Evelyn Waugh’s The Loved One is not one of his ‘big name’ books. It doesn’t rank with, say, Scoop, Vile Bodies or Brideshead Revisited in the reading consciousness. I came across it only by dint of having a father who had read everything, usually as soon as it came out, and who had a first edition of the Penguin on his shelf. ‘If you like Decline and Fall,’ he would say, ‘you should read The Loved One,’ but for some reason I never did. Not until the other day, when it successfully got me through two dismal coach journeys. That is what Waugh specializes in, of course: a book to read which is like eating a longdrawn- out tea at Fortnum’s, but one you can leave and return to at your leisure – not that leaving it is all that easy.