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Anthony Powell's universally acclaimed epic encompasses a four-volume panorama of twentieth century London. Hailed by Time as "brilliant literary comedy as well as a brilliant sketch of the times," A Dance to the Music of Time opens just after World War I. Amid the fever of the 1920s and the first chill of the 1930s, Nick Jenkins and his friends confront sex, society, busi Anthony Powell's universally acclaimed epic encompasses a four-volume panorama of twentieth century London. Hailed by Time as "brilliant literary comedy as well as a brilliant sketch of the times," A Dance to the Music of Time opens just after World War I. Amid the fever of the 1920s and the first chill of the 1930s, Nick Jenkins and his friends confront sex, society, business, and art. In the second volume they move to London in a whirl of marriage and adulteries, fashions and frivolities, personal triumphs and failures. These books "provide an unsurpassed picture, at once gay and melancholy, of social and artistic life in Britain between the wars" (Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.). The third volume follows Nick into army life and evokes London during the blitz. In the climactic final volume, England has won the war and must now count the losses. Four very different young men on the threshold of manhood dominate this opening volume of A Dance to the Music of Time. The narrator, Jenkins—a budding writer—shares a room with Templer, already a passionate womanizer, and Stringham, aristocratic and reckless. Widermerpool, as hopelessly awkward as he is intensely ambitious, lurks on the periphery of their world. Amid the fever of the 1920s and the first chill of the 1930s, these four gain their initiations into sex, society, business, and art. Considered a masterpiece of modern fiction, Powell's epic creates a rich panorama of life in England between the wars. Includes these novels: A Question of Upbringing A Buyer's Market The Acceptance World


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Anthony Powell's universally acclaimed epic encompasses a four-volume panorama of twentieth century London. Hailed by Time as "brilliant literary comedy as well as a brilliant sketch of the times," A Dance to the Music of Time opens just after World War I. Amid the fever of the 1920s and the first chill of the 1930s, Nick Jenkins and his friends confront sex, society, busi Anthony Powell's universally acclaimed epic encompasses a four-volume panorama of twentieth century London. Hailed by Time as "brilliant literary comedy as well as a brilliant sketch of the times," A Dance to the Music of Time opens just after World War I. Amid the fever of the 1920s and the first chill of the 1930s, Nick Jenkins and his friends confront sex, society, business, and art. In the second volume they move to London in a whirl of marriage and adulteries, fashions and frivolities, personal triumphs and failures. These books "provide an unsurpassed picture, at once gay and melancholy, of social and artistic life in Britain between the wars" (Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.). The third volume follows Nick into army life and evokes London during the blitz. In the climactic final volume, England has won the war and must now count the losses. Four very different young men on the threshold of manhood dominate this opening volume of A Dance to the Music of Time. The narrator, Jenkins—a budding writer—shares a room with Templer, already a passionate womanizer, and Stringham, aristocratic and reckless. Widermerpool, as hopelessly awkward as he is intensely ambitious, lurks on the periphery of their world. Amid the fever of the 1920s and the first chill of the 1930s, these four gain their initiations into sex, society, business, and art. Considered a masterpiece of modern fiction, Powell's epic creates a rich panorama of life in England between the wars. Includes these novels: A Question of Upbringing A Buyer's Market The Acceptance World

