OK, I've read Helena.....I have this growing impression that I am a particular, critical and fussy reader. My overall impression of the novel is that Waugh's cynical outlook on human nature (for which I feel his first disastrous marriage was to a large extent responsible) could not rise above itself and capture that dynamic optimism of a saint. When he writes of Helena in her saintly phase, towards the end of her life, it reads like something out of Butler's Lives. How does Helena go from world-weary diffidence to the fervour of her stay in Jerusalem? After all she was baptized only in old age. Psychologically it just doesn't tally.
Waugh is better at describing people whose minds and hearts are in the World, capital letter, but who are open just enough to acquire a faith that will see them, at least in the essentials, down on the straight path.
Sorry for this load of cold water. Waugh does a brilliant job of Fausta, and the faults of Constantine were as he described them, though on the other hand there was, under all that calculation, a sincerity that seemed to grow with time. I think he was a complex individual, and his ambiguous position made him more so. His murder of Fausta and Crispus created a huge stir and I think he really regretted it, and not just politically either. Was all his churchbuilding just for personal glory, or was he trying to give the Church everything he could, since he could not bring himself to give what was really required?
Anyhow thanks for putting me on it. A very interesting read.