A Handful of Dust
A Handful of Dust
A Handful of Dust
Type: eBook
Released: 1999
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Page Count: 320
Format: fb2
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0316926058
ISBN-13: 9780316926058
User Rating: 3.0000 out of 5 Stars! (2 Votes)


Bruce Kendall | 3 out of 5 Stars!
23/06/2004

You know that when you see a passage from Eliot's THE WASTE LAND appearing before the title page that you are not headed for 300 pages of fun and games. Sure there is the usual stock of Waugh humor, wit, and snappy dialogue to be had here, but this ranks as amongst his darkest novels. It's tragicomedy at its finest. It's also one of the most beautifully written novels I've ever read, perfect in pitch, cadence, wording, razor sharp characterization, mood, you name it.

Like a number of his novels, it is set primarily in England, between the wars, bouncing back and forth between London and an Estate in the country. The plot boils down to the break up of a marriage and the decline and fall of the central character, Lord of the manor and eventual "Explorer," Anthony (Tony) Mast.

Tony means well. He really does. It's just that he's so fixated on maintaining Hetton, his hereditary estate, that he doesn't even notice when his lovely wife Brenda engages in an affair with an inconsequential and boorish young society chap to whom Waugh assigns the inglorious name, John Beaver.

Waugh's customary drollery comes to the fore as he depicts the cavalier attitudes towards the affair on the part of Tony's and Brenda's social circle. They are rather like actors in a Restoration play, whose moral compasses have become entirely skewed. Though not as moralistic as some of Waugh's late novels, A HANDFUL OF DUST definitely offers a portrait of a very decadent society, indeed. These are not sympathetic characters. Even the two children who enter into the plot are hardly what one would call likeable.

This novel definitely takes some unexpected turns, leading us eventually to a denouement in the Amazon Jungle. The ending has to rank as one of the greatest in literature.

I can't recommend this book highly enough. The English are greatest satirists and Waugh was the master of the genre amongst 20th century writers. I've got a couple more Waugh books on my list, but will go with VILE BODIES next, as it's already on my shelf.

This edition has print large enough that I didn't need my reading glasses. It's the quickest 300 page novel I've ever read. It only took about 6 hrs cover to cover, and I am not a fast reader. I really was so transfixed that I had to read it straight through, which I don't usually do these days.
BEK

Michael J. McVay | 3 out of 5 Stars!
23/02/2000

This novel is not satirical, but dead-on accurate in its observations of a certain stratum of English society which is no longer shamed or shocked - namely, not allowing her to continue as the "victim" of the divorce proceeding. Her "friends" aid and abet her philanderings while gossiping behind her back, and allowing her to become penniless while they go off on holiday. Mrs. Beaver, whose son is the amoral, parasitic lover, is interested in the affair only speaking characters) create just as many problems for Tony as the bats and mosquitoes. (Perhaps some of the previous reviewers could have thought a little more along these lines before writing a bad review.)

Also, one has to think how Tony could have avoided his misfortunes. He is undone class children are brought up by nannies and stablehands, while the parents remain aloof to their daily activities.

A great novel causes the reader to think on several levels, while also being an entertaining read. This novel accomplishes both goals. Every word and action has its significance in a great work such as this one!

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