30 review for A Dance to the Music of Time: 1st Movement

  1. 5 out of 5

    Manny

    I've been meaning for some time to post a review of Dance to the Music of Time, which is pretty much my favorite book ever, but it's hard to know where to start. If you've read it, you know it's a masterpiece, and anything I say is irrelevant. If you haven't read it, I'm faced with the daunting task of persuading you that it's worth your time to get through it. Not only is it 12 volumes long, but everyone calls Powell the English Proust. Why read some inferior Proust wannabe when you can get the I've been meaning for some time to post a review of Dance to the Music of Time, which is pretty much my favorite book ever, but it's hard to know where to start. If you've read it, you know it's a masterpiece, and anything I say is irrelevant. If you haven't read it, I'm faced with the daunting task of persuading you that it's worth your time to get through it. Not only is it 12 volumes long, but everyone calls Powell the English Proust. Why read some inferior Proust wannabe when you can get the real thing? The above notwithstanding, if you are the kind of person who likes long novels, you will probably find Dance an unforgettable trip, irrespective of whether or not you have read Proust. I have read both of them more than once, and, although there are similarities, there are also huge differences. Let's start with the style. Proust, of course, is famous for those incredibly long sentences, but, try as I will, I can only bring myself to be half-enthusiastic about them. OK, every now and then you are stunned by the syntactic elegance and perfect balance. Rather more often, unfortunately, it feels more like a really impressive Jenga tower: you are amazed that it can stand upright, but everyone has to tiptoe around the room as long as the game is in progress. Proust readers will all be familiar with the maddening phenomenon of being close to the end of a 500 word sentence when something interrupts your train of thought, and you have to go back to the beginning, losing 15 precious minutes that you will never see again. In a perfect world, the police would regularly check GoodReads, and divert noisy traffic away from the Proust readers who'd asked for this service; even with Obama coming in, it's not going to happen any time soon. Powell's sentences are satisfyingly long and elegant, but he doesn't go to the absurd lengths that Proust does, and you can for example read them when small children are playing in the vicinity. Still on style, I hope will not offend the hard-core Proust fans when I say that he's not usually that funny. There are of course comic passages, some of them very good (I'm particularly thinking of the Duchesse de Guermantes and all her witty remarks). But on the whole, the tone is quite gloomy. So, when reading Proust, not only do you have to make sure you're alert and not being distracted, you also shouldn't be feeling too down. One begins to see why it's significantly harder to reach the end of Le Temps Retrouvée than, say, the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Dance, in contrast, is basically a comic novel; it's amusing most of the time, in a very dry, understated English way that definitely grows on you as the story progresses and the author builds up more and more possibilities for complex irony based on the past histories of the characters. If you're still thinking of it as basically like Proust, you may have trouble believing me, but I assure you that Powell can cheer you up when you are unhappy. It's that different. Moving on to content, another major difference is that Powell characters inhabit a world that recognizably has some connection to the one most of us inhabit. In Proust, no one has anything as mundane as a job, and people spent most of their time attending fancy parties, agonizing about whether they can arrange to be presented to members of the French nobility, appreciating immortal works of art, and getting laid at houses of ill repute. (I really liked Jessica's comment that SHE wanted to have that kind of life. If only!) A lot of Powell's characters are from the English upper classes, but they do mostly end up working for a living, getting married, having children, and doing other things readers will find familiar. You aren't constantly having to apply your internal cultural translator, and figuring out what the thing Proust is talking about might correspond to in your own dull, bourgeois existence. I'm sorry if this review has so far has a defensive tone, but I've been saving the really good stuff for the end. The thing that makes Dance brilliant rather than just very good is the character development, which is simply unequaled in any other novel I have come across. Usually, when the novelist wants the reader to significantly change the way they see a character over the course of the book, he has technical problems because he needs to fit it all into the three to five hundred pages he has at his disposal. Hence all the tiresome foreshadowing that so often spoils the book, and makes it seem so unlike real life. (I love Christina Ricci's comments about foreshadowing at the beginning of The Opposite of Sex). Because Powell is working on such a huge canvas, he can do without all that crap. The first time you meet Stringham, he is so funny, charming and witty that, just like the narrator, you are completely bowled over. He does perhaps seem a bit impulsive and irresponsible, but that is all part of the charm. Similarly, Widmerpool first comes over as a complete idiot. In retrospect, one does wonder whether it really was so funny for Stringham to make a prank call that got his teacher arrested, and you also see that the absurdly over-earnest way in which Widmerpool sorts out the quarrel over the tennis match at the French pension pointed towards something. But Powell's touch is so light that I never suspected anything at the time. The next time you see them, you are just a little surprised that Stringham seems to have become rather thoughtless, but you ascribe that to the exhalted social circles he moves in; and when you see that Widmerpool has landed himself a better job than you expected, you don't really pay much attention to it, particularly after he, once again, manages to cover himself in ridicule by knocking over his employer's flower pots while reversing his car. It's only when you've got many hundreds of pages into the series that it starts coming together. Stringham is drinking far too much; it's not funny any more, at least not most of the time. Widmerpool, on the other hand, suddenly has acquired some real power, without you quite being able to see how it happened. This is exactly how you experience it in real life. Some of the people you worshiped when you were a teenager have turned out to be hopeless failures; others, whom you laughed at, have somehow become very successful. You can't quite reconcile the two views: some of the time, you accept them at their new value, and some of the time they still seem like morons. Powell succeeds perfectly in presenting all these contradictions, without ever seeming even to work up a sweat. It just flows naturally from the narrative. Well... I probably still haven't managed to convince you to read Dance. But think about it :)

  2. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    As an unrefined youth (up until last year or so) when someone said Jane Austen’s novels were all about manners, I’d wonder how it was she could have filled whole books with talk about fork placement and ballroom protocol. It finally dawned on me that they must have meant manners in a broader sense – prevailing customs, ways of living – that sort of thing. ;-) If my new interpretation is indeed correct, I can state with confidence that this collection of twelve Anthony Powell classics is also all As an unrefined youth (up until last year or so) when someone said Jane Austen’s novels were all about manners, I’d wonder how it was she could have filled whole books with talk about fork placement and ballroom protocol. It finally dawned on me that they must have meant manners in a broader sense – prevailing customs, ways of living – that sort of thing. ;-) If my new interpretation is indeed correct, I can state with confidence that this collection of twelve Anthony Powell classics is also all about manners. The setting is England between the wars where stylized manners abound. Plenty is happening, of course. Mutation both within and between classes is de rigueur. The narrator, Nick, is somewhat upper-crusty in a semi-Bohemian way. He’s not a bad sort, really; just a tad slower than we are to recognize romantic turns and new social orders. As a narrator he’s not so much unreliable as he is resistant to the tides of change. Nick has a good education as well as a novelist’s eye for detail. He’s great at observing quirks and he describes them well. We quickly get to know the three other central characters through Nick’s powers of observation. They all went to the same top school (Powell himself was an Eton chap) where the patterns were set early. Nick’s friend Stringham was the brash aristocrat, their friend Templer was the raffish womanizer, and their colleague off to the side, Widmerpool, was both oafish and ambitious – an awkward combination. A whole host of other characters played supporting roles. Each one was described with care and sometimes with a bit of fun. For instance, Nick said of his Uncle Giles: “He was also habitually unwilling to believe that altered circumstances might affect any matter upon which he had already made up his mind.” Someone else was said to have “transmitted one of those skull-like smiles of conventional friendliness to be generally associated with conviviality of a political sort.” In fact, much of the collection that I’ve read so far (the first 3 of 12 volumes comprising what they call the First Movement) seem like character profiles and dialog tied together not by plot but by dinner parties, art shows, and dances. The people come in all varieties: twits, ditzes, toffs and cads among them. The writing is lush; teeming with commas and semicolons. On average, there’s one more clause per sentence and two more words per clause. Once you tune your ear to it, though, it sounds pretty good. Strike that. With Powell’s command of the English language, “pretty good” doesn’t pass muster. It’s filled with little aphorisms, too. For example: “Being in love is a complicated matter; although anyone who is prepared to pretend that love is a simple, straightforward business is always in a strong position for making conquests.” In the main, the humor is like a fine claret – subtle, dry, and well-balanced. There’s a reason the Modern Library listed it as the 43rd best novel in English in the 20th century and Time Magazine included it in their top 100 English-language novels from 1923 to 2005. Since I’m only a quarter of the way through the series, I can’t comment yet on the full epic sweep. It extends into the 60’s. Evolution is inevitable, if not revolution. There’s a fabulous documentary film series that began in the early 60’s in England. It started with a cross-sectional profile of 7-year-old kids from all different backgrounds called 7 Up. Seven years later they returned to these same kids as 14-year-olds to see how they’d changed. Was their future foretold? How had they changed? They’ve repeated the process every 7 years since, so far up to 49. It was fascinating to see how their lives turned out – their professions, their relationships, their worldviews – sometimes as you’d expected, other times not. Anyway, Powell’s series has that same potential. I’ll report back later once I’ve read more.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Vit Babenco

