Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Bitches destroying good men: A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh

The blurb for this book at Goodreads calls the wife who cheats on her husband ‘errant’, which is like saying Humbert Humbert enjoyed the companionship of children.

Stop me if you’re heard something like this before.

Brenda Last is married to Tony, the heir of Hetton Abbey. Although the Lasts have an income of several thousand pounds per year, they need to watch expenses. This is because Tony is an honourable man, retaining more servants and other employees than warranted, out of a sense of duty to his ancestors and the future prosperity of the estate and his son, still a young boy.

Although she needs to be careful with money, Brenda is comfortable. But the countryside and her husband bore her. So on one of her regular mid-week trips up to London she meets with and, as cool as you like, decides to have a fling with one Mr. Beaver, a gamma male living with his Mumsie. Having eyed him up earlier, she asks her sister one evening, “What do you suppose is Mr. Beaver’s sex-life?”

Sound familiar? You know, a hard working husband, an honourable husband, working to provide for his family, stripped of his dignity by an ‘errant’ wife?

Evelyn Waugh’s A Handful of Dust was published in 1934, more than eighty years ago, but is as good an introduction to the progenitor of today’s Western White Woman – an “easy life, all whims catered to, all conceptions thwarted, all egos stroked”, as CH puts it – as you will find.

Waugh was onto this in the 1930s. Think about that.

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