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
Set between the wars in the chic upper-middle classes in and around London, A Handful Of Dust is full of horrible people doing horrible things to each other, but it adds up to a bitter indictment of human behaviour. And it’s not all jokes. There’s despair lurking beneath the brittle laughs, and sadness at the wa ...more
Kristin Scott Thomas adds sizzle to the 1988 movie version as Brenda.
Tony and Brenda Last have been married for seven years and although they don’t have a fiery p ...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
Perhaps my appetite has been spoiled by the image of Waugh in his old age living a mock-aristocratic life, drinking too much, his wife - also an Evelyn - who had affection only for a discrete herd of pedigree cattle. His ...more
A Handful of Dust is perhaps similarly deceptive, especially when read today. Like ...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
(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
The story is essentially one of upper class relationships and behaviour between the wars. The characters are filthy rich by most people’s standards but several of them never have enough money because they are maintaining enormous ancestral homes that cost a fortune to run. This is the cause of a lot of their pro ...more
I've rehearsed over an ...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
I'll deal with ratings once I calm down.
I still got nothin'. I was really loving this book in the first half. Then the second half happened and I'm still wondering if someone took the first half of one book and the second half of another and put them together as a joke.
Ok ok, I can actually look into it a bit and see somewhat where Waugh was going with it and the point he was trying to make, but it really didn' ...more
At first I absolutely despised the book. I am not a fan of "affair fiction" at all. I do not understand the obsession and fascination of watching a couples marriage dissipate because they can get their hands on something "more fresh". I guess that makes me a hypocrite by buying this book but I didn't realize what it was about until I went to rea ...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
“I should say it was time she began to be bored. They’ve been married five or six years. Quite well off but everything goes in keeping up the house. I’ve never seen it but I’ve an idea it’s huge and quite hideous.”
While endeavouring to escape the boredom of the aristocratic life one may find a lot of troubles on one’s romantic head…
Evelyn Waugh is a brilliant observer of human peccadilloes and in A Handful of Dust he is at h ...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