    Spring is a season when nature awakes and everything comes into blossom… Youth is a spring of human life – consciousness awakes and everyone is full of high expectations… And it is also a time of opening one’s eyes and shedding some delusions. But, in a sense, nothing in life is planned – or everything is – because in the dance every step is ultimately the corollary of the step before; the consequence of being the kind of person one chances to be. Anthony Powell literally makes “long-forgotten conf Spring is a season when nature awakes and everything comes into blossom… Youth is a spring of human life – consciousness awakes and everyone is full of high expectations… And it is also a time of opening one’s eyes and shedding some delusions. But, in a sense, nothing in life is planned – or everything is – because in the dance every step is ultimately the corollary of the step before; the consequence of being the kind of person one chances to be. Anthony Powell literally makes “long-forgotten conflicts and compromises between the imagination and the will, reason and feeling, power and sensuality, pleasure and pain” come alive. The summer is ahead and the summertime is a season of ripening fruits…

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ted

    see comment explanation below Have now re-read the first of these three novels (A Question of Upbringing, A Buyer's Market, The Acceptance World), on the way (hopefully) to re-reading the whole series. The twelve volumes of Powell's Dance was really one of the reading highlights of my life. I've written a few words to review Powell's first season of the dance, Spring, more than once. The earliest version had a personal note in it, something like the reconstruction of it as I now recall, which occa see comment explanation below Have now re-read the first of these three novels (A Question of Upbringing, A Buyer's Market, The Acceptance World), on the way (hopefully) to re-reading the whole series. The twelve volumes of Powell's Dance was really one of the reading highlights of my life. I've written a few words to review Powell's first season of the dance, Spring, more than once. The earliest version had a personal note in it, something like the reconstruction of it as I now recall, which occasioned Comment 1 below: About ten years ago I was in the process of reorganizing the books in my library. I ran across the four seasons of Powell's Dance, didn't really know what they were, but just put them in the place they should be and continued on. I think I figured they were just more novels I'd acquired at some point and never read, like many others. After joining Goodreads a few years later, I happened to see Manny's review of Powell's masterpiece. Not too long after I read "Spring". What impressed me immensely about those first three novels was Powell's idea of bringing out the way in which, as we dance our way through time, we only gradually come to know more and more about friends and acquaintances, often in very curious circumstances - a flash of insight caused by someone's casual remark. This struck me as such a beautiful comment on the way people go through life. A bit later, I got curious about how I had got the books. I offhandedly said something about them to my wife, and she said that they were her books, and that she'd read them. I was stunned. Right now, relating this late at night, with her asleep upstairs, I can't ask - and I can't imagine when she would have read twelve novels by Powell. It seemed utterly out of character for her. She was a scientist, hardly ever read books (novels) for pleasure, read newspapers, scientific journals, but novels??? Twelve by one author? And, I should point out, at that time we'd been married at least forty years, and I'd known her since we were five years old. That was the experience that occasioned comment #1 below. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Previous review: City David Macaulay Random review: Invitation to the Dance that's this dance! Next review: Pablo Picasso A Retrospective Previous library review: A Dance to the Music of Time the whole thing Next library review: At Lady Molly's #4 in the series

