Charles Ryder, a lonely student at Oxford, is captivated by the outrageous and decadent Sebastian Flyte.
Invited to Brideshead, Sebastian's magnificent family home, Charles welcomes the attentions of its eccentric, aristocratic inhabitants, gradually becoming infatuated with them and the life of privilege they inhabit - in particular, with Sebastian's remote sister, Julia.
But he gradually comes to recognize his spiritual and social distance from them, eventually discovering a world where duty and desire, faith and happiness are in conflict.
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