A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh

73%

20 Critic Reviews

It is an uncomfortable book: not only is it the most faithfully autobiographical of Waugh's novels, it is about Waugh's own period of madness...strange and difficult genius.
-Guardian

Synopsis

After seven years of marriage, the beautiful Lady Brenda Last has grown 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. In a novel that combines tragedy, comedy, and savage irony, Evelyn Waugh indelibly captures the irresponsible mood of the "crazy and sterile generation" between the wars.
 

About Evelyn Waugh

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Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966), whom Time called "one of the century's great masters of English prose," wrote several widely acclaimed novels as well as volumes of biography, memoir, travel writing, and journalism. Three of his novels, A Handful of Dust, Scoop, and Brideshead Revisited, were selected by the Modern Library as among the 100 best novels of the twentieth century.
 
Published December 11, 2012 by Little, Brown and Company. 288 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Humor & Entertainment, Nature & Wildlife, Science & Math, History, Education & Reference, Action & Adventure. Fiction
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Critic reviews for A Handful of Dust
All: 20 | Positive: 15 | Negative: 5

Kirkus

Below average
on Nov 02 2011

Not Waugh at his best. It falls a bit flat, much of the time.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Anatole Broyard on Jan 01 2008

The characters of Evelyn Waugh are a lesson in the other end of anthropology. Here are the natives of a highly articulated culture that has no myths, only rituals.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Nicholas Lezard on Mar 01 2008

It is an uncomfortable book: not only is it the most faithfully autobiographical of Waugh's novels, it is about Waugh's own period of madness...strange and difficult genius.

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WSJ online

Excellent
on Feb 01 2013

The book that comes nearest to perfection is "A Handful of Dust".

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Suite 101

Below average
Reviewed by Jennifer Bertrand on Apr 17 2010

Waugh offers little hope of change for any of the characters in the novel, or for English society as a whole.

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The Bookbag

Good
Reviewed by Magda Healey on Jan 01 2008

Savagely sharp, compelling and still painfully close to home, Handful of Dust reads well as a piercing satire on the mores of the British upper classes in the 1930's.

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Review (Barnes & Noble)

Above average
Reviewed by Steve King on Sep 03 2012

Preserving and improving Britain's crumbling class system.

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People

Excellent
on Jun 27 1988

Yes, these characters are hard to like, but Waugh's mastery makes them harder to forget.

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Helium

Excellent
on Sep 15 2009

Sharp, compelling and still painfully close to home, "Handful of Dust" reads well as a piercing satire on the mores of the British upper classes in the 1930's.

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Brothers Judd

Above average
Reviewed by Brothers Judd on Jan 01 2008

Waugh depicts a Britain that is sunk in amorality and has abandoned all pretense of greatness.

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The Literary Omnivore

Above average
Reviewed by The Literary Omnivore on Sep 28 2012

Handful of Dust is a dark, cutting, and mildly tragic satire on the British landed gentry of the 1930s, dealing with cycles of violence and oppression, although its problematic last third will keep modern readers from connecting with it.

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The Mookse and the Gripes

Good
Reviewed by Mookse on May 26 2010

Both endings were for me fantastic expansions on the first part of the novel. One is long and exotic and counterbalanced against the first half of the book; the other is short and bitter tasting, but in a satisfying way.

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Flamingnet

Good
Reviewed by Flaming Net on Jan 01 2008

I don't want to give away the ending, but... wow. I couldn't stop thinking about it for two days...I also read, on the Internet, that early American editions had a different ending, a mega-happy ending. I can't believe that.

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The Sheila Variations

Good
Reviewed by Sheila OMalley on Aug 01 2010

England is dying. Tony Last is its last and best representative. It is a fitting tribute to England and its tradition...A monument to their culture, to what it can (and did) produce.

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Splendid Labyrinths

Good
Reviewed by Ad Blankestijn on Sep 27 2011

But Evelyn Waugh serves up his "message" with tons of humor in this comedy of manners and that is a good thing. Dark as the book is, it is also wildly funny.

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Start Narrative Here

Above average
Reviewed by Jess on Feb 01 2010

After such effective portrayal of the petty worries of the London elite, the ending is rather unsatisfying and bleak.

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Birdbrained Book Blog

Above average
Reviewed by Anastasia on Jun 15 2011

It’s satire and dark humor and it doesn’t involve too many dead people, which I guess is a bonus. I suppose Evelyn Waugh must have been less cynical and irritated when he wrote A Handful of Dust.

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You Book Me All Night Long

Good
Reviewed by You Book Me All Night Long on Nov 19 2012

I’m also a fan of Waugh’s writing style: he mocks his characters mercilessly, but you can’t really fault him for it because they truly deserve it!

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RoomThirty3

Above average
Reviewed by MRSHEMINGWAY33 on Jul 12 2012

This book has made me realize that each reader brings his/her own perspectives and backgrounds to reading, and that has the biggest impact on how readers create meaning.

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The Mo-Centric Universe

Above average
Reviewed by Maureen de Sousa on Nov 11 2009

Never before has the reference to the works of Charles Dickens left with me such foreboding.

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Reader Rating for A Handful of Dust
78%

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