A HANDFUL OF
DUST is Evelyn Waugh's
scathing commentary on the well-mannered death struggles of
the upper classes — an irrepressibly amusing picture of society
politely blowing its own brains out, with a defiant smile.
It tells of Brenda, Tony and their friends — a wonderfully
congenial group who live by a unique set of social
standards. According to their rules, any sin is acceptable
provided it is carried off in good taste.
Subtitled "A Novel of Many Manners," Evelyn Waugh's famous first novel lays waste the "heathen idol" of British sportmanship, the cultured perfection of Oxford and inviolable honor code of English upper classes.
Paul Pennyfeather, innocent victim of a drunken orgy, is expelled from Oxford College, which costs him a career in the church. He turns to teaching, frequently the last resort of failures, and at Llanabba Castle meets a friend, Beste-Chetwynde. But Margot, Beste-Chetwynde's mother, introduces him to the questionable delights of high society. Suddenly, and improbably, he is engaged to marry Margot. Just as they are about to say "I do," Scotland Yard arrives and arrests Peter for his involvement in Margot's white slave-trading ring.
A collection of thirty-nine stories spans the entire career of the literary master and comic genius, from his earliest character sketches and barbed portraits of the British upper class to "Brideshead Revisited" and "Black Mischief".