A Handful of Dust

by Evelyn Waugh

Tony Last may be my favorite protagonist in all of literature. I either want to marry him or be him. (It's also possible that I already am him.) A Handful of Dust is just a great book: totally accessible, totally funny, totally devastating. I will not give a synopsis here because I have no intention of spoiling such satisfying material for would-be readers. Although the narrative is perfectly sequential, some sections of the book are ultimately strikingly different in content and tone from others. So if you start this novel & think you're not particularly interested in what it's about, stick with it, & it will change. And if the ending doesn't make you draw your breath trenchantly, cause a spontaneous guttural outburst, or haunt you...you may not be alive.

I've read A Handful of Dust before so was delighted to see it make an appearance on the list. Permission to read it again! And I do think it's a better book than both Brideshead Revisited and Scoop, which each appear farther down. (Note that if you click on either of those titles, the Classic Bitch reviews you link to will have no backlink to this page, again because I didn't know at the time I wrote them that A Handful of Dust would show up later on the list.)

I can't say enough about A Handful of Dust. Waugh has no individual lines written so cleverly as to bear repeating here—in fact he's a very spare writer—but the story SO WORKS as a gestalt! It draws no attention to itself as it surreptitiously sucks you in. A Handful of Dust is nearly impossible to put down. By all means, read it. You might even read it in a single sitting. (And if you like it, then you should read The Sheltering Sky and also watch many episodes of The Twilight Zone and Locked Up Abroad.) As for me, I shall live out the rest of my life wanting a sequel.