A Handful Of Dust (Essential Penguin)
Few writers have walked the line between farce and tragedy as nimbly as Evelyn Waugh, who employed the conventions of the comic novel to chip away at the already crumbling English class system. His 1934 novel, A Handful of Dust, is a sublime example of his bleak satirical style: a mordantly funny exposé of ar...more
Waugh wrote with scathing irony of the plight of English gentry between the two world wars. Sinking into debt and irrelevancy in the wake of the Depression, these bored and bigoted hyphenated lord...more
The book starts out, to me, in typical Waugh fashion. Tony Last has his feet planted firmly in the past, clinging devotedly to the Gothic monstrosity that is the family’s country estate of Hetton. This is his life, and he plans to maintain it for future generations, as it was maintained for him. His wife, Brenda, seems content with the quiet country life, until she meets Mr. Beaver, a rather useless, penniless sponger, whom she takes on. The story rolls...more
(this is an edit of a review from 2009)
i found this to be much, much better than the two other waugh books i read: vile bodies, and the loved one. i would have liked it immensely had it ended about three quarters in, as stopping there would have satisfied my need for comeuppance for jerks but that comeuppance never came. the last quarter of the book seems almost a sequel to the first part, and left a darkness in its wake.
and yet, from what...more
Tony and Brenda Last live in the country. Back when Tony was wooing Brenda, they went out to parties and were bright young things who seemed to lead a charmed life. Tony was equally wedded to his family's country estate, Hetton. Brenda becomes so bo...more
I've rehearsed over an...more
When I encountered Gore Vidal's statement that Evelyn Waugh was "our time's first satirist," I took him to mean our times best satirist. He could have intended nothing other.
Waugh's target in this novel is the English upper class, their attitudes, mores, shallowness, narrow self-centeredness, and on. . .and on. How can we characterize the nature of Waugh's satire? Blistering. Caustic. And utterly delightful.
The British upper class was not his only target, of course. In his other novels he lays i...more
- Delighted. Second thoughts always best. Brenda.
This short interchange via telegrams between Mr Beaver and "her ladyship" Brenda Last may be considered the turning point of this novel, written in 1934.
While reading this passage, it occurred to me that the same thrust and counter-thrust may have happened today, via textings.
Don't you think so?
Sure, a present-day Mrs Last would have texted "2nd thoughts" while a contemporary Beaver -being just...more
"It was, transparently, a made-up party, the guests being chosen for no mutual bond—least of all affection for Mrs. Beaver or for each other—except that their names were in current use . . ." p. 51
Waugh is not afraid to attack, and unlike some of his other books, A handful of dust has a much more savage and bitter feel. There is less of the frothy language and light gentle almost poking fun in an affectionate way of some of his othe...more
As Good As it Gets: Surreal, Amoral, Aristocratic Decadence , 29 Jul 2007
"And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
Frisch weht der Wind
Der Heimat zu.
Mein Irisch Kind,
Wo weilest du? "
The Waste Land, T.S. Eliot 1922
Evelyn Waugh has given us a dark, witty, satirical novel that takes aim at the post World War I upper class society. His writing is biting...more
No moral code, no humanity, no understanding, only indifference for the others' feelings and appalling gestures that pay tribute to the moment's desires: a wife so bored that commits adultery with a "dreary young man" and shows...more
Some of the characters are ridiculous (Princess Jenny Akbar, Mr. Beaver, ‘Mumsy’) , some are indifferent/oblivious to people around them (Tony), some are utterly selfish (Brenda), and most of the characters exhibit a...more
I got the feeling that Waugh was trying too hard at the beginning...more
Der Autor hat in diesem Roman das eigene Scheitern seiner Ehe verarbeitet. Geschildert wird das immer in festen Bahnen verlaufende gese...more
We start A Handful of Dust in London and find ourselves in the Amazonas region of Brazil toward the end, delirious with jungle fever and seeing things which are not there. We witness the rapid fall of an ancient family between the wars, when the modern overtook the traditional with a ti...more
The book takes a bizarre twist at the end, which I won't go into so as to preserve its novelty for future readers, bu...more
May 26, 2007
I want to say first off that I absolutely blazed through this book; so many of its nuances have eluded me. I also have just finished reading it, so I haven’t had time to process this one yet. Maybe I should wait a little before I do these. Oh well.
Again, my foolish prejudices left me hating this book before I even opened it. I really shouldn’t read any of the jackets and all that. Come on, “A brilliant satirical study of the eccentric betwe...more