- Publisher: PENGUIN CLASSICS
- Format: Paperback | 288 pages
- Dimensions: 128mm x 196mm x 20mm | 220g
- Publication date: 1 May 2010
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 0141183969
- ISBN 13: 9780141183961
- Sales rank: 28,912
Taking its title from T.S. Eliot's modernist poem "The Waste Land", Evelyn Waugh's "A Handful of Dust" is a chronicle of Britain's decadence and social disintegration between the First and Second World Wars. This "Penguin Modern Classics" edition is edited with an introduction and notes by Robert Murray Davis. After seven years of marriage, the beautiful Lady Brenda Last is bored with life at Hetton Abbey, the Gothic mansion that is the pride and joy of her husband, Tony. She drifts into an affair with the shallow socialite John Beaver and forsakes Tony for the Belgravia set. Brilliantly combining tragedy, comedy and savage irony, "A Handful of Dust" captures the irresponsible mood of the 'crazy and sterile generation' between the wars. This breakdown of the Last marriage is a painful, comic re-working of Waugh's own divorce, and a symbol of the disintegration of society. Evelyn Waugh (1903-66) was born in Hampstead, second son of Arthur Waugh, publisher and literary critic, and brother of Alec Waugh, the popular novelist. In 1928 he published his first work, a life of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and his first novel, "Decline and Fall", which was soon followed by "Vile Bodies" (1930), "A Handful of Dust" (1934) and "Scoop" (1938). In 1942 he published "Put Out More Flags" and then in 1945 "Brideshead Revisited". "Men at Arms" (1952) was the first volume of "The Sword of Honour" trilogy, and won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize; the other volumes, "Officers and Gentlemen" and "Unconditional Surrender", followed in 1955 and 1961. If you enjouyed "A Handful of Dust", you might like Waugh's "Vile Bodies", also available in "Penguin Modern Classics". "One of the twentieth century's most chilling and bitter novels; and one of its best". (Nicholas Lezard, "Guardian"). "One of the most distinguished novels of the century". (Frank Kermode). "This is a masterpiece of stylish satire, and is funny, too ...a marvellous book". (John Banville, "Irish Times").
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Evelyn Waugh was born in Hampstead in 1903, second son of Arthur Waugh, publisher and literary critic, and brother of Alec Waugh, the popular novelist. He was educated at Lancing and Hertford College, Oxford, where he read Modern History. In 1928 he published his first work, a life of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and his first novel, Decline and Fall, which was soon followed by Vile Bodies (1930), Black Mischief (1932), A Handful of Dust (1934) and Scoop (1938). During these years he travelled extensively in most parts of Europe, the Near East, Africa and tropical America, and published a number of travel books, including Labels (1930), Remote People, (1931), Ninety-Two Days (1934) and Waugh in Abyssinia (1936). In 1939 he was commissioned in the Royal Marines and later transferred to the Royal Horse Guards, serving in the Middle East and in Yugoslavia. In 1942 he published Put Out More Flags and then in 1945 Brideshead Revisited. When the Going was Good and The Loved One preceded Men at Arms, which came out in 1952, the first volume of 'The Sword of Honour' trilogy, and won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. The other volumes, Officers and Gentlemen and Unconditional Surrender, followed in 1955 and 1961. He died in 1966.
"A vicious, witty novel." --"New York Times ""Waugh's technique is relentless and razor-edged...By any standard it is super satire." --"Chicago Daily News""The most mature and the best written novel that Mr. Waugh has yet produced." --"New Statesman & Nation ""A story both tragic and hilariously funny, that seems to move along without aid from its author...Unquestionably the best book Mr. Waugh has written." --"Saturday Review "
Sometimes one detects a note of spoofing; the rest of the time this reads like rather far-fetched straight story. In either case, it is a none too flattering picture of the fringe of London's smart set, that set which thinks it achieves success by swapping mates and collecting admirers. The story of simple Tony, county gentleman of the old school, loving his ugly old home, adoring his wife and son; and of Brenda, accidentally discovering she is bored, and taking up a youth who lives by his slender wits and other people's invitations. She decides she must have a divorce, and Tony plays the conventional gentleman until he discovers that she is willing to pauperize him to buy herself her gigolo husband. Then the worm turns - and he is off to South America on a fantastic exploration, which has an even more fantastic finale in the Amazonian jungles. Not Waugh at his best. It falls a bit flat, much of the time. (Kirkus Reviews)
Evelyn Waugh's 1935 novel is a mordantly funny vision of aristocratic decadence and ennui in England between the wars. It tells the story of Tony Last, an aristocrat who, to the irritation of his wife, in inordinately obsessed with his Victorian gothic country house and life. Bored with her husband's old-fashioned ways, Lady Brenda begins an affair with an ambitious social climber. Faced with the collapse of his marriage and a sudden family tragedy, Tony is driven to seek solace in a foolhardy search for the fabled El Dorado in the wilds of Brazil, where he finds himself at the mercy of a jungle that is only slightly more savage than the one he left behind in England. Here is a sublime example of the incomparably brilliant and wicked wit of one of the 20th century's most accomplished novelists.