Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh

A Handful of Dust (1934)

by Evelyn Waugh

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,279691,672 (3.84)194

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 194 mentions

English (67)  Dutch (1)  Danish (1)  All (69)
Showing 1-5 of 67 (next | show all)
Tony Last and his wife Brenda seem to have it all: lovely home (even if they have to economize), a son John Andrew and a happy marriage. At least, it seems happy until Brenda starts taking up with the worthless John Beaver.

This is my first foray into Evelyn Waugh's work, though I know him by reputation to be funny and satirical. I enjoyed the first half or so of the book, poking at the higher classes in Britain in the 1930s, showing the London set to be involved in a bunch of barely concealed affairs that everyone knows about. No one comes out particularly good, except perhaps Tony the cuckold and all-around generally nice, if conventional and boring, guy. Then things kind of fell apart for me, as Waugh doesn't seem to quite know how to end his story and sends his main character off to Brazil for an ending that actually turns out to be a short story that Waugh had written previously. My edition had an alternate ending included, and I personally found that one the more fitting. I would be interested to see how the story turned out if Waugh had brought it into more cohesion. Still, the dialog kept things going and I was interested in knowing what would happen to the characters. I might not read it again, but I would certainly try another book by the author. ( )
  bell7 | Aug 1, 2017 |
I was first exposed to this story by way of the film made in 1988. My interest was caught within the first chapter; I'd had no idea it was a satire. I love it. The author's apparently negative perspective on human relations is balanced out by his Twain-like humor. Other reviewers have complained that Waugh appears not to empathize with his characters, but I disagree in relation to major character Tony Last. I believe Waugh shows readers an exaggerated view of English understatement and denial. It may be true that none of the characters behave realistically, but it is difficult for me in any case to relate to landed gentry who never worked, bore children as a matter of form (parented by servants) who they never had occasion to know well, and generally seemed to know nothing about themselves by their thirties in a decade when vice, sex and psychology had recently begun to be considered polite subjects of interest for both genders of the upper class. Brenda Last is essentially the same person as Daisy Buchanan of The Great Gatsby, and I am afraid both Waugh and Fitzgerald modeled these characters after women they knew very well. ( )
  Longcluse | Jul 11, 2017 |
Twist to the ending, unexpected. ( )
  siok | Jul 9, 2017 |
Awful depressing, Evelyn. Awful depressing. ( )
  likecymbeline | Apr 1, 2017 |
I don't know how this got on my reading list but I am glad it did. Going in to the story blind I did not know what to expect and was not (could not be?) disappointed. A tale of love and loss set in England between the wars, Waugh draws compelling portraits of every character and has a way with dialogue that most of his contemporaries did not. ( )
1 vote bensdad00 | Jan 10, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 67 (next | show all)
The characters of Evelyn Waugh are ... the natives of a highly articulated culture that has no myths, only rituals. ... Dying of manners, they are determined to go on snubbing reality ... The most thoroughly weaned generation in the world, they are discovering that a little money is a dangerous thing. ... There is no comfortable catharsis in Mr. Waugh's comedy of manners.
added by Roycrofter | editNew York Times, Anatole Broyard (Dec 28, 1977)

» Add other authors (22 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Evelyn Waughprimary authorall editionscalculated
Boyd, WilliamIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davis, RobertForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Riera, ErnestTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sachs, AndrewNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wangenheim, Lucy vonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
...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.
-- The Waste Land
First words
"Was anyone hurt?"
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Do not combine with the movie directed by Charles Sturridge.
Publisher's editors
Information from the French Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Publisher series
Original language
Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0316926051, Paperback)

"All over England people were waking up, queasy and despondent."

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 aristocratic decadence and ennui in England between the wars.

Tony Last is an aristocrat whose attachment to an ideal feudal past is so profound that he is blind to his wife Brenda's boredom with the stately rhythms of country life. While he earnestly plays the lord of the manor in his ghastly Victorian Gothic pile, she sets herself up in a London flat and pursues an affair with the social-climbing idler John Beaver. In the first half of the novel Waugh fearlessly anatomizes the lifestyles of the rich and shameless. Everyone moves through an endless cycle of parties and country-house weekends, being scrupulously polite in public and utterly horrid in private. Sex is something one does to relieve the boredom, and Brenda's affair provides a welcome subject for conversation:

It had been an autumn of very sparse and meagre romance; only the most obvious people had parted or come together, and Brenda was filling a want long felt by those whose simple, vicarious pleasure it was to discuss the subject in bed over the telephone.
Tony's indifference and Brenda's selfishness give their relationship a sort of equilibrium until tragedy forces them to face facts. The collapse of their relationship accelerates, and in the famous final section of the book Tony seeks solace in a foolhardy search for El Dorado, throwing himself on the mercy of a jungle only slightly more savage than the one he leaves behind in England. For all its biting wit, A Handful of Dust paints a bleak picture of the English upper classes, reaching beyond satire toward a very modern sense of despair. In Waugh's world, culture, breeding, and the trappings of civilization only provide more subtle means of destruction. --Simon Leake

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:33 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Laced with cynicism and truth, A Handful of Dust satirizes a certain stratum of English life where all the characters have money, but lack practically every other credential.

» see all 8 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
5 avail.
114 wanted
3 pay

Popular covers


Average: (3.84)
0.5 1
1 6
1.5 1
2 32
2.5 8
3 146
3.5 50
4 226
4.5 39
5 149

Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141183969, 0141037237

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


You are using the new servers! | About | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 118,662,919 books! | Top bar: Always visible