I must confess to literary ignorance with regards to Evelyn Waugh and while the name was familiar, I believed the author female. I now know better and will most certainly be adding him to my “authors to read more of” list.
Alas, I digress, but must admit to another offense; reading a review in advance which as it turned out, was not at all favorable, and in fact, insinuated the book to be rather a bore. I, on the other hand, found A Handful of Dust to be quite pleasurable. Waugh’s writing is so fluid and the dialog so readable, that the act of reading this gem became as natural as breathing. Ah, tis joy to the bookworm who fears a dud and is instead rewarded with a treasure.
My only disappointment with A Handful of Dust was the minimal dialog, found towards the end of the book, between Tony and Mr. Todd. The irony is not lost on me, but without giving away too much, this was more than likely the author’s intent.
Tony Last is a gullible husband who seems to be the last to know about his wife’s infidelities. His wife and son live with him in his family’s estate that he struggles to maintain, both physically and financially, yet his familial pride keeps him tied there. His naivete and decency keep him in the dark while his wife carries on without discretion. Even as his wife, upon discovery, tries to turn the blame upon Tony, he remains agreeable. I nearly stood up and applauded him when he finally, and I mean finally, makes it clear that he is no longer a chump to his wife or her interfering family and friends. Sadly, my bravos were quickly extinguished by Tony’s undeserved destiny.
It was rather easy to dislike Tony’s wife, Brenda. Her obvious boredom led her to seek control and adventure so she managed her husband’s diet while she waltzed off to parties in London and an affair with the ne’er-do-well, John Beaver. My dislike for Brenda turned to disgust when she returns home following a family tragedy only to abruptly depart announcing she must return to her fictitious studies.
There were several interesting characters, however, second to Tony for purposes of appeal, I found Mrs. Rattery, aka, the shameless blonde (quite the misnomer), to be very likable. Apart from her morphine addiction and obsessive card playing, she possessed depth and poise. The fact that she flew her own plane wasn’t too shabby either.
A meal with Mr. Waugh would be delightful. I’d imagine sitting in overstuffed leather chairs at a posh club sipping brandy while discussing the art of writing dialog. Perhaps I’d invite Mr. Henry James who could learn a thing or two from this master while I would remain in the periphery hoping to glean even an iota of that natural ability.
My rating for A Handful of Dust is a 9 out of 10.
To see the entire list, visit Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels.
Please share your own reviews or comments by using the link below.