Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Matthew, Book Review, *Evelyn Waugh, *A Handful of Dust

After finishing A Handful of Dust (1934) by Evelyn Waugh last night, my first reaction was "man, this book hates the British upper class with a burning passion." That being said, the novel never makes the mistake of becoming a mere invective-laden screed; it skewers England's upper-crust society not by attacking it directly, but by showcasing the vapid lives and shallow thinking of its rich, aristocratic (and wannabe-rich, wannabe-aristocratic) characters. The fast, light pace of the book at times lessens the bite of its satire, but on the whole Waugh seems to have added in just the right amount of content to make his point and satisfactorily flesh out his plot and characters without bogging it down with minutiae and unrelated tangents. I don't want to spoil the ending, but I do want to say that I enjoyed the anti-colonial bent of it.

Well, that's one down, ninety-nine to go. This is fun.


moonrat said...

I've read two books by Waugh, in this order: THE LOVED ONE (satire, hated it, since i don't love satire) and BRIDESHEAD REVISITED (general fiction, loved it to pieces).

I've heard that most of his stuff is closer to THE LOVED ONE, and that he's namely a satirist--what would you say about this book? Would you describe it as satire?

Andromeda Romano-Lax said...

Thanks, Matthew. I just finished Brideshead Revisited (loved it) and have Vile Bodies (what a title) on my list. I'm looking forward to comparing the two and also comparing VB with Handful... as you described it.

M. said...

I'd say A Handful of Dust is a satire, but not in the double-barreled "A Modest Proposal" & Catch-22 sense of the term. Aside from a long, overly ridiculous section in chapter four (specifically, everything having to do with the trip to Brighton) and a couple of other brief passages, I was pleasantly surprised by how understated the satirical aspects of the plot were. Even so, if you aren't a fan of satire in general, there's enough in there that you probably wouldn't enjoy the book overly much.

You know, I've had a few people recommend Brideshead Revisited to me in the last few years--I might just have to fit it in at some point if I end up enjoying Scoop and Decline and Fall. I'll be interested in hearing your thoughts on Vile Bodies when you're done reading it.