  5. 4 out of 5

    notgettingenough

    I’ve been somewhere tonight that Ant has never been and frankly, I’m thinking maybe he’s right. Maybe it’s better to discuss how posh people lay the cutlery for dinner parties than life at the bottom. And I have only myself to blame. [Much, much later: the rest of this entry has been cut on the grounds that it is crap, even by the standards set here] And, as usual, I hope it is understood that a review of A Dance to the Music of Time can be about absolutely anything. ------------------------------ I’ve been somewhere tonight that Ant has never been and frankly, I’m thinking maybe he’s right. Maybe it’s better to discuss how posh people lay the cutlery for dinner parties than life at the bottom. And I have only myself to blame. [Much, much later: the rest of this entry has been cut on the grounds that it is crap, even by the standards set here] And, as usual, I hope it is understood that a review of A Dance to the Music of Time can be about absolutely anything. ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Really, this is no more than an apology. Throats cut, Lebanese men with big knives, Penelope what's her name. I realise this review is in danger of becoming interesting. Might I calm things down with the information that it is 44C here where I live just now. Too hot to cut throats, wave knives about, or care what nationality your neighbour is. Too hot to sleep. Too hot to do anything but be exceedingly dull on goodreads. You are welcome to vote for me if you sincerely think I've been boring enough. ----------------------------------------------- Oh dear, I can't resist. So, one of the things that happens in A Dance to the Music of Time is that the narrator mentions a lot of completely obscure books, whether or not they were so at the time of reading, I don't know. Like, what is the point of my telling you here that I'm reading An Iron Rose? Then moving on to explain that I am doing so in my LBD at The European while eating Turkish eggs and drinking tea. I confess I think I was especially irked because I tried to catch him out with his dates, so I'd look up all these books to see if any of them had come out at a time that contradicted the story line, and they don't. Yes, we seem to have established that I'm that petty-minded. Later on in the day I went to see Broken Embraces, so I know now what Penelope what's her name looks like. I guess you need to be a boy to get the full rise from that. The movie could have done with a good looking man, but considering it was Spanish... So, my LBD, had a full day of it, posh restaurants, a film, and then tea at the Windsor while we discussed how great Australia is and what the fuck do those Indians know anyway? No offense, any Indians reading this but India is a country where the value of human life is virtually nil. People are killed every day for pure fancy. They are killed because they are women, because they are poor, because they are from the wrong part of town and yet apparently Australia is this incredibly racist place because an Indian was murdered here the other day without being robbed. Like Australians aren't killed for kicks? I think they are. I used to collect statistics on women killed in India by their husbands and mother-in-laws. It is generally done by dousing the wife in petrol and then setting them alight. Some of these poor women don't actually die. Shaking my head. Get your own house in order, please, India. Meanwhile, I gather that England has been so cursed by the need to be politically correct that my sister-in-law tells me this story. They are sitting in a London restaurant with their daughter and son-in-law. The people at the next table see Sarah say 'I'll fucking kill you, you fucking Jew. If you don't stay away I'll fucking kill you.' Sarah is brandishing a knife while saying this. Now, the reason is that she is telling the never ending saga of the Lebananese restaurant owner next to their apartments. He most certainly isn't particularly anti-Jewish, he has threatened them all with knives and other tasty Lebanese treats, some involving stuffing - the Lebanese do like to stuff things. Martha and John completely freaked out. Evidently this was enough to get them arrested, Sarah telling this story. Racist tensions much be an awful thing to live with in the UK, but fortunately in Australia everybody still gets on in a natural way without having to legislate racial harmony. All of which brings me back to An Iron Rose. Might this segment of my review of A Dance to the Music of Time conclude with an archetypical description of some Aussies playing footy in the bush. This is Australia. pp. 61-63 Ten minutes into the last quarter, it began to rain, freezing rain, driven into our facts by a wind that had passed over pack ice in its time. We only needed a kick to win but nobody could hold the ball, let along get a book to it. We were sliding around, falling over, trying to recognise our own side under the mudpacks. Mick Doolan was shouting instructions from the sideline but no-one paid any attention. We were completely knackered. Finally, close to time, we had some luck: a big bloke came out of the mist and broke Scotty Erwan’s nose with a vicious swing of the elbow. Even in the rain you could hear the cartilage crunch. Scotty was helped off, streaming blood, and we got a penalty. ‘Take the kick, Mac,’ said Bill Garrett, the captain. He would normally take the kick in situations like this, but since the chance of putting it through was nil, he thought it best that I lose the game for Brockley. ‘Privilege,’ I sad, spitting out some mud. ‘Count on my vote for skipper next year. Skipper.’ I was right in front of goal but the wind was lifting my upper lip. I looked around the field. There were about twenty spectators left, some of them dogs sitting in old utes. ‘Slab says you can’t do it,’ said the player closest to me. He was just another anonymous mudman but I knew the voice. ‘Very supportive, Flannery,’ I said. ‘You’re on, you little prick.’ Squinting against the rain, I took my run-up inot the gale, scared that I was going to slip before I could even make the kick. But I didn’t. I manged to give the ball a reasonable punt before my left leg went out under me. I hit the ground with my left shoulder and slid towards goal. And as I lay in the cold black mud, the wind paused for a second or two and the ball went straight between the uprights. The final whistle went. Victory. Victory in round eight of the second division of the Brockley and District League. I got up. My shoulder felt dislocated. ‘That’ll be a slab of Boag, Flannery,’ I said. ‘You fucking traitor.’ ‘Brought out yer best,’ Flannery said. ‘Psychology. Read about it.’ I said, ‘Read about it? Psychology in Pictures. I didn’t know they’d done that.’ Paul, I've been called to dinner. I trust you will proofread this. ------------------------------------------------------------------- In deference to Paul. p.196 'This was an unnpleasnt surprise for everyone. The girls could not have made more noise if they had been having their throats cut.' Now, this really did make me think. In my opinion the girls certainly could not have made more noise if they had been having their throats cut. But this is not what Ant means. Ant means that he considers one would make a lot of noise while having one's throat cut. More noise, perhaps even, than Manny would make if anybody actually gave him a vote for his review of Go book number two. I have to say, I've spent quite a bit of time thinking about this. I considered googling it, but I'm fairly sure that I'd get taken somewhere I really don't want to be. I'm not talking about Manny squealing with delight, I'm talking about the girls with the cut throats, of course. My own sense of what would happen is that the loudest noise during this process would be that of blood hitting a hard surface. Or maybe the sound of 'shit' as the blood meets the clothes of the throat cutter. The cuttee, nup, surely silent. Then, just this morning, as I'm eating sourdough baguette toast and tea at my local French coffee shop I come across the following scene in An Iron Rose p. 138 He'd been killed where he lay, his head pulled back by the ponytail and his throat cut. More than cut. He was almost decpaitated.....Carlie mance was in the bathroom, naked....the man had been behind her when he cut her throat.... Now this is merely inferential, but. The place has been staked out by the Feds, it is tapped for sound. There is no doubt that if these people had made so much as a squeak while having their throats cut, the Feds would have been right onto it. I rest my case. -------------------------------------------------- 3.30pm I cruise into the kitchen, not unnnoticed. 'What are you doing?' 'Looking for lunch' 'But you had lunch half an hour ago' I hate people who count your food. Hate, hate, hate. And I feel sure I said somewhere on goodreads just a day or so ago that I haven't hated anybody ever, but let's just exclude people who count your food out of that rash statement. 