books A Handful of DustAuthor Evelyn Waugh –

A Whole Gothic World Had Come To Grief Beautiful Lady Brenda Last Lives At Hetton Abbey, A Crumbling Gothic Monstrosity That Is Her Husband Tony S Pride And Joy Bored And Restless After Seven Years Of Marriage, She Drifts Into An Affair With A Worthless Young Socialite Abandoning The Country For The Glamorous Yet Shallow London Scene, Brenda Imagines Divorce Will Bring Happiness Instead She And Tony Feel Lost And Isolated Victims Of The Wreckless Times In Which They Live One Of The Th Century S Most Chilling And Bitter Novels And One Of Its Best Guardian

10 thoughts on “A Handful of Dust

  1. says:

    I never thought it would last but she seems really keen on it I suppose it s a good plan there wasn t much for her to do at Hetton Of course she would rather die than admit it, but I believe she got a bit bored there sometimes I ve been thinking it over and that s the conclusion I came to Brenda must have been bored 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 passionate relationship they have settled into a predictable, comfortable one They live on the Last family country estate named Hetton Abbey, an ugly neo gothic creation that would need to wait a few decades before coming back into fashion Tony is perfectly happy with the house, but Brenda is subtly, or maybe not so subtly, convincing him to make changes Plans are made to slowly convert the interior to a modern appearance and also add some much needed bathrooms to the house They have one son who is mostly just a source of annoyance to them He is precocious and starved for attention, and is often shuffled off to the horse trainer or to the housekeeper to keep him from under the feet of his parents They are moderately rich, but feel pinched for money as most of it is being funneled back into Hetton Abbey Entertainment, as most of us know when we hit a financial snag, is the first and easiest to cut back on This does create childish resentments in Brenda towards Tony and towards the house, even though, she is the one that is insisting on the remodel After all she doesn t even like that ugly old house anyway Overall, though, despite the snag in their social life things are going rather wellUntil John Beaver invites himself down to Hetton Abbey for the weekend He is a social parasite who lives off the family associations He was reasonably desperate for some one to sponge off or he would have never ventured out to the country to spend time with the Last family Beaver was so seldom wholly welcome anywhere that he was not sensitive to the slight constraint of his reception He is oblivious, completely oblivious to any irritation his hosts might feel at his presence He is relying on the unshakable, ancestral sense of decorum that people have for guests, even uninvited ones The ever so clever Evelyn Waugh.Beaver is not a dashing figure nor is he all that charming He is mostly just a young lad boy than man He is surprised at Brenda s interest in him She has been out of London society for a while and seems to have lost all her bearings for what she should find attractive in a man Beaver really has nothing to offer except youth She ends up leasing a small apartment in London from Beaver s rather disreputable real estate mogul mother Brenda begins to instruct Beaver in an attempt to mold him into a respectful version of a man she should be seen with This starts to create some friction with young Beaver You are one for making people learn things Beaver goes along as she is paying for most of their expenses as they start appearing in society together Brenda tells Tony she is taking economic classes Tony does the best he can to believe her.Beaver as far as society is concerned is just a family friend It is so nice of him to escort her around town The restwellthat is all hush hush That s always the trouble with people when they start walking out They either think no one knows, or everybody It has been way too long since I ve read Evelyn Waugh This may be one of his bleakest novels, but also the one most rife with wonderful biting sarcasm that exposes the self absorption of the English upper class and the disregard they have for any retributions for their actions When tragedy strikes the Last family the understated, cold reactions of both Tony and Brenda are so selfish it reveals their truest nature I felt sorry for Tony for most of the novel because the decisions that Brenda was making were so destructive and based on such an absurd set of reasoning that it all just seemed so unfair My feelings for Tony changed and by the end it felt like each got what they deserved Both are so naive and though raised in this upper crust, seemingly conservative society, they seem to know very little about how to conduct themselves in such a rigid system of socially judgmental families A bleak story, filled with a flurry of witty daggers that I m sure stuck between the ribs of many a reader in 1930s Britain, but at the same time the book is laugh out loud funny The plot is a series of absurd situations in which the Lasts and their friends ignore the most sensible course and sail into the rocky reef completely oblivious to the fact that they will most likely lose the ship Certainly Waugh was pointing a few fingers and wagging his eyebrows at the upper classes This is a superb balancing act of black humor and social commentary writing that is not only difficult to do well, but also entirely entertaining in the hands of Evelyn Waugh If you wish to see of my most 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  2. says:

