This is a story of an aristocratic, very Catholic family in Protestant England, and of the narrator, a well to do friend of the family who we meet as he enters Oxford, and leave as a middle aged establishment artist. It is a novel of character, but also of class, religion, and beauty. It is beautifully written, and is moving, sad and sometimes funny. Part of the genius of this novel is that not only do the characters evolve, but your understanding deepens, so that there is a cumulative impact. It is a book in which you cannot always take what the characters, including the narrator, say at face value, not because they are dissimulating, but because they don't have complete insight into themselves. Extending this idea, I would suggest that Catholicism is not quite as dominant an influence as the book seems to suggest, and that disfunctional parenting plays a major role that the narrator (not to be confused with Waugh) is not sufficiently developed as a human being to appreciate.