A Handful of Dust– Chapters 4, 5, 6, 7
Summer is ending. And that is some hard cheese on all of us. Er, well, at least on me. So, this means the end of our summer read and thoughts on the last four chapters.
Chapter 4 can be summarized in this quote by Tony, “So what your proposal really amounts to is that I should give up Hetton in order to buy Beaver for Brenda.” Beaver got a bit of a haughty-tude once Brenda was free of Tony. As per usual, it’s the hunt that’s more exciting than the prize. By the end of the chapter, there was still a load of hard cheese on Tony. When he finally came to his senses and wouldn’t sacrifice everything he owned for her and play the bad guy, he actually became the bad guy. “Now I understand why they keep going on in the papers about divorce law reform.’ said Veronica. ‘It’s too monstrous that he should be allowed to get away with it.’”
Chapter 5 is where the story ended for me. Tony went In Search of a City. I loved the book up until this point. It reminded me of Downton Abbey. Or maybe it’s Downton Abbey that should remind me of this book. Either way, I thought it was a fascinating study of culture and the way people interact. I especially enjoyed Mr. Waugh’s cynical view of marriage. But in this chapter, Tony goes off on a cruise with some doctor he meets at the Club. Tony hooks up with some young girl Therese who’s from Trinidad. She drops him quickly and the story disintegrates quickly for me. Tony and the doctor travel to a village and there are pages and pages of them just waiting for the Indians to return so they can lead them on the expedition. Pages and pages of waiting. I half expected Godot to show up. They eventually go on the expedition but then the Indians have to leave early. The Doctor gets mad and shows them some mice which scares the Indians away. Blah blah blah, Tony and the Doctor try on their own, but Tony gets sick. Then there are pages and pages of him hallucinating. The Doctor leaves to get help down the river, but he dies. Eventually, hallucinating Tony walks to an open field and finds The City, the compound of Mr. Todd.
Chapter 6, Du Cote de Chez Todd is even worse. Mr. Todd is odd. And yes, it was time for a rhyme. He’s been living in Amazonas for nearly 60 years and just wants someone to read his Dickens books to him. So, he holds Tony against his will and forces him to read aloud. And when help finally comes, Mr. Todd drugs Tony, sends the help away, and Tony is stuck there forever.
Chapter 7- Everyone at home assumes Tony is dead. Brenda won’t come down for the dedication of a new memorial at Hetton. Richard and Molly Last have taken over. And cousin Teddy is going to restore Hetton to the glory it saw under Cousin Tony.
I suppose there’s something in that ending, but I don’t even care. I invested all this time in this book only to have Tony held captive in some weirdo’s home in the depths of Brazil? How did we get from drawing rooms to captivity in Brazil? Perhaps that is the message about marriage. I don’t know. I just know it felt like Mr. Waugh had some hard cheese fall on his head after chapter 4 and forgot what his book was about. Maybe he was drunk? Maybe he was just tired and said f*** it, I’m going to screw with everyone? Or maybe he’d just read The Sound and the Fury and wanted to make a book that was even worse than that. Who knows.
But, Dear Mr. Waugh, you disappointed me in the end. And if your message is hidden in that, it was received loud and clear.
I’ve been putting off finishing this book and writing this entry because to do so would signal the end of the summer. I couldn’t put it off any longer so yesterday I completed the book. I finished it. I wish I could take it back and not finish it. I wish I could have stopped reading at chapter 4. But, no, I insisted on finishing.
I will say this. I enjoyed reading this book. I enjoyed writing about it and reading what Mrs. Darcy wrote about it. We didn’t always agree, but that’s what good literature does. It evokes different responses from different people. It was fun and it reminded me of why Mrs. Darcy and I embark on the journey into a classic novel each summer. Mr. Evelyn Waugh was making some awesomely cynical views on marriage and society. It was great.
But the ending. Wow. I thought all night and postponed writing this till now because I just didn’t know what to say. And then it hit me. Mr. Waugh, sounds great. You want to end your novel this way. Sounds great, good job. You want your commentary on marriage and society to end with captivity in the jungle? Great. You want to, essentially, write two different novels but cram it into one? Sounds great.
And with that, summer is over.