Short summary - A Handful of Dust - Arthur Evelyn St. John Waugh

British literature summaries - 2020

Short summary - A Handful of Dust
Arthur Evelyn St. John Waugh

John Beaver, a young man of twenty-five years old, lives in London in the house of his mother, who is engaged in the repair and rental of apartments. John at the end of Oxford, before the crisis began, worked in an advertising agency. Since then, no one has managed to find him a place. He gets up late and almost every day he sits by the phone, waiting for someone to call him to his place for lunch. Often at the very last minute, if someone is let down by a gentleman, this is what happens. This weekend, he is going to stay at Hetton Castle with his recent friend Tony Last.

Having received a telegram from Beaver, Tony, who intended to spend a quiet weekend with his family, together with his wife Brenda and son John Andrew, does not express special enthusiasm about his arrival and entrusts the guest with his wife. Beaver makes a good impression on Brenda and eventually even begins to seem to her an interesting conversationalist. Brenda has a desire to rent an apartment in London, and Beaver's mother is taken to help her with this. Soon, Tony's wife begins to realize that she was carried away by her new acquaintance. Arriving in London, she and her sister Marjorie go to the restaurant of one of their common friends, where she meets with Mrs. Beaver and Lady Cockers; the latter invites everyone to her appointment, which is due in a few days. When Brend comes time to leave London, Beaver escorts her to the station, however, at the request of Brenda to accompany her to an appointment with Polly Cockers, he replies with a clumsy excuse, because, according to his mental calculations, it will cost him several pounds, because before the reception he will have to take Brand to the restaurant. Brenda is upset.

The next day, a telegram arrives from Beaver to Hatton, in which he reports that he managed to settle his affairs and is ready to accompany her to Polly. Brenda's mood is clearly improving. For lunch at a restaurant, despite Beaver’s protests, Brenda pays. On the way to Polly, sitting in the back seat of a taxi, Brenda pulls John to her and kisses. The day after the reception, all of London is just gossiping that Brenda and Beaver begin an affair.

For three days, Brenda returns to Hatton, to her husband and son, and then again, under the pretext of the hassle of an apartment, leaves for London. She calls Tony morning and evening, and she spends most of her time with Beaver. Soon, she informs her husband that she wants to enroll in female courses in economics at the university and therefore she will have to spend a lot of time in London.

One day, Tony, missing his wife, announced to London without warning. Brenda is unhappy with his unexpected arrival and, referring to employment, refuses to meet with him. Tony goes to a club where, along with his friend Jock Grant-Menzies, he gets very drunk and calls Brenda all evening, which makes her crazy. Returning to Hetton, Tony quarrels with his little son, who, after missing his mother, throws questions to his tired and irritated father.

Following these events, Brenda comes to Hatton with her friends for two consecutive weekends. She is tormented by her conscience, and she wants her to experience more than one love affair. She wants her husband to become interested in her new acquaintance, Jenny Abdul Akbar, who had once been married to a black man, a very eccentric, but beautiful lady, telling everyone about her hard life. Tony, however, finds her tiring, and the novel fails.

Somehow, when Brenda, as usual, in an absence, in the Hetton Forest, a hunting camp is organized. John Andrew, who already knows how to ride a pony, is allowed to attend. After the hunt begins, the boy, under the supervision of the groom Ben, is sent home. On the way back, an accident occurs with the child: the wayward horse of Miss Ripon, the neighbor of Flippers, who also went with them, frightened by the exhaust of the moped, stands on its hind legs and, backing away, strikes John's hoof in the head. The boy falls into the ditch. Death comes instantly. More recently, a house full of fun is enveloped in an atmosphere of mourning. Jock Grant Menzies, who was present on the hunt, travels to London to report the incident to Brand. Brenda is visiting at this time. Upon learning of the death of her son, she weeps bitterly. After the funeral, she leaves Hatton very quickly and writes a letter to Tony from London,

In a divorce, Brenda is the plaintiff, it’s more convenient. To formalize Tony’s divorce, it is necessary for witnesses to be found at the hearing to observe his affair with some other woman. To do this, he finds in one of the bars a certain Millie, a girl of easy virtue, and goes with her to Brighton. Behind them detectives leave. Milli, without warning Tony, takes with her her daughter, who constantly revolves around adults and pestering Tony with her requests and whims.

Upon returning to London, Tony has a serious conversation with Brenda's older brother, Reggie, in which Reggie demands for Brenda child support an amount that is twice the amount that Tony is able to allocate. In addition, some unpleasant facts come up, so in the end Tony refuses to give Brenda a divorce. She cannot demand it, since the testimonies of the Brighton witnesses are not worth a penny, because there was a child in the room all the time and the girl slept in the room that Tony was supposed to occupy both nights. Instead of a divorce, Tony decides to temporarily leave and go on an expedition to Brazil in search of some lost City.

Tony is accompanied by Dr. Messinger, an experienced researcher, although still a fairly young man. While sailing to the shores of South America, Tony meets a girl named Theresa de Vitreux, after two years of study at a Paris hostel returning home to Trinidad. Between them there is a fleeting interest, which disappeared with Miss de Vitreux immediately after she finds out that Tony is married. Having landed in Brazil, Tony and Dr. Messinger come in contact with the local Indians and for some time live near their settlement, terribly suffering from annoying insects, but hoping that the Indians will help them get to the Paivai tribe, which, although it is reputed to be very cruel, but, Apparently, he owns some guidelines on how to find the Castle. The Indians build boats for travelers and transport them along the river to the land of the paivas, and they themselves disappear without a trace at night. Further Tony and the doctor move downstream on their own. On the way, Tony gets sick, he is in a fever, a fever rises, and he spends many days and nights unconscious. Dr. Messinger sets off on his own in order to quickly bring someone to help Tony. In the whirlpool, the doctor is drowning, and Tony, barely regaining consciousness, in a delusional state sneaks through the forest jungle and goes out to the Indian village. There he meets with old Mr. Todd, who does not know how to read, but is terribly fond of listening when they read books, in large numbers left to him by his father, who once worked as a missionary here. He cures Tony, but does not allow him to leave, forcing him to constantly read and reread aloud all the books. Tony has been living in his hut for almost a year. Once, Mr. Todd puts him to sleep for two days, and when Tony wakes up, he informs him that some Europeans were looking for Tony and he gave them his watch, assuring that Tony was dead. Now no one will ever look for him again, and Tony will have to spend his whole life in an Indian village.

Brenda, having learned that she was widowed, marries Jock Grant-Menzies, and Hetton, according to Tony's will, leaves to his relatives, Flippers.