A Handful of Dust kindle – Stg2bio.co

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 tha 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 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.Yes, when you ve lost it all as all of us will you ll find it all, if you keep your faith Just like For 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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 drin 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 mana 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 evi 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 20th Century S Most Chilling And Bitter Novels And One Of Its Best Guardian 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 spoile 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 a I just can t get enough of British wit There s something both elegant and scathing in it that North Americans don t seem to be able to reproduce And when it comes to biting British wit, no one can outdo the great Evelyn Waugh.I m not sure that I would have been interested in this book if I hadn t read and loved Brideshead Revisited stories about bored people having affairs is usually not something that interests me because it feels like a subject that s been explored to death But Waugh s gorgeous prose, his fascinating yet deeply unlikable characters had kept me entranced before If anyone could make the tale of a failing marriage and estate something I d want to read, it would be him.Just as with Brideshead , it s hard not to feel like you have just landed in the middle of an episode of Downton Abbey everyone has dressing rooms, frequents clubs and seems to have not a care in the world besides their own amusement Brenda and Tony have been married for seven years, and while they give the impression of being hap