Thursday, April 7, 2011

A handful of dust

I'm not really sure what to say about A Handful of Dust  by Evelyn Waugh.  This was a very odd novel. 

Set in England in the very early 20th century, it seemed a commentary on a society that I didn't fully understand.  The story centers on a couple, Tony and Brenda.  Brenda sets off on an affair with a very odd little man, and her husband is totally oblivious.  To keep it that way, Brenda attempts to set up her husband with another woman.  That fails, so Brenda decides she must have a divorce.

At this time in England, the courts have to order a divorce, and there has to be good cause.  Adultery is considered good cause.  Being the wonderful man that he is, Tony agrees that he should fake an affair and hires detectives to follow him on his set up weekend away.  Later Tony changes his mind, refusing to allow the "evidence" to be used against him, denying Brenda her divorce.  I'm still not sure why Brenda's affair wasn't used as the necessary evidence.

At the end of the story, Tony has set off for the wilds of Brazil where he loses his tour guide and becomes the captive of a man who can't read, but is in love with the works of Dickens.  The Brazilian fakes Tony's death so that he can hold him forever and force him to read the stories aloud.

Brenda is left with nothing, including her odd little man.  He took off for America. 

Sad day.

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