    I m not generally a fan of satirical novels as opposed to, say, satirical sketch comedy , but this book was terrific Seldom have I seen tragedy and comedy so successfully intermingled 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 waste of potential I believe it was partly inspired by Waugh s wife of one year leaving him for one of their friends I suppose it s better to laugh at pain than cry Country gentleman Tony Last seems attached to his ugly ancestral estate, Hetton Abbey, than he does to his bored and attractive wife, Brenda So Brenda takes up with the dull and penniless social climber John Beaver, even going so far as to rent out a flat in London, telling Tony that she s studying economics while she s carrying on this affair that everyone knows about except her dim husband.When tragedy strikes I won t spoil things by revealing the event and the astonishing reaction to it Brenda insists on a divorce This leads to a completely absurd scene in which the cold fish Tony attempts to get himself caught being unfaithful so Brenda can get one.One section near the end, set in Brazil and completely inappropriate and wrong in its treatment of natives there are many instances throughout of inappropriate remarks , at first seems absurd, but when bits of dialogue from the previous 200 pages crop up, you get to see how carefully Waugh has crafted the book And how memorable his dialogue has been There s a plot point about reading Dickens that results in the darkest comedy, and perhaps a scathing statement about literature and civilization Waugh is simply a brilliant writer I don t think satire requires characters of much depth But Waugh gives you enough details so you know everyone in this particular vanity fair Their conversations are tart and suggestive, with people seldom saying what they re thinking What s remarkable is that beneath the exaggeration, there s a brutal examination of the horrible things people are capable of doing to themselves and each other.In one of the silliest scenes, two adults play a children s card game where they re reduced to making animal noises It s played for laughs, but Waugh knew what he was doing Oink oink, cluck cluck cluck indeed.

  3. says:

    Aren t we ALL Last in the end I can just hear Waugh s grim, faith rooted, world weary grunt of agreement Tony Last is a happy remnant of the Edwardian gentry, so much like his friends and so many folks we know moneyed but house poor, measuring out his comforting illusions in coffee spoons until those illusions are shattered Fate knocks on his door Loudly.Illusions What use are they in the storm As for me, as I grow old, I have fewer illusions and am glad of it Because, like Auden s elderly friends at a twilight gathering in the final poem of his great song cycle The Quest his version of the age old quest for meaning you really should read it I have felt my centre of volition shifted As I age, the illusions are now much less comforting than is Eliot s condition of complete simplicity, costing not less than everything The condition of the faithful.And that is precisely what Evelyn Waugh discovered here.Yes, when you ve lost it all as all of us will you ll find it all, if you keep your faith Just like Tony and Waugh, who had moved over to the Church just before publishing Tony Last s bittersweet story his own decline and fall.Because if you re Last, you ll be the first The first in true, Lasting Peace among all the Lost

  4. says:

    For those of you who live cloistered in a medieval turret of moral purity and use the interwebs only for researching your medical ailments and, oh of course, researching books as well , you may or may not be interested to know that there is a cuckolding porn genre The interesting detail about this isn t that there is a particular subset of video pornography dealing with spouses cheating on each other because when you consider some of the very specific porn specialty niches biracial paraplegic dwarves humping dead color blind Basques, for example , cheating is one of the most banal and obvious No, the truly interesting thing is that this genre often employs the word cuckold in its titles, as if this were five cent, everyday, low rent kinda word At your leisure, please review some of these actual porn titles Cum Eating Cuckolds 12, Cuckold Creampie 7, Grip and Cram Johnson s Cuckold MILFs, Non Humiliation Cuckolding What s the point then , Interracial Cuckold Surprise Is it the interracialism or the cuckolding that s the surprise Or the permutation of both , Forced Bi Cuckolding, and The Taming of the Cuckold You get the idea Many or most of these types of films involve an individual having some variant of sexual relations with another individual or individuals while the first individual s partner, spouse, or significant other watches or is forced to watch I hope you all appreciate that I had to go to at work and against my better instincts to procure those authentic cuckolding titles for you Again, I find it interesting that the porn industry should employ the word cuckold as opposed to merely cheating or cheaters, especially when one considers that porn video sleeves not infrequently contain misspellings of common words I saw thier recently ahem when I was doing my investigative research There s something very Olde Englishy about the word cuckold even though it has French origins and the kind of infidelity featured prominently in Evelyn Waugh s A Handful of Dust is at least nearer to the associations I have with cuckoldry than a giant black man with a Texas sized schlong anally penetrating a coked out blonde bag of silicon while a skinny nebbish is tied to a windsor chair But then again, the English language contains myriad subtleties, connotations, and associations, does it not In general, I don t find cuckolding stimulating I find it sad Not in the sense of two people in a relationship agreeing to fuck other people with the other s knowledge which is their own perogative, I suppose , but in the sense of a spouse or partner being kept in the dark, lied to, and possibly publicly humiliated by his her soulmate So that s what makes Evelyn Waugh s A Handful of Dust a particularly bitter satirical pill to swallow The main character Tony Last is a cuckold Waugh provides us with absolutely no evidence that he is anything but a kind, compassionate, and attentive husband His wife Brenda rather glibly and carelessly carries on with an undesirable man named John Beaver, who is not particularly kind, interesting, or attractive In fact, no one in Brenda s circle of friends and acquaintances seems to understand why Brenda should slither around with Beaver behind Tony s back, and to the point Brenda herself doesn t seem entirely able to pinpoint his appeal In constructing the first half or two thirds of the novel along these lines, Waugh creates a very prickly, uncomfortable humor We the readers are encouraged to be amused by Tony s humiliation and Brenda s cavalier, indecipherable infidelity Even while one laughs, one feels genuinely sorry for Tony True to his legacy, Waugh manages some very funny, underlyingly bleak comic episodes one involves Brenda trying to set up her husband with the wife of an Arab so that he won t bother her so much Around the midpoint of the novel, Waugh tosses in an exceptionally dark plot point which I won t reveal here which, in tune with the rest of the novel, is treated casually Unsettlingly so Then somewhere around two thirds of the way in, the novel takes a strange, new course, which isn t completely successful but mostly successful, at any rate Tony, it would seem, is so affronted by the protocol of the good society of England that he embarks upon a rather radical response to it But as you might expect, Waugh isn t about to provide him with the respite he desires, and that s what makes Waugh at his best so brittle and yet enjoyable He makes us feel various things at odd with each other Humor and tragedy Empathy and mockery Dissatisfaction and complacency.

