Evelyn Waugh – A Handful of Dust

Nineteen twenties socialite Brenda does everything society expects including marrying Tony Last. Owner of a country pile Tony appears dull but provides Brenda with a backdrop to a brittle and decadent society world.

Bored Brenda embarks on an affair with penniless, handsome and lightweight John Beaver.

Society fakes a shocked attitude, but the book reflects that extra marital affairs was something of the norm for the 1920’s upper classes. As always with Waugh the world he writes about can produce a certain alienation, but the insight is suburb and the characters perfectly drawn. As Brenda’s affair reaches its inevitable conclusion the balance of the characters is so perfect I felt sympathy for both her and Tony. The picture drawn of their young son is beautifully written, and initially gives some hope that the next generation will have a more innate knowledge of how to cope with life. For a picture of a society that has lost the capacity to truly love I strongly recommend this book. There are also a few surprises towards the end of the book that I certainly wasn’t expecting.

Reviewed by Chris