Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Handful of Dust

from the book log (1/18/89):

A Handful of Dust
Evelyn Waugh. 1934

This is the first novel I’ve read by Mr. E. Waugh. The movie version was playing in London while I was there, but I dint see it. The book is a new paperback edition with a promo photo of the three actors who portray the main characters. One, the one (I suspect) who plays Tony, was Maurice in the movie Maurice (or he looks like the same guy) [James Wilby]. The one who must be John Beaver [Rupert Graves] is very sexy in a white and black sort of way.

I enjoyed the book although the ending is quite dastardly. It’s a Very English novel. Upper crust sorts going to parties, saying clever and witty things, emoting in the most subdued ways. Tony & Brenda Last seem to be enjoying a harmonious and loving marriage, but then Brenda unaccountably falls for the unlikable John Beaver who (unlike Tony) has no money and is described by one character as “London’s only spare man” as he is often invited to parties merely because a previous invitee couldn’t come. Brenda leaves the Last estate for an apartment in London where she carries on with John (unbeknownst to Tony). Tony & Brenda have a son also named John who is killed about this time in a riding accident. (The two children in the novel, John and Winnie, the child of a prostitute, are quite unpleasant creatures.) The death precipitates divorce, which Tony ultimately decides not to go through with. In a bizarre turn Tony decides to accompany a boisterous explorer to the wilds of Brazil to find a lost city. Where this came from I don’t know — it’s quite unexpected. They never find the city, by the way, and John Beaver, the opportunist, doesn’t do well by Brenda and, except for some people we don’t know, there isn’t really a happy ending. Very odd. Lots of eccentric folk populate the scenes and every happening is recounted in the same wry, dry tones. The narration is not at all intrusive. I liked the feel of the style, the words.

I have not read any more Evelyn Waugh, not even Brideshead Revisited, which I keep thinking I should read. I know I have a copy around here somewhere. Probably a move tie-in paperback.

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