I have actually never read this before and I’m Catholic and I have an English degree so you would think I might have stumbled on it:)

  23. says

    I read this years ago, but I wasn’t as impressed with the book as I think I’m “supposed” to be….so maybe I’ll give it another shot. Also in college, I watched the mini-series in several installments with friends. I did NOT realize it was 11 hours long. Wow!

  24. says

    You’ve convinced me! This book has always been on my “someday” list but I’m going to bump it up to my “next time I’m at the library” list:) I’m not on Facebook, or else I would totally join in the discussion. Looking forward to reading!

  25. Nicole says

    Hi Haley, I’ve been following your blog for a little while and I actually just read Brideshead for the first time not too long ago. To be honest, it left me feeling a little conflicted, so I’m interested to know what insights you and others can bring to a discussion about the book. I’m about to have a baby, though, in a few weeks, so I may just pop in to the book club now and then to see what people are chatting about!

  26. says

    Ok so I read this book with a book club a couple of years ago and did not love it. I WANT to love it though, so I’m totally in and I’m ready to have my mind changed! Great idea! I love book clubs, and don’t have one locally so this should be fabulous.

  27. says

    I haven’t read Brideshead since college, and at that time, it did not finish on my list of chart toppers. But, I’m wondering how my perception/interpretation of the novel could possibly have changed 20 years later. I’m looking forward to reading it again!

  28. Kristi says

    This is so awesome and so oddly (wonderfully) timed! I found an old copy of Brideshead Revisited — from the 1940s! — at an estate sale recently and bought it for like a buck! I had been meaning to start reading it, and now I have extra incentive. My burning question: Is there any way to partake in the ongoing discussion w/o being on Facebook? 🙂 Thanks for posting about and organizing this effort — such a good idea!

    • Haley says

      Kristi, we’ll probably have a big wrap-up at the end through a live video chat and maybe some posts about what we’re discussing that anybody can add their thoughts in the comments. But, unfortunately for my non-Facebooking friend, most of the conversation will happen in the FB group. It’s just so easy to discuss over there!

  29. says

    Huzzah! What a great idea. Brideshead is my favorite book ever and am about due for my annual re-read. I notice something new every time, and I’m curious to see what other people’s reactions are.

    Good call with the warning about the disappointing recent movie adaptation. Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrew forever!

  30. Natasa says

    Long time reader and a first time poster here! I’m in. Started reading it today. I am reading it for the 2nd time, after 5 years. Looking forward to discovering it anew and discussing it with other Catholics. I could really identify with his portrayal of Catholicism: the drama and the hilarity. I laughed out loud at some passages 🙂

  31. says

    Completely late on this, but I’m fascinated…and unsure. I had to read The Loved One in AP English way back when, and it was one of the few books from that year that I HATED, even knowing it was satire. Is Brideshead very similar?

  32. says

    I’m coming to this late, but the book’s been on my shelf, unread for far too long. Looking forward to at least reading along with discussion once I get to it! This is a good kick to get myself moving. Thanks, Haley!

  33. Tzipporah says

    I’m way late to this, but I just discovered your blog through a google search on Fanny Price (I love her, too) I am also a fan of Brideshead, but it rather confirmed my connection to Judaism. I struggled a lot with being raised agnostic and finding my way to religion as an adult, but the beautiful art and literature inspired by faith has been an inspiration.

    Anyway, you have obtained item: 1 new reader.

    • Haley says

      Hi Tzipporah! Thanks so much for dropping by! A reader who loves Fanny Price and Brideshead is a reader worth having 😉

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