'You can't have another lunch now just because that book is making you miserable'. And it is true. Absolutely true. I didn't even want the first lunch I had. I certainly don't want this one. But. I feel like I've given this book more chances that Jesus gave all humanity. I wouldn't care to speak for him, but for me, I'll say too many. Way, way, way too many. I keep thinking that I will nail my case here by quoting a really really really boring passage. But what to choose? Honestly dip in anywhere and prepare to be bored to death by pompous formal writing of a kind I'm gobsmacked got into print. p.250 At school I had known Tom Goring, who had later gone into the Sixtieth, and, although we had never had much to do with each other, I remembered some story of Stringham's of how both of them had put up money to buy a crib for Horace - or another Latin author whose works they were required to render into English [fucking hell, why oh why this tedious qualification. Are we going to find the narrator out? Ah ha. YOU said it was Horace and actually:] - and of trouble that ensued from the translation supplied having contained passages omitted in the official educational textbook. This fact of her elder brother having been my contemporary - the younger son, David, was still at school - may perhaps have had something to do with finding myself, immediately after our first meeting, on good terms with Barbara; though the matter of getting on well with young men in no circumstances presented serious difficulty to her. Sorry if that had you on the edge of your seat. I formally throw in the towel. I've done my hundred dollars. Bugger. ----------------------------------- Later. If you happen to have read this book you will understand that digressions are the essence of the thing. So, it is in this spirit that I mention I went to Brightstar and I make a note to myself never to shag Keats should he come across my path. I take note that he's dead these days, but I can't see that this detail will make him less lively. In fact, make that poets fullstop. Pop poet on your profile, send me a little something about the affinity you feel for - some body part or another, my mind, even, if you like - and I promise I'll stay well clear. And I go to bridge and somebody asks me if I know anybody with influence in the city and a big house. The whole passing acquaintance with an academic who might live near Cambridge just hasn't really done it for me. So, I've got a better approach now. 'Well, Bob of course. And Jeff...' And there is nothing the other person can say to that. They are in terrible danger of showing inexcusable ignorance if they get pursue the details of this claim. Honestly it works. And our young wanker, - well, Manny thinks otherwise, so does that mean it's the author who is a wanker - narrator spends two pages of such tedium describing the process of thinking about kissing somebody and then kissing entirely the wrong person, honestly, truly, you don't want to know, that I revise my opinion about Brightstar. I have to admit that I would shag Keats dead or alive (him, not me) rather than the earnest sad little sod who fancies himself as a writer in this First Movement. Maybe you have to have been a young man sometime in your life to fancy him. Maybe you have to care about money and influence and big houses. I just don't know. At bridge certain interesting things happen, but I shan't tell you about then since it would be against the spirit of this book to pep you up that way. So, I will merely mention that my partner forgot a baby bit of system on board one, leaving us in the wrong game (which I made) rather than the right slam. And the very next board my opponent failed to understand the simple truth that aces are not necessarily highest. Hmm. That last point is almost philosophically interesting. I beg your pardon. ----------------------------------------------------------------- Later. At dinner, Gowers asks me whom I know with a big house and an important position in the City. Panic. Are there no names I can drop, anybody of note I know? Will I be invited back here again? Umm, I reply after a frozen moment, I know an academic I believe lives near Cambridge. Gowers sniffs. But do you know any Oxford academics, Gowers replies, in those two words sweeping away the entire concept of there being academics outside that institution. Of course! My own niece lives in Oxford with her husband who is an academic there. I lean back in relief. Not to be invited back to the Gowers, well, the shame of it. Gowers is pleased. Donald changes the subject. Any good practical jokes lately? He describes his mother in a nursing home. He turned off her TV at the powerpoint and she spent an entire day thinking her TV wasn't working. It was such a hoot. That prompted Andrea to say she was thinking of moving the newspaper her 94 year old mother gets delivered to the edge of the stairs. Wouldn't it be hysterical if the old bint fell down the stairs while attempting to retrieve the paper? We all smile at the prospect. Then I woke up. This is what comes of reading First Movement before bed. The subject matter of the book to date, as you can see, is gross. Nasty boys with nasty values doing nasty things. One might hope they grow up except that the rest of the cast to date are nasty adults with nasty values doing nasty things. This book has a mighty lot of characters in it so far, but not one that is likeable. One wonders if it is the author or the narrator who is a wanker. Well, obviously the narrator is a wanker in a literal sense, he is a young man. But intellectually, metaphysically? Are we supposed to be appalled by the entire thing? Would I have a different understanding of this book if I lived in a country like England where social status is so important that one can write hundreds of pages about it without being either offensive or dull? And please God, could you not lighten up a bit, Ant? Could we not have a knock knock? An I say I say I say? So it's Sunday, I'm going to have tea and toast for breakfast soon at one of my favourite coffee shops. I was going to wear my NYE party frock today, but it's too cold. Sorry cute LBD. You have to wait again. Next I'm going to be playing bridge all day and coming back to whereever I'm staying right now. Then I'll be cooking dinner or I will have dinner cooked for me. And anything, absolutely anything is a review of A Dance to the Music of Time. ------------------------------------------------------------------ So, it's New Year's Eve, I had three parties I promised to go to - come as a celebrity, Marta said; you mean other than a famous writer, I ask? Marta is Hungarian, she didn't get it - a gorgeous new dress, the sexiest heels...and what am I doing? I'm writing about A Dance to the Music of Time: First Movement. The bloody thing's twenty-eight hundred pages long, I don't have time for parties. You might say, you are so not doing that, writing about this book, but hey, I'm learning on my feet while I'm reading Powell. Pithy he is not. To the point? Hardly. I'm reading Les Miserables as well right now and frankly, Ant - I hope he wouldn't mind my being intimate, I'm going to be with the guy for two thousand eight hundred pages, I don't see how to avoid getting too close to him - well, Ant makes Victor Hugo look like he's on a word diet. He makes Hugo look like he's on a bet, just how short can you make this book. And to his credit, Hugo takes a quarter of the space Ant does. Maybe he collected. Having stated that this book is about a certain Myriel, the first sentence of Les Miserables reads: Although this detail has no connection whatever with the real substance of what we are about to relate, it will not be superfluous, if merely for the sake of exactness in all points, to mention here the various rumors and remarks which had been in circulation about him from the very moment when he arrived in the diocese. The first sentence of Ant's testament to the English language, if we might compare, reads: The men at work at the corner of the street had made a kind of camp for themselves, where, marked out by tripods hung with red hurricane-lamps, an abyss in the road led down to a network of subterranean drain-pipes. What happened to sucker your reader in with your first sentence? What happened to 'It was love at first sight'? Oh. Joseph Heller was still on his way. I guess the fact is that you don't want to give too much away in your first sentence when you have about - hmm, let's see, 2800 pages, say a dozen sentences to a page, that's 33,600 sentences to go. Face facts right from the very beginning, tight writing we are not looking for. The sandals are wedges, the dress has lace and beads and red bits and a drop waist, which I adore, and it's close fitting to the waist, after which it's got the most gorgeous skirt, and well, I'm SORRY, dress. Sunday. Maybe you get an outing Sunday. And I know it's sounding again like I'm not reviewing Dance to the Music of Time but honestly, everything is a review of this book. Absolutely everything.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Perry

