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A Handful of Dust (1934)

by Evelyn Waugh

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3,919862,386 (3.82)252
After seven years of marriage, the beautiful Lady Brenda Last has grown bored with life at Hetton Abbey, the Gothic mansion that is the pride and joy of her husband, Tony. She drifts into an affair with the shallow socialite John Beaver and forsakes Tony for the Belgravia set. In a novel that combines tragedy, comedy, and savage irony, Evelyn Waugh indelibly captures the irresponsible mood of the "crazy and sterile generation" between the wars.… (more)
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» See also 252 mentions

English (82)  Danish (2)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (86)
Showing 1-5 of 82 (next | show all)
"Why would any novelist put the most important and impactful moment right in the center of the book?" That is the question I kept asking myself after I finished A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh. The part that I'm referring to is no doubt tragic and well written, but the fact that it is put where it is makes the rest of the reading experience ineffective.

Besides the fact that the structure of the plot was not great, the dialogue was superb. The way that Evelyn Waugh makes a conversation so interesting and yet realistic is a gift from god himself. Unfortunately, the faults outweigh the strengths within this novel, which is why this is one of the lower-rated books on my shelf. ( )
  connorshirs | Aug 11, 2021 |
The comedy didn't land for me because the jokes were either too dry, incomprehensible, or relied on a meanspirited delight in other peoples' suffering that I don't have.

The tragedy didn't work for me because the characters were either so reprehensible that their suffering was meaningless or so thinly drawn that I couldn't sympathize with their pain.

The end of the book included a very twisted section that read like an independent short story, and the afteword indicated that indeed it was originally published as a completely separate short story. It is also reprehenisbly racist in a way that was shocking to me as a modern reader and completely unexpected. ( )
  wishanem | May 27, 2021 |
Up until the last few chapters I quite enjoyed this. ( )
1 vote MarthaJeanne | Mar 29, 2021 |
I registered a book at BookCrossing.com!
http://www.BookCrossing.com/journal/14649918

The lives of class-climbing Brits after WWI. Tony Last is living his dream, in his house with its outmoded furnishings, when his wife deserts him and he is compelled to make changes. He decides to go on an expedition in Brazil. There he encounters unexpected adversities, yet is ever hopeful. The next bend in the river, the next...

A funny book, witty, and likely represents the culture at the time. I read it some time ago and only remember enjoying it. ( )
  slojudy | Sep 8, 2020 |
This starts out as farcical, lighthearted laugh that suddenly turns on the reader and becomes tragic. Written in 1934, it is set between the wars and is a look at the changes in English society following WWI with those that have money.
Tony Last is an aristocratic Englishman who clings to his roots (namely his Gothic styled home) which represents cold, boring, country life. Tony was the lucky man to land the much sought after Brenda St. Cloud. He is blind to, or ignore's his wife's dislike of the home and country life. She takes a flat in London, after a meet up with John Beaver, a penniless, social climber who offers Brenda a picture of the social life to be found in London and engages in an affair with Beaver, leaving her husband and young son to the country life. In fact she excludes her husband, tries to entice her husband into his own affair, and in the end, all comes to a tragic end and the marriage is over. This book gives a look at how divorces used to happen when they were not so easy. Tony at first wants to cooperate but Brenda becomes selfish, wanting to take everything from her husband. Tony leaves in search of the mythical city of gold in Brazil where he becomes captive to a man who won't let him go just as Brenda had been captive to Tony in his obsession. Another theme in the book is the church life. The country church with it's beloved minister and it's prewritten sermons set in a different time and place show a picture of the religious life as a custom rather than a belief. It is quite clear that Tony's connection to church is more about his social standing and traditions than about faith or belief.

The first line, "Was anyone hurt" and the discussion of the servants who "lost their heads" but no one was hurt sets the atmosphere for this tragic/comedy. There are many who are hurt in this novel; a son abandoned by his mother and father and left in the hands of the help and the death of the marriage which does hurt both Brenda and Tony. It is a picture of the change in British society but also of marriage and family.

Waugh wrote a short story called, "The Man Who Loved Dickens" and this book developed as prequel to that short story. This grafting of the story of that man prior to his becoming a prisoner in the Amazon jungle to an obsessed, illiterate man, who loves to hear Dickens read and is obsessed with the larger than life Dicken's characters. This part seems like awkward and has been a source of criticism. The title of the book, A Handful of Dust, comes from T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland, a favorite poem and alludes to death, "from dust you came and dust you will return".

This is my favorite of the three Waugh novels that I've read. Rating 4.2 ( )
  Kristelh | Jul 14, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 82 (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 (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Evelyn Waughprimary authorall editionscalculated
Boyd, WilliamIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Canavaggia, MarieTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davis, RobertForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davis, Robert MurrayEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Riera, ErnestTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sachs, AndrewNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wangenheim, Lucy vonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
...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
Dedication
First words
"Was anyone hurt?"
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Do not combine with the movie directed by Charles Sturridge.
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After seven years of marriage, the beautiful Lady Brenda Last has grown bored with life at Hetton Abbey, the Gothic mansion that is the pride and joy of her husband, Tony. She drifts into an affair with the shallow socialite John Beaver and forsakes Tony for the Belgravia set. In a novel that combines tragedy, comedy, and savage irony, Evelyn Waugh indelibly captures the irresponsible mood of the "crazy and sterile generation" between the wars.

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Hachette Book Group

An edition of this book was published by Hachette Book Group.

» Publisher information page

Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141183969, 0141037237

 

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