A Handful of Monopoly

Tom Utley writing in the Daily Mail compares the board game of Monopoly to the ending of Waugh’s novel A Handful of Dust. He recalls a disastrous holiday in the Scottish isles where his family endured endless rainfall in a cottage with a leaky roof:

And the only entertainment to be found on the premises was a shelf of yellowing Agatha Christie books, a pack of 47 playing cards and — you’ve guessed it — a cruelly complete set of Monopoly…So there we sat, for hours on end in the damp and gloom of that hall, playing game after endless game and hating each other more with every throw of the dice.I felt like Evelyn Waugh’s Tony Last in A Handful Of Dust, held prisoner by an illiterate maniac in the Brazilian jungle, condemned to live out his days reading and re-reading aloud to his captor the complete works of Dickens.

By day four on Arran, when we could stand the game no more, I suggested the family should venture out into the rain to climb Goat Fell, the highest point on the island, so that we’d have at least one achievement to show for our holiday. We were halfway up its 2,866 feet, ankle-deep in mud and bitten raw by midges impervious to the rain, when I had one of the greatest brainwaves of my life. I put it to my wife and the boys: ‘Should we press on to the top, and then go back … for another game of Monopoly? Or should we go back down right now, pack our bags, call off the rest of the holiday and drive home to London?’ The latter suggestion carried unanimously. We were on the next ferry to the mainland, heading back to the telly and the warm, dry beds of home. Since then, I’ve never been able to look at that familiar board without a shudder of horror.


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