    5 Strobing Foxtrot Stars on a Huge Dancefloor Go to this Roman-Fleuve I took much delight in this fascinating and woefully underappreciated roman-fleuve (a long sequence of novels together making up a single work) particularly when reflecting upon it as a dance to "the music of time" in which "partners disappear only to reappear once again, once more giving pattern to the spectacle." A Dance to the Music of Time, composed of four movements of three novels each, takes place between 1921 through 19 5 Strobing Foxtrot Stars on a Huge Dancefloor Go to this Roman-Fleuve I took much delight in this fascinating and woefully underappreciated roman-fleuve (a long sequence of novels together making up a single work) particularly when reflecting upon it as a dance to "the music of time" in which "partners disappear only to reappear once again, once more giving pattern to the spectacle." A Dance to the Music of Time, composed of four movements of three novels each, takes place between 1921 through 1975 in England as the narrator Nicholas Jenkins progresses from his schooldays at Eton all the way through the free-love late 1960s into the early 1970s. Notably, Powell attended Eton at a time when several other talented writers were there, including Eric Blair (a/k/a George Orwell), Cyril Connolly and Henry York (Henry Green). Jenkins is as much an observer as he is a participant, and rarely the center of attention. Instead, he gives focus to the lives, growth and aging of his closest three classmates and paints on a huge canvas his and their dance with thirty-two other characters who join and leave and rejoin. The sequence captures in a way I've not seen in any other work how time alters the players by introducing them, then bringing them back at a later time, and then takes them away again, ultimately all of them--some with violence and in war and some quietly--and the reader--this one at least--is knelled by the impermanence of life and its permanence (it goes on). The primary trio includes the boorish and ambitious Kenneth Widmerpool (one of the most memorable, despicable characters drawn in any literature I've read), the blue-blooded and self-destructive Charles Stringham and the self-assured and worldly-wise Peter Templer. He brilliantly composes each of the thirty-two supporting characters with such prismatic particulars that I can recall most of them now, a year out from reading the cycle. The primary beauty of the four movements is watching these characters waltz in with an ease that can only be imagined by a writer on his game pouring his soul into the works. The novels are each relatively short, a bit over 200 pages, a few less, and were published between 1951 and 1975. I am so glad I threw away my fear to plunge into the Dance. This work is hard to figure the best way to review. It is 12 novels, 4 movements, and I fear giving too many details will scare some potential readers away. I will supplement my review to address the separate works (likely by the 4 movements) individually.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

