The book I have read is ‘The Loved One’ and Evelyn Waugh wrote it in 1948.
The story takes place in California, The United States in the 20th century. I believe somewhere between WW1 en WW2.
The main characters come from England and belong to the upper-class. Dennis Barlow however, is not rich. The other characters in the book are American mortician/ embalmers.
The background is very important for the story because the author lets us have a look behind the scenes of the exaggerated funeral rituals and business in the U.S.A.. He uses satire and sardonic humour to give us his views.
The Loved One is a satirical novel and the story is realistic in my opinion because it could have happened for real. On the other hand, the satire the author uses makes the things that happen in the story a bit unbelievable. For example when Dennis Barlow is at the pet cemetery and takes his meal from the refrigerator where a dead parrot, ready to be cremated lies next to it. You can only hope this is not real.
There are 5 important characters: Ambrose Abercrombie, Dennis Barlow, Sir Francis Hinsley, Mr. Joyboy and Aimée Thanatogenos.
The main character is Dennis Barlow. He is an unsuccessful poet, has fled from the film studios and is now employed at ‘The Happier Hunting Ground’, a very expensive and exclusive cemetery for pets.
Aimée Thanatogenos works at Whispering Glades, a cemetery with absurd, pretentious burial rites, as cosmetician. She is a very naïve girl and has a lot of respect for the senior mortician Mr. Joyboy. She thinks she is in love with him.
An other important character is Sir Francis Hinsley (Frank) once a famous scriptwriter, later one of the dozen Vice-President of the Cricket Club. He hangs himself one day when he discovers that during his absence his job has been given to someone else.
If it were possible I would like to get to know Dennis Barlow because he says he doesn’t want to be like Sir Ambrose Abercrombie and the others of the Cricketclub, but in his actions he doesn’t show it.
I would prefer not to meet Sir Ambrose Abercrombie because he is very British and thinks that he is therefore better than the Americans and the Americans must have respect for him. He thinks he is very important and indispensable.
Summary: Dennis Barlow lives with Sir Francis Hinsley (Frank) in California near Hollywood. Frank works for Megalopolitan Pictures. When he discovers that his
job has been given to someone else he decides to hang himself because he cannot live with the idea of being discarded. Dennis finds him and goes to Whispering Glades to arrange Frank’s funeral. There he meets Aimée, a cosmetician and falls in love with her. She doesn’t always appreciate Dennis’ British sense of humour and irony and is not sure about the sincerity of his love for her.
Aimée feels that she is now torn between two ‘lovers’ because she feels physical love for Dennis and respect for Mr. Joyboy. Aimée writes to Guru Brahmin, who has an ‘agony aunt’ column in a newspaper, and gets the advice to marry Mr. Joyboy. She goes home with him to meet his mother but is very disappointed because Mrs. Joyboy is very unkind and is very possessive of her son. She is very shocked to find that Mr. Joyboy is not very mature and his mother keeps him under her thumb.
Dennis keeps from Aimée that he works at ‘The Happier Hunting Ground’, a cemetery for pets, because he knows she hates this place. Later Aimée finds out that Dennis does work there and that poems which he said he had written especially for her, were copies of poems written by famous authors. She cannot make a choice between Dennis and Mr. Joyboy because she still likes them both. Unable to find a ‘normal’ solution she decides to commit suicide in the office of Mr. Joyboy. The next day, Mr. Joyboy finds her and calls Dennis. They decide to cremate her at ‘The Happier Hunting Ground’ without saying anything to others.
Later, Dennis unfolds a plan how to explain Aimée’s disappearance and lets Joyboy get off the hook. They will say that Aimée has gone to England together with Dennis. But Dennis blackmails Mr. Joyboy and lets him pay a lot of money for his luxurious voyage back to England.
There is an open ending.
The title of the book is well chosen because all the dead people are called ‘Loved Ones’. It is satirical that the Loved Ones Sir Francis Hinsley and Aimée Thanatogenos were not really loved by anyone. (That is why they committed suicide).
I enjoyed reading the story but in the beginning it was very difficult, because there were a lot of names and places and I didn’t know what was happening. Later it was better and I could follow the story well. I
have never read a book like this. It is a nice story but the beginning is very difficult and dull. I didn’t know anything about the American funeral rituals for (very) rich people and pets.
A diary of Aimée Thunatogenos.
