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A Handful of Dust: 09/24/09

A Handful of Dust is the second Evelyn Waugh novel I've read. I picked it up at my library based on my enjoyment of The Loved One.

The novel has three main parts and plays a light homage to Swann's Way with chapter titles like "Du Côte de Chez Beaver" and "Du Côte de Chez Tod." While the first part certainly reads like a parody of Proust with the bored young boy, the passion for ugly Gothic architecture and parties full of famous people this parody is merely a distraction. The second part is more akin to The Importance of Being Earnest and the final part is like a drunken rendition of Heart of Darkness.

The novel starts off like any number of high society parodies that have come out of British literature. Tony Last and his wife Brenda are putting on a good show of being a happily married aristocratic couple until the untimely death of their son. Then things take a turn for the surreal.

First there is the attempt at a comedy of errors with the husband pretending to have an affair so his wife can divorce him. He just can't bring himself to do it. So rather than go home and deal with the grief of losing a child he runs away to the jungle (Dutch Guyana).

The jungle third has me thinking that I've been reading too many stories like this recently. First there was the very funny Fiction and then the not so funny "Sooner or Later or Never Never" by Gary Jennings and now A Handful of Dust. Of course in order of publishing, they go front to back but I've ended up reading them youngest to oldest.

With one hit and one miss for me from Evelyn Waugh, I will try another novel from him. I will stick though to getting them from my library just in case I don't like it.

Comments (2)

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Comment #1: Saturday, September, 26, 2009 at 12:25:24


Interesting review. I, too, have mixed feelings about Evelyn Waugh.

Comment #2: Monday, September 28, 2009 at 11:47:53


Thank you.

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