  5. says:

    Reading Waugh is like being air kissed by a socialite who clutches your shoulder in mock affection with one hand while raising an ice pick behind your back with the other You know you should be on guard for certain disaster, but charisma sweeps you away in an intoxicating wave of champagne and caviar 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 lords and ladies flit from ballroom to bedroom, trading partners and gossip as they scheme for invites to the best parties and positions in the right clubs The soullessness of these lives would be near impossible to bear if it weren t for Waugh s rapier language and his inclusion of the reader in the Grand Guignol His satire is deadly quite literally, in the context of the story, but I shan t spoil the surprises and oftentimes laugh out loud hilarious David Sedaris and David Mamet owe heaps of inspiration to Waugh s deadpan comedy and rapid fire dialogue Well, well, well, said Dan, what next Do I get a drink said Dan s girl Baby, you do, if I have to get it myself Won t you two join us, or are we de trop They went together into the glittering lounge I m cold like hell, said Baby Dan had taken off his greatcoat and revealed a suit of smooth, purplish plus fours, and a silk shirt of a pattern Tony might have chosen for pyjamas We ll soon warm you up, he said This place stinks of yids, said Baby I always think that s the sign of good hotel, don t you said Tony Like hell, said Baby.These people are so awful you can t look away And Waugh is so brilliant you can t stop reading.

  6. says:

    Brilliant, but its sparkle is ice cold It s clever that the naive and saintly Tony is seamlessly recast as the villain of the piece not just by his wife Brenda, but by most of their friends too But Brenda is the evil one, most dramatically demonstrated by a misplaced Thank God It sounds innocuous, but in context, it s one of the most chilling lines I ve ever read Reading Dickens in the jungle for eternity would that be heaven or hell

  7. says:

