Characters show familiar behaviour
A Handful of Dust
ABy Evelyn Waugh Many literary critics consider Handful of Dust the author’s best work and, although it was first published decades ago, the relationships, the conflicts and the characters’ behaviours are just the same as today.
Different settings and different society manners, but still the same unwritten rules of behaviour.
Readers will be reminded of people they know in this book.
The main character is a staid, unadventurous man who loves his great English country house and its history above everything else.
Of course, he loves his wife and young son too, but without the devotion he feels to his property.
The author cleverly gives the reader a growing feeling of apprehension and when the man’s life and expectations change suddenly and irrevocably, he is lost in a mire of ugly and petty circumstances.
He is unable to deal with it, so he goes away. He takes a sea trip to South America and everything changes again.
The author spent long months in the wildest parts of South America himself, so creates an accurate, detailed description of the hero’s circumstances, and again, the reader gets a premonition of dramatic change.
You know something is going to happen, but when the hero’s personal circumstances take him right off the beaten track and he has no alternative than to continue on in unalterable circumstances, the reader is right beside him.
Eventually he stumbles on a seemingly sympathetic man who looks after him, but requires payment of an extraordinary kind.
We are left wondering if the situation ever changes, but when the author takes us back in the final chapter to the large country house, we learn what has happened in his absence.
The author was renowned for his sarcastic humour, but there is none here; just a good story, well told.
— Lee Stephenson