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A Handful of Dust is an emotionally devastating, wickedly funny novel of shameless self-interest. Tony and Brenda Last have found a measure of peace and comfort in Tony's spacious but unfashionable ancestral home, seemingly insulated from both the ordinary vicissitudes of life and the treacherous jungle of London society. All that crumbles with stunning speed, however, sending Tony fleeing into the relatively safer confines of the Amazon.

The title is an allusion to The Waste Land, and the book shares the same moral universe as Eliot's early poetry - a heap of broken images inhabited by genteel savages. The writing is executed with Waugh's renowned wit and light touch, all in service to a tale of moral despair, resulting in a novel that masterfully manages to be both dreadful and amusing.

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