    I thought of Plato's Cave during the very first page. I was reminded of Brideshead Revisited as Nick the narrator visits the home of a friend with a rich mother (admittedly, that's based on superficialities). I couldn't help but think ofMarcel Proust's M. Swann while reading of Nick's childhood memories of Mr. Deacon: the child had heard his parents discuss the man and he thus becomes a "mysterious figure" to the narrator. I realize I'm not catching many of Powell's literary and painterly allusio I thought of Plato's Cave during the very first page. I was reminded of Brideshead Revisited as Nick the narrator visits the home of a friend with a rich mother (admittedly, that's based on superficialities). I couldn't help but think ofMarcel Proust's M. Swann while reading of Nick's childhood memories of Mr. Deacon: the child had heard his parents discuss the man and he thus becomes a "mysterious figure" to the narrator. I realize I'm not catching many of Powell's literary and painterly allusions. I hope to have more of substance to say as I read on (nine more books to go!), especially, as in the last of this set, I was greatly enjoying the meta-fictional musings of Nick/Powell on the writing of characters: Nick wondering how he'd write of an English person (such as his friend Mark Members) versus characters who aren't British (such as the family Nick's observing in the Ritz), which of course Powell has written. I'm also very interested in how many more people Nick will compare to his Uncle Giles.

  8. 5 out of 5

    David Lentz

    A "A Dance to the Music of Time" may well be one of the great literary works about the everyday life of the upper class in England and those attempting to break into it or rise within its social ranks. The writing is excellent, of course, but I rarely found myself transported by this work of meta-fiction about social climbing and high society, for example, in the same way in which Proust does. Powell is often considered an English Proust as the focus of the writing has to do with life and strivi A "A Dance to the Music of Time" may well be one of the great literary works about the everyday life of the upper class in England and those attempting to break into it or rise within its social ranks. The writing is excellent, of course, but I rarely found myself transported by this work of meta-fiction about social climbing and high society, for example, in the same way in which Proust does. Powell is often considered an English Proust as the focus of the writing has to do with life and striving among the English upper crust. However, Proust strikes me as the far superior writer insofar as Proust is able to build a rhythm and cadence in the pure narrative beauty of his elegant syntax. Powell seems to want us to be amused by rather silly even juvenile plot points and I found it difficult to become immersed in or even to like an epic cast of characters of sycophants and a pretentious landed gentry so rapt in petty materialism and social score-keeping to extend beyond their own thin veneer of human artifice. That is also part of Powell's message but it's a theme which becomes laborious and redundant and boorish in its interminable length. Maybe it's because I'm American and am not compelled to engage in or to understand the complex nuances of the social class system of England. For me, life is too short to become further invested in reading another 2000 pages of more movements. I did very much appreciate Powell's uncommon use of the dance as a metaphor for life itself. Powell sees life as a dance during which we move over time in a series of movements. This idea intrigues me and the scenes of the novel often engage music and dance in the story line. I also became sensitive to and appreciative of the transitions or specific movements as the characters navigated among each other and their society. It is an important aspect of this novel to enable the reader to step back and view life this way. The novel begs the question: how well do you manage to navigate through the movements of your life over time in your business, family and society? Life can be measured in a sense by one's existential agility in moving attuned to the music of time. The ethereal concept of recognizing the partnership of music and time also proved interesting insofar as the constructs of music entail so many existential qualities in measures, stresses, beats, points-counterpoints, orchestration, creativity, individual talent, volume, scale, instrumental ability, discipline, improvisation, listening, expression, nuance, subtlety and grace all of which accompany one's personal dance throughout a lifetime. I became attuned to Powell's transitions among the many scenes he depicts and the vast number of characters who served as dance partners in the music of the narrative. So this is definitely a great literary read and even if in my view Powell may fall short of Proust, so what? They're both great literary novelists, not mutually exclusive, and one can over a long life read both if one starts at a sufficiently early age on the task. Given the choice, I would recommend reading all of Proust first: I'm glad I read this movement in time in order to become more attuned to my own danse macabre.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    “Wisdom is the power to admit that you cannot understand and judge the people in their entirety.” ― Anthony Powell, A Dance to the Music of Time: 1st Movement The First Movement (**SPRING**) contains the following three novels: 1. A Question of Upbringing (A Dance to the Music of Time, #1) -- read January 28, 2016 2. A Buyer's Market (A Dance to the Music of Time #2) -- read February 1, 2016 3. The Acceptance World (A Dance to the Music of Time, #3) -- read February 9 , 2016 I read these three n “Wisdom is the power to admit that you cannot understand and judge the people in their entirety.” ― Anthony Powell, A Dance to the Music of Time: 1st Movement The First Movement (**SPRING**) contains the following three novels: 1. A Question of Upbringing (A Dance to the Music of Time, #1) -- read January 28, 2016 2. A Buyer's Market (A Dance to the Music of Time #2) -- read February 1, 2016 3. The Acceptance World (A Dance to the Music of Time, #3) -- read February 9 , 2016 I read these three novels starting in January 2016 and ending February 9., 2016. I roughly wanted to read one a month (which makes rational sense I guess), but consistency is not entirely my bag. I've hyperlinked to my original reviews of each book. Book 1's review is a bit light and doesn't follow the pattern I picked up in book 2, and subsequently followed in each of the other 11 books. I probably need to go back and fix that.

  10. 5 out of 5

    David M

    8/24/18 Now that I've read the first 700+ pages, I can honestly say I have no strong reaction one way or the other but still feel compelled to keep reading for some vague reason. This might be one of those novels that only really starts to cast a spell after the first 2,000 pages or so. When you think about how excruciatingly long life is, all books seem pitifully short. *** In case you missed it, the literary event of the season has been Perry Anderson arguing in the London Review of Books - at e 8/24/18 Now that I've read the first 700+ pages, I can honestly say I have no strong reaction one way or the other but still feel compelled to keep reading for some vague reason. This might be one of those novels that only really starts to cast a spell after the first 2,000 pages or so. When you think about how excruciatingly long life is, all books seem pitifully short. *** In case you missed it, the literary event of the season has been Perry Anderson arguing in the London Review of Books - at epic length - that Anthony Powell is actually better than Proust https://www.lrb.co.uk/v40/n14/perry-a... ... & the above, joy of joys, is but the first half of a two part essay. ... I'm now about halfway through the first of four "movements" in Powell's sequence, and find myself as yet utterly incapable of either confirming or denying Perry's* wild thesis. Powell is certainly good. I feel compelled to keep reading, both for its inherent merits as a work of art and for the sake of being able to agree or disagree coherently with my Marxist idol. If I may proffer one preliminary observation, I will say that Perry seems to take Proust's solipsism as a deficiency with which he favorably contrasts Powell's keen observation of other people. More than even a homosexual, Proust was first and foremost an onanist. Is that a bad thing? Perry seems to think so, but one might also argue that such self-obsession facilitated a labrythine inwardness that is one of the singular achievements in word literature. Even the most nicely wrought profiles or fine-tuned social observations might seem minor by comparison. ... Also, one of the more endearing things I've read in a while: Perry was rereading Powell on a long flight and laughing so hysterically the whole time other passengers had to turn and ask what was going on (https://www.theguardian.com/books/200...). Glad there are things in this world that bring you joy, comrade. *We're on a first name basis.