    2.5 starsI m not sure what it is about me and Evelyn Waugh critics have said this is one of the best novels of the twentieth century and I really don t get it It is, as ever, a satire on the s of the English upper class The title is from The Waste Land I will show you something different from eitherYour shadow at morning striding behind youOr your shadow at evening rising to meet you I will show you fear in a handful of dust This is satire, comedy and farce mixed with the absurd again I get the sense that Waugh delights in disliking his characters Tony Last lives in a rather uncomfortable and decrepit country mansion with his wife Brenda and his son It is not one of the great stately homes as the description indicates Between the villages of Hetton and Compton Last lies the extensive park of Hetton Abbey This, formerly one of the notable houses of the county, was entirely rebuilt in 1864 in the Gothic style and is now devoid of interest The grounds are open to the public daily until sunset and the house may be viewed on application by writing Brenda gets rather bored in the country and as she starts to spend time in London, she starts an affair with John Beaver, a man of very limited means on the make The plot is limited and there is a cast of supporting characters who have varying degrees of eccentricity This is said to be a turning point in Waugh s novels the point at which he begins to get serious Well, he still manages to drag in race and civilization Waugh draws on his own experiences on his visit to Guyana When Tony s marriage falls apart he sets off on an expedition to look for a lost city in Brazil travelling from Demerara This enables Waugh to draw his usual parody of uncivilized peoples of a different colour with the same sort of zest he did in Scoop It also allows him to play with a Heart of Darkness motif will I never escape from that book Waugh often said that A Handful of Dust was really about the bankruptcy of humanism Kurtz s horror in this novel is the emptiness of secular humanism, which Waugh wants to replace with Catholicism Waugh also nods to Proust and the grail quest and plays with a number of ideas This is a story of human selfishness, but perhaps Waugh does paint Tony Last with some sympathy especially as Waugh s marriage had recently ended However he condemns Last to spending the rest of his days reading Dickens aloud in a native village to a Kurtz type character The point here is that Waugh thought that Dickens was one of those responsible for the collapse of social restraint as Waugh perceived it in British society I ve seen Waugh s work described as a theatre of cruelty and I see the point of that I also find Waugh s attitude to women pretty suspect look at this conversation between Tony Last and his young son Where s mummy gone London Why Someone called Lady Cockpurse is giving a party Is she nice Mummy thinks so I don t Why Because she looks like a monkey I should love to see her Does she live in a cage Has she got a tail Ben saw a woman who looked like a fish, with scales all over instead of skin It was in a circus in Cairo Smelt like a fish too, Ben says Another trope that Waugh uses and drags in here is the Oriental woman who is portrayed as exotic, promiscuous, primitive and foolish Racism and misogyny, class and cruelty and to cap it all, the death of a child used to move the plot on Typical Waugh.

  8. says:

    You need a degree of sympathy for the author s intentions to enjoy reading their book, to tune in to their wave length This was something I have never managed to do with Evelyn Waugh and his books remain for me whipped cream I can eat them up but I get no nourishment from them.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 fictions seem pale intimations of the life he eventually managed to achieve for himself which makes the idea of viewing them as satires, or comedies or even tragedies as strange Instead I m left with the suspicion that they are in part wish fulfilment view spoiler which reminds me of the story of Thomas Hardy boasting to a male interlocutor that he had been impotent during his first marriage The inventiveness of people in discovering new degrees of strangeness is unending hide spoiler

  9. says:

    Evelyn Waugh s writing is delightfully and spitefully mischievous He s as witty as Oscar Wilde and as caustic as drain cleaner.Something of a pessimist and a social misfit, Waugh loved to send up the chattering classes of which he was a part This book also has an autobiographical aspect to it and centres on his inside view of upper class selfishness and the erosion of spiritual values in post WWI England.

  10. says:

    Penguin Modern Classics edition with introduction and irksome notes by Robert Murray DavisIt sounds so grown up and boring, I always used to think about A Handful of Dust Just another novel about middle aged people having affairs In my teens, I read, loved and re read Brideshead, Scoop, Vile Bodies and Decline and Fall, and seemed to have exhausted the really interesting Waugh books Then, a couple of years ago, I found that The Loved One, whilst it may not have the glamour of Roaring Twenties London, is quite marvellously dark and twisted Lately, I became intrigued by this one Two friends whose taste I particularly trust have rated it 5 stars and so have a whole bunch of other people I knew I wanted to read it soon anyway, then brought it forward because of a GR group event Descriptions of A Handful of Dust often reference coldness Wistfulness and fun are what I d always associated with Waugh There s clearly something about this oneReading most of it other than the intro and short first chapter over two days when I was ill has surely intensified my reception of said coldness I experienced at least half of it the middle as a sort of extremely polite horror A frozen dagger in the back and the seconds of waking to the presence of dreadful pain as nausea blooms and vitality drains, stiff upper lip and measured tones maintained to the last I imagine it reading in firmly buoyant mood, as relishable, detached almost watching awful people destroy themselves, yet they re not just awful, they re human after all It s so very, very sad Not in the way of many other novels and memoirs I ve read, in which characters or less wail in tormented anguish they feel too much, and it s all too much to bear Here what is miserable and chilling is the apparent non emotion, the not caring, the devil may care ness and masterfully pithy expression which masks a melancholy emptiness it can actually wound terribly and feel terribly wounded whilst barely being able to show it I thought several times of a psychology book on the negative effects of boarding schools on individuals and British society, The Making Of Them, which may have been the last time I read, in a very different way, such a detailed evocation of people like this I, for one, felt for every one of the characters, couldn t see anything as anyone s fault view spoiler other than Mr Ripon s for sending his daughter out on a dangerous horse hide spoiler