When I was first given this book as a Christmas present, I wasn’t quite sure who Evelyn Waugh was. I trusted the recommendation and the Observer review on the back described it as ‘the funniest novel ever written about journalism’ so I decided it was a good reading choice for bus journeys and in between coursework writing.
Scoop focuses on a particular newspaper, the Daily Beast, and satirically narrates the lengths that newspaper journalists and publishers will go in order to catch a story before anyone else. The journalist chosen to represent the Daily Beast is countryman William Boot, who, through a case of mistaken identity, is caught up chasing a story about a possible war in the fictional African Republic of Ishmaelia. The story achieves a large amount of its humour and plot through the constant switching of point of views, allowing the reader to explore more of the story than the characters themselves. It is not until the second chapter that the reader is allowed to meet William Boot. Before that point, the story seems to follow a John Courteney Boot, creating the comedy of errors element.
The novel contains many codes and vernacular used by the journalists to shorten telegrams and communicate quickly. At first, like William Boot, I found it quite difficult to understand these messages but as the story went on, I tuned into them. These indecipherable codes, and the way the journalists spend all their companies’ money on food, drink and souvenirs, really help to lightheartedly satirise the journalists and the industry as a whole.
It is worth remembering the time period that the novel is written in when reading the depictions of Ishmaelia. It was written in 1938 when the British Empire began to slowly give back power to the countries they controlled. This lead to many wars between those countries and the British, and even civil wars within the countries. In this novel, Waugh includes a detailed account of the fictional country’s history and politics which reflects the view that British and European people had on Africa at the time. Although I found some parts slightly uncomfortable to read considering the society we live in today, it does offer an insight into Waugh’s society and what they deemed acceptable.
Overall, Scoop was a funny and enjoyable read. Despite being quite a short novel, the detailed accounts of Ishmaelia and the sections of coded telegrams makes it less easy to digest quickly but this doesn’t ruin the reading experience at all.