Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop is one of those books that sits on the shelf for a long time and gets recommended often enough but gets passed over because the mood is not right or something else catches the eye. That is a shame because not only this is a very enjoyable read but also it is written with a real panache and there is a great deal about pace and comic timing that can be learnt by reading this.
It is also a historical work because the good old days of Fleet Street have long gone and this is a novel that describes in snatches that life and the rewards of the journalistic profession. Sadly not only has Fleet Street gone but so has the freedom of the expense account and the ability to go off into the field. Now it resembles a desk job like many other expect there is still a great deal of time spent tapping one fingered stories out that people would rather you didn’t read.
As a result of confusion between John and William Boot the rural reporter William for The Beast ends up getting sent to Africa to cover the story of a revolution in Ishmaelia He has not any experience of journalism let alone foreign reporting but as a result of his innocence and unassuming personality he manages to make the right friendships and scoops his main rival and manages to go down in journalistic history. William also falls in love with a German agent who manages to take a fair amount of cash off him and then still go back to her husband. William returns home a hero but refuses to go on any more trips. John Boot gets the knighthood intended for him and life returns back to a state of relative normalcy.
Is it well written?
It is very enjoyable and the things that you miss from the plot summary are all the ingredients that go to make up a really great comic tour de force: quirky characters, clever plot and a play on the Boot confusion right to the end. The British character of muddling through even when you have no idea of what is going on is lampooned both home and abroad and nearly every body is a target for Waugh’s wit. It is easy to get through and is one of those rare things a novel that is so satisfying and ties up all the loose ends in rapid fashion that you sit back with a smile on your face happy with your lot not feeling that nagging feeling of wanting more.
Should it be read?
There might well be some readers who find the subject and the period too distant and look at the style as a bit dusty and not as compelling as something in the top 20. But this is a classic read that has lasted the test of time because it is so well written and if you are prepared to engage with it does have the ability to get you to laugh out loud on more than a couple of occasions.
The village innocent comes to town and then is sent to play on the global stage and succeeds against all the odds but opts for the quiet country life
Version read – Penguin paperback