Friday, May 15, 2015

A Handful of Dust - Evelyn Waugh

A Handful of Dust
Title: A Handful of Dust
Author: Evelyn Waugh
Publication Date: 1934
Pages: 308
Genre: Classic / Historical / Fiction
How I Found It: 100 Best Novels list
Date Completed: 2/25/15

Summary: Another early 20th century satire of upper class Britain. A married couple have plenty of money, but nothing else worth mentioning. The wife, bored with her extravagant life, heads off to have an affair.

What I Thought: I finished A Handful of Dust sometime this spring and promptly forgot to mark it down on my master reading spreadsheet for the year. So, here we are, months later, talking about it anyway. 

I cannot think of a better description for the work of Evelyn Waugh than this astute Goodreads user's remarks:
"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." (Julie of Chalk the Sun)
She has it exactly correct. Waugh's work sweeps you up in its grandeur and simultaneously prepares to introduce dark twists. Waugh has two other works on Modern Library's list, the most familiar to me being Brideshead Revisted. Yet, this work is actually the first Waugh I have read. I look forward to the others.
As Julie says, its easy to get caught up in the beauty of the writing and the skin deep idyllic scenes. I loved the book for that. It reminded me a lot of The Age of Innocence in that way. Beauty and excess abound, yet so do poor intentions and flippant attitudes about serious matters. I kept vacillating back and forth, trying to decide whether I liked the book or found it level with the other seemingly mass produced Brit lit classics I've been slogging through for this challenge. Don't get me wrong. You know I love them, but they do all start to run together after a while. I've complained on this front previously.

The thing that stood out to me, that makes the book stand out in the midst of similar stories is the tragic death which comes midway through the book. I don't want to give it away, but it is shocking and definitely stopped me in my tracks. Waugh knows how to stab that ice pick in when you least expect it.

Rating: ★★★☆☆
Will I Re-Read: At some point, probably

A Reduced Review: Bored, upper class Brits try to reinvigorate their life, but face some serious consequences.

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