Admiration set to one side, however, it has to be said that Waugh is an imperfect novelist. My feeling is that the “chaotic life” versus “imperishable art” counterpoint that he imposed on himself often let him down. Pasternak Slater would not agree – she sees intricate, complex artistic patterns where I would see bolted-on “literary” themes. For me, A Handful of Dust is a sustained act of revenge against Waugh’s first wife, Evelyn Gardner, and her shocking desertion of him. Even the pretentious title can’t disguise the fact. Brideshead Revisited is thinly veiled nostalgic autobiography – at its best – not “the operation of divine grace on a group of diverse but closely connected characters”, as Waugh himself intoned in the novel’s preface. The Sword of Honour trilogy is essentially Waugh’s war recounted, with all its absurdity, personal slights and bitterness, not some symbolic conflict between the values of Christendom and the atheistic impulses of Soviet Russia, and the shameful compromises of Britain’s wartime alliance with her.
I beg to differ. I don't know if there are any "perfect" novelists, but I think Waugh comes near perfection at times. And I think Waugh's description of Brideshead is quite correct. That is certainly how it struck me when I first read it in college.