A Handful of Dust

Narrated by: Andrew Sachs
Length: 6 hrs and 43 mins
4 out of 5 stars (212 ratings)

Audible membership

$14.95 a month

Free with a 30-day trial
1 audiobook of your choice.
A monthly selection of Audible Originals.
$14.95 a month after 30 days. Cancel anytime.
Buy for $22.80

Buy for $22.80

Pay using card ending in
By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice. Taxes where applicable.

Publisher's Summary

Evelyn Waugh's 1934 novel is a bitingly funny vision of aristocratic decadence in England between the wars. It tells the story of Tony Last, who, to the irritation of his wife, is inordinately obsessed with his Victorian Gothic country house and life. When Lady Brenda Last embarks on an affair with the worthless John Beaver out of boredom with her husband, she sets in motion a sequence of tragicomic disasters that reveal Waugh at his most scathing.

The action is set in the brittle social world recognizable from Decline and Fall and Vile Bodies, darkened and deepened by Waugh's own experience of sexual betrayal. As Tony is driven by the urbane savagery of this world to seek solace in the wilds of the Brazilian jungle, A Handful of Dust demonstrates the incomparably brilliant and wicked wit of one of the 20th century's most accomplished novelists.

©1962 Evelyn Waugh (P)2012 Hachette Audio

What listeners say about A Handful of Dust

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    104
  • 4 Stars
    68
  • 3 Stars
    28
  • 2 Stars
    9
  • 1 Stars
    3
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    122
  • 4 Stars
    52
  • 3 Stars
    15
  • 2 Stars
    2
  • 1 Stars
    1
Story
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    91
  • 4 Stars
    59
  • 3 Stars
    32
  • 2 Stars
    5
  • 1 Stars
    6

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Slow Start then Subtle

This book takes quite a bit of time to get going, but finally becomes worth the slog. The first 1/3 of the book is very English aristocrat society with a bunch of setup and with classically stilted and mostly uninteresting characters. Then the cucumber sandwiches hit the fan and the story suddenly becomes an unexpectedly human story.

Many (if not most) readers may not appreciate this book. It starts unbelievably slowly, then becomes a subtly dark, subtly satirical, subtly futile, subtly sad story. Notice there is a lot of subtly in there.

This is not an overtly funny book, but I laughed out loud a number of times, but these were dark, almost guilt inducing, laughs (the “why did I laugh at that, that’s not funny” kind of laugh). The humor is highly contextual, elusive, and mixed with futility and disillusionment.

I ended up liking this book quite a bit, but it is not something I would read again soon. The narration is really completely OK but not outstanding in any way and some of the voices are too characterized for my taste.

14 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Worth getting thru the first chapter...

This book was such a surprise. I had read Waugh as a teenager but missed this one. It's very funny, at times shockingly anachronistic but wry and tragi-comic. Where it ends is a million miles from where it starts. Begin the journey!

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

unexpected ending

great writing. subtle humor wonderful descriptions. ending left me shocked. totally unexpected. great food for thought

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Very funny and very sad at the same time

Wonderful,nuanced narration. Just the right understatement.

The guileless Tony is lost from day one though that only becomes clear as circumstances change.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A beautiful novel.

Evelyn Waugh is a wonderful English writer. Please read his works and enjoy! You won't be disappointed.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

an exploration of class

One of the themes I least enjoy is the exploration of class as it relates to those with money. And ironically, I love books that explore class with respect to the poor.

A Handful of Dust is my first read of a book by Waugh, and I didn't really connect to it. This one introduces us to an English aristrocrat named Tony Last who is clinging to the life he always had. He is married to Brenda, and is considered very lucky to have married her. She however, hates the home he loves and finds country life boring and unfulfilling. She takes a flat in London where she has met (and starts an affair with) John Beaver, a social climber who painted a picture of the social life they could have together in the city. To have John, she leaves her husband and young son, and tries to entice her husband into having his own affair. The marriage ends, and the book dives deeply into the consequences of divorce in that era.

Nobody escapes this one without pain; the death of the marriage hurts everyone involved.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Freedom can sometimes be a prison of its own

Had I not encountered this book on the Modern Library Top 100 list of the best 20th Century novels, I would never have heard of this work. And how terrible that would have been .

Set in the 30's initially in rural England and London then transitioning to the rainforest of South America, the story focuses on Tony and Brenda Last, a thirty-something couple who enjoy the trapping of the rural ancestral Last estate. As was so common, while the properties and titles suggest a great wealth, in truth, these are rural working lands that barely provide enough income to maintain the estate. Tony is in love with the country squire life and the atmosphere it provides for their young son. To Brenda, it is tedious and boring, she finding relief in the London shopping trips and parties and the privileged life it suggests despite having to travel third class by train to stay in budget.

Infidelity runs rampant among the London elite to which Brenda is not immune but to which Tony appears oblivious. When tragedy befalls the family that should draw the couple together, Brenda instead uses the pretext to stay in London. In contrast, Tony is compelled to travel abroad, a dramatic shift from his homebody nature which presents a precarious challenge for the future of the Last's.

Writer Evelyn Waugh is best known to Americans for his work Brideshead Revisited. This work presents ribald subject matter without vulgarity. The humor is dark and the outcome demonstrative of how we are often prisoners of our own making if we only make the effort to liberate ourselves from the prisons of our own device.

A marvelous, must read novel.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Bitingly Engaging!

This is the 2nd book I’ve read by E. Waugh. The first book was Brideshead Revisited which I enjoyed from start to finish . A Handful of Dust is rich in not very likable characters who are beyond redemption. The story is abundantly sarcastic and cleverly funny in a dark way.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Wonderful and sad at the same time

A brilliantly written decomposition of a marriage. It irrevocably makes you sympathise with the unfortunate husband and the question arises whether boredom with a dull spouse is a good enough reason to set in motion the mechanics that without exception produce calamity and affliction. In my view, Brenda Last is an Anna Karenina unpunished. While poor Tony accumulates most of the bad luck from the broken marriage which he had not enough spirit to prevent from falling apart, she manages to keep the water from ever really entering her boat.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

A social commentary- a cautionary tale

A story set in England in the 1930's where the main character is challenged by life events that "strip away" the illusions of his life. The illusions that are stripped away include that he is safe because of his money and position and the illusion that he is valued having been a both a loving husband and a loving father.

In the course of a short time period he is beset both by the death of his son; and his wife's filing for a decree of divorce.

Initially he agrees to the divorce terms - but when revised terms are presented that would require him to sell his ancestral estate - he fights the divorce decree, changes his will leaving the estate to his family - and travels to Brazil where he is thought to have perished.

Which are the most dangerous jungles - Brazil or a portion of London Society of the 1930's with their cliques and behavioral expectations - brought about from their "bubble like" existence?

What is a man stripped of his relationships - but a "Handful of Dust?"

A reminder (as if one is needed) how quickly all can be taken away from us -and how we persist with the illusion of "being in control".

What to do when. "It all goes bad?"

A sharp commentary on English society.

Carl Gallozzi
Cgallozzi@comcast.net