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Summer Read – A Handful of Dust – Chapter Three

A Handful of Dust – Chapter Three – Hard Cheese on Tony

It’s that time again – chapter three is upon us – and I am still disgusted with Brenda and in love with Tony.  I understand Mrs. Darcy’s assessment of society pushing people into marriage and it was probably hard to resist that push back in the era when this book was written.  BUT (and that is one big butt) it doesn’t excuse her behavior.  It is one thing to wake up and realize that you’re trapped or that you’re unhappy and another thing entirely to act upon those feelings.  From my perspective, Tony believes that Brenda is just as much in love with him as he is with her.  He believes that they are one of the lucky couples with friendship and partnership and a wonderful son.  He has no idea how she feels because… she never tells him.

But, I guess that would mean that there would be no book.

I find that I don’t take issue with how Brenda feels, but I do loathe how she acts.  She lies, she sneaks away, she insists that Tony spend money renovating a house that she doesn’t even like, she even brings a girl home for the weekend hoping that Tony will start having an affair of his own.  It’s deplorable.

And then the end of the chapter.  **SPOILER ALERT**  John Andrew their hilarious son dies in a freak accident.  Tony is crushed.  All he desires is for Brenda to be by his side and face this as a couple, as a team, and her only thought is for Beaver.

Forever (at least for now) Team Tony, Mrs. Hemingway

Hard cheese on Tony. Yes it was. Here are some of my favorite passages…

“I shouldn’t have said that was his thing…We must get him interested in a girl.”

“If only we could…Who is there?”

…”Well, we’ll find him someone.”

“The trouble is that I’ve become such a habit with him–he won’t take easily to a new one…”

That was a conversation between Brenda and her friend Polly. So ludicrous…matchmaking for one’s husband. Mr. Evelyn Waugh sure has a cynical commentary on the institution of marriage. (And that’s rather why I like him!)

“My dear girl, until this minute I didn’t know you had any goings on. And I’m not asking any questions about them now.”

“Oh…I thought everyone knew.”

“That’s always the trouble with peopl;e when they have affaires. They either think no one knows, or everybody. The truth is that a few people like Polly and Sybil make a point of finding out about everyone’s private lives; the rest of us just aren’t interested.”

Brenda is talking to her brother-in-law Allan. I love this line. Mr Waugh must’ve foreseen the invention of Facebook and Twitter where everyone thinks the whole world wants to know about their dealings. Dear FB and Twitter users…NO ONE CARES. Sincerely, Mrs. Darcy and Mr. Waugh.

She frowned, not at once taking in what he was saying. “John…John Andrew…I…Oh, thank God…” Then she burst into tears.

Brenda has just gotten the news of her son’s death. I had to go back to this line several times. It took me that long to figure out that she was relieved. Maybe I am dense. Or maybe I just didn’t want to believe that she’d be grateful it was her son instead of insipid John Beaver.

Indeed it was some hard cheese on Tony here. “It was several days before Tony fully realized what it meant. He had gotten into a habit of loving and trusting Brenda.” I thought Mr. Waugh’s use of the word habit was interesting. Perhaps that was the hardest cheese of all…Tony’s marriage was little more than a habit.

-Mrs. Darcy, with some hard cheese of her own.

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