A Handful of Dust

[A Handful of Dust]
Little, Brown and Company
Year of publication: 
Moral assessment: 
Type: Literature
Nothing inappropriate.
Some morally inappropriate content.
Contains significant sections contrary to faith or morals.
Contains some lurid passages, or presents a general ideological framework that could confuse those without much Christian formation.
Contains several lurid passages, or presents an ideological framework that is contrary or foreign to Christian values.
Explicitly contradicts Catholic faith or morals, or is directed against the Church and its institutions.

This is a light-hearted jibe at the mores of British high society between the wars, the story set in 1930’s Victorian England. Even though it deals with tragedy, deceit and despair, the story is told with such a deft and light touch that is can be nothing else than satire. The neo-Gothic house Hetton Abbey is the pride and joy of the aristocratic Lord Tony Last, our hero, but his wife, Lady Brenda, is tired of country life. The social-climber John Beaver comes to visit for the weekend and smites Brenda with talk of the excitement of town life. Lady Brenda falls for the good-for-nothing idler and a story of infidelity unfolds. Can a divorce go through without losing Hetton Abbey though? The story takes an unexpected twist half-way through the novel.
Evelyn Waugh was a successful and well-liked journalist and travel writer, born in London in 1903 and educated at Oxford. He died in 1966. Only two years after his marriage in 1928 he divorced and found Catholicism. The subject matter of this novel seems to bear some relationship to his own predicament. Lord Last is a regular but unenthusiastic churchgoer, and religious imagery peppers the story.
By 1937, three years after publishing this book, Waugh finds happiness in his marriage to Laura Herbert and they have six children. Here, he wishes to use comic effect to make serious social commentary on the lax morality of the time.

Author: Cliff Cobb, United Kingdom, 2020