This afternoon, I will go to Mr. Joyboy to meet his mother. I respect him very much and I will try to look good. I think his mother must be kind because he is too. We will to celebrate that I have a new job as a real embalmer. Mr. Joyboy invites me to have dinner with him. Dennis thinks I will marry him but I’m not sure because I love Mr. Joyboy but Dennis also. But Mr. Joyboy has asked me for dinner with his mum and Dennis has not.
I’m now sure, I don’t like Dennis anymore. He says that he will marry me now because I will have more money with my new job so I can take care of him.
How terrible!! I have just come back from Mr. Joyboy and he isn’t the same as he is at work! His mother is also terrible, when we came into the house, we had to be quiet because she wanted to watch the political commentaries. After that she said the food was in the kitchen and what sort of food! Tinned noodle soup, a bowl of salad with tinned crab compounded in it!!! After dinner he would not bring me home. I had to go home alone! At the gate, he said that his mum loves me, that is impossible!!
I’ve written a letter to Guru and he has answered, he says I don’t have a problems. But I cannot make a choice between these two men, I think there is only one solution.......
Optional assignment 2:
An interview with Mr. Joyboy by a journalist of the 'SUN'.
SUN: 'Hello, good evening Mr. Joyboy, how are you?'
JB: 'Hello, I'm fine.'
SUN: 'That's nice, let's start with the interview. This is my first question:
Why are you a mortician? It's quite a strange job!'
JB: 'Yes, it is, but it fascinates me to make up dead people and I'm a professional mortician, it is my job!'
SUN: 'Yes it is your job, I think I don't like it to make up dead people.'
JB: 'That is your opinion.'
SUN: 'You fell in love with Aimee, she loved you, why have you done so strange
to her, like you don't love her?'
JB: 'I didn't love her, she was just a nice girl. Have I done strange to her? Isn't it normal that you show a girl to your mother if you want to eat with that girl? My mother did very normal to her when she came with me that day. She said that the food was in the kitchen and that we had to be quiet because she watched the political commentaries on TV.'
SUN: 'Yes, that is true but I heard that you ate tinned noodle soup and a bowl of salad with tinned crab compounded in it. That is not really a romantic dinner, is it?'
JB: 'What is wrong with a normal dinner, it was delicious and Aimee also liked it. After dinner she wanted to go home so I brought her to the gate. There, I said that mum loved her, Aimee looked surprised and could not believe it, but it was true!'
SUN: 'Yes, she could not believe it, I read it in her diary.
What kind of man was Dennis? Did you know him good?'
JB: 'Eehh...... Dennis is a strange man who destroyed my life with his actions. He is an ordinary man with a strange behaviour. I can not believe that Aimee ever loved him. 'His' poems which he said he had written especially for her were copies of poems written by famous authors. And that is just one bad thing.'
SUN: 'So, you didn't like him. I read in her diary that there is only one solution..., that is the end of her diary. Do you know what she meant with that 'only one solution'?'
JB: 'No, I don't know what she meant with that. I just know that she went to England with Dennis and that she doesn't want to have any contact with me.'
SUN: 'Eehh... Do you know what I think? I think that it is not true that she went to England. According to reliable source, Dennis went back to England alone with your money in a luxurious train. Now I want to know what happened to Aimee!!!'
JB: 'Eehh........ I don't know! Please call Dennis, I don't know anything about it. It was Dennis' plan.
SUN: 'What was Dennis' plan? You know where Aimee is. How can you live free from care and without a feeling of guilt?? This is terrible that you can live with such a big secret. Please tell me what happened between you, Aimee and Dennis.'
JB: 'No, no.... I will not tell it to you, it is a secret.'
SUN :'I want to know it or I tell it to your mum!!!!!'
JB: 'Oh no, don't tell it to my mum. I will tell it. Aimee could not make a choice between me and Dennis. She had a lot of trouble with it. So she decided to committed suicide in my room to take me and Dennis out. Dennis made a plan that it looked like that Aimee chose for him and that they fled to England to marry there. We decided to cremate her at 'The Happier Hunting Ground' without saying anything to others. Later, he blackmailed me and let me pay a lot of money for his luxurious voyage back to England. That is everything I know about it.'
SUN :'Whoh........ That is unbelievable........ Ehhhh.... Thank you very much for this interview, it will be a sensational article. Good bye and thank you very much!!'
JB: 'Yes, bye.
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