The Loved One
Illustrated by Beryl Cook
Introduced by Christopher Sykes
Evelyn Waugh's mordant satire on the funeral industry is illustrated with paintings by the great Beryl Cook OBE.
‘One of the funniest and most significant books of the century’
In 1947, Evelyn Waugh visited Hollywood to discuss a proposed film adaptation of Brideshead Revisited. The adaptation never came to be – Waugh considered the work’s eschatological undertones to be lost on the Americans – but instead he found something unexpected, a ‘mine of literary gold’ in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles. The Loved One follows the fortunes of Dennis Barlow, a young Englishman in Hollywood. Tasked with organising a friend’s funeral, Barlow visits Whispering Glades Memorial Park, where he falls hopelessly in love with Aimée Thanatogenos, a beautiful but brainless make-up artist to the dead. Surrounded by a signature cast of rogues, drunks and irredeemable snobs – both living and dead – Barlow must compete for Aimée’s rather fickle affections. And under Waugh’s withering gaze, the ever-widening gap in Anglo-American cultural relations has never appeared so irreparable. Grim, grotesque and hilarious, the novel shows us a world in which death is a package holiday and each ‘Loved One’ – or corpse – wears the same beatific smile.
This reissue features eight original paintings by Beryl Cook, including a double-page spread. Her interpretation of the novel is inspired – whether depicting the ‘gorgeous little casket’ of a deceased pet parrot or Mrs Joyboy’s ‘positively insulting clothes’. The introduction, drawn from Christopher Sykes’s biography of Waugh, discusses the inspiration behind The Loved One, and how it marked a return to darker satire for the author. The endpapers are printed with the name ‘Aimée’ in italic script on textured pale pink paper.
‘Thoroughly horrible and fiendishly entertaining’