Bengtsson pulls a neat trick in creating his characters – he lets them be defined pretty much by their actions with extremely brief but memorable snippets of dialogue.
There is no psychological realism, the characters are all stock, yet they feel alive anyway. It’s a gripping tale as Pillars Of The Earth and I love the use of starfish as a verb.
The well-to-do class that Tolstoy wrote about is a far cry from the related lot Waugh explores. Tolstoy envisioned the rich bettering themselves through selfless acts of charity and hard work and liberal politics, Waugh’s characters see the working class as barely alive and not even deserving of a contemptuous sideways glance.
Sadly, Waugh is closer to how the privileged really feel, though they’d never admit it.