A Handful of Dust
(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.
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Looking at the novel as a reading text, you think "WOW- what was this whole novel about." It leaves you clueless and makes you question the movement and structure of the novel- where was the resolution? etc. Just like much of the modernist writing of the era, the beginning evokes a glamorous image to the reader and the end utterly damages this original image. This clearly suggests the modernity of the era, and how the post WW1 moment brought such damage and decadence to human civilisation.
The novel touches on different moments, shows major taboos and evokes the decadence of the era- just as the title suggests from the poem, The Waste Land.