A Handful of Dust

A Handful of Dust

Book - 2002
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(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)

Evelyn Waugh's 1934 novel is a bitingly funny vision of aristocratic decadence in England between the wars. It tells the story of Tony Last, who, to the irritation of his wife, is inordinately obsessed with his Victorian Gothic country house and life. When Lady Brenda Last embarks on an affair with the worthless John Beaver out of boredom with her husband, she sets in motion a sequence of tragicomic disasters that reveal Waugh at his most scathing.

The action is set in the brittle social world recognizable from Decline and Fall and Vile Bodies, darkened and deepened by Waugh's own experience of sexual betrayal. As Tony is driven by the urbane savagery of this world to seek solace in the wilds of the Brazilian jungle, A Handful of Dust demonstrates the incomparably brilliant and wicked wit of one of the twentieth century's most accomplished novelists.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 2002.
ISBN: 9780375414206
0375414207
Branch Call Number: WAUGH E
Characteristics: xxxvii, 225 pages ; 21 cm.

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dennismmiller
Jun 14, 2017

A Handful of Dust is an emotionally devastating, wickedly funny novel of shameless self-interest. Tony and Brenda Last have found a measure of peace and comfort in Tony's spacious but unfashionable ancestral home, seemingly insulated from both the ordinary vicissitudes of life and the treacherous jungle of London society. All that crumbles with stunning speed, however, sending Tony fleeing into the relatively safer confines of the Amazon.

The title is an allusion to The Waste Land, and the book shares the same moral universe as Eliot's early poetry - a heap of broken images inhabited by genteel savages. The writing is executed with Waugh's renowned wit and light touch, all in service to a tale of moral despair, resulting in a novel that masterfully manages to be both dreadful and amusing.

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