  11. 5 out of 5

    David

    “...at the termination of a given passage of time...the hidden gate goes down...and all scoring is doubled. This is perhaps an image of how we live. For reasons not always at the time explicable, there are specific occasions when events begin suddenly to take on a significance previously unsuspected; so that before we really know where we are, life seems to have begun in earnest at last, and we ourselves, scarcely aware that any change has taken place, are careering uncontrollably down the slipp “...at the termination of a given passage of time...the hidden gate goes down...and all scoring is doubled. This is perhaps an image of how we live. For reasons not always at the time explicable, there are specific occasions when events begin suddenly to take on a significance previously unsuspected; so that before we really know where we are, life seems to have begun in earnest at last, and we ourselves, scarcely aware that any change has taken place, are careering uncontrollably down the slippery avenues of eternity." So this year I decided to read Anthony Powell's epic series A Dance to the Music of Time. It took me a while to slog through the first volume, though not because it's not good. It's just very long and not at all the sort of plotty novels I usually like. At times it's Dickensian in its understated, dry social commentary combined with over-the-top, just barely plausible characters, but Powell has a much subtler touch than Dickens and his novels are more realistic, his characters more believable. His messages also are delivered with much more elegant, one might even say delicate, prose. At the same time, he made me laugh even more than Dickens does. This volume combines the first three of the twelve books that make up the series: A Question of Upbringing, A Buyer's Market, and The Acceptance World. Together they cover the early adulthood of the main characters. The first-person narrator, Nick Jenkins, remains the most stable and sensible of the crew, though he is certainly not without his flaws. He becomes quite unbearably pretentious for much of the second book, in the manner of all young men who think they have life all figured out at age twenty-something. His friends are Peter Templer, a playboyish sort of rascal, and Charles Stringham, the tragic romantic with too much family money to take life seriously. There is a fourth member of the central "quartet" who is distinct because he's not really friends with any of them, yet seems to be a recurring presence in their lives: Kenneth Widmerpool, the awkward mediocrity they all remember as that kid they laughed at for being obtuse, ingratiating, and a natural figure to poke fun at. A Question of Upbringing covers their school years at an Eton-like boarding school, introducing us to the quartet of boys and several other characters who will recur, such as headmaster Le Bas and Nick's Uncle Giles, a cagey, self-absorbed, money-seeking old bastard who is that irritating relation you can never quite shake off. “Later in life, I learnt that many things one may require have to be weighed against one's dignity, which can be an insuperable barrier against advancement in almost any direction. However, in those days, choice between dignity and unsatisfied curiosity was less clear to me as a cruel decision that had to be made.” A Buyer's Market introduces Nick to the world of sex and marriage (though he does not get married himself any time in this volume). Nick spends most of his time dawdling about in a publishing job, eventually becoming a writer himself, and hanging out at debutante balls, presumably with the goal of eventually landing a wife, though he doesn't really seem to be in a hurry. The book opens with him being "in love" with a rather flighty and temperamental woman who is apparently juggling a number of suitors, including our old friend Widmerpool. Widmerpool plays his usual role as comedy relief by getting a bowl of sugar dumped on his head, the entire incident described in exquisite physical and emotional detail, and at the same time, his reaction is another clue (we've had a couple of previous ones) that he's really not someone you should be quick to laugh at. This isn't the only intersection of Jenkins and Widmerpool's professional and romantic lives; the book moves through some encounters with artists, socialists, and other people one might best describe as "social facilitators" whose precise role in life in never made explicit but whom everyone who is anyone seems to know. I should note here that Anthony Powell is actually quite funny, even though he never writes straight-up humor. But that sugar bowl incident is both funny and strangely disturbing. There are also many amusing observations made throughout the series, mostly delivered in Nick's wry voice: “He gave me a look of great contempt; as I supposed, for venturing, even by implication, to draw a parallel between a lack of affluence that might, literally, affect my purchase of rare vintages, and a figure of speech intended delicately to convey his own dire want for the bare necessities of life. He remained silent for several seconds, as if trying to make up his mind whether he could ever bring himself to speak to me again; and then said gruffly: 'I've got to go now.” “Feeling unable to maintain this detachment of attitude towards human- and, in especial, matrimonial- affairs, I asked whether it was not true that she had married Bob Duport. She nodded; not exactly conveying, it seemed to me, that by some happy chance their union had introduced her to an unexpected terrestrial paradise.” You can also see Nick's dry sense of humor in his conversations with Stringham and Templer and some of his other friends. He slowly begins to take himself less seriously, while figuring whom he should take seriously and whom he shouldn't. The Acceptance World brings us to the end of Nick's early adulthood and we can readily see that it marks the beginning of his transition to real adulthood. He's becoming established as a writer, while a subplot in this book is a contretemps between a best-selling novelist of uncertain reputation, St. John Clarke, his current secretary, Mark Members, a poet, and J.C. Quiggins, a Marxist writer who seeks to supplant Members. This entire subplot is brilliant in all the unspoken inferences about the relations between these men, the personal and professional jealousies and petty maneuvering for prestige, and (at least I took it this way), the fact that one could read between the lines and suspect this was a romantic rivalry as well. (Powell does allude to homosexuality several times, but mostly in a jocular fashion, and it's not clear whether any of the characters will really turn out to be gay.) And at last, Nick Jenkins is finally caught up in a true love affair of his own, not just being dangled by a debutante, but engaged in a serious affair with a married woman. “There is, after all, no pleasure like that given by a woman who really wants to see you.” A Dance to the Music of Time is not exactly exciting reading, but it's great reading when you are in the mood to luxuriate in careful prose that is deceptively deep for its apparent lightness, and get to know characters gradually and in great detail. After finishing the first volume, I am gaining an appreciation for Powell, and my motivation for continuing the series is not so much "What's going to happen next?" as "Show me more writing like this." It's really a book that is just full of quotable quotes, but sometimes it's the longer passages that strike you with the genius, the poignancy, the insight, or the understated humor. And I just know Widmerpool is going to prove to be some sort of dire lynchpin. As volume one ends, we are entering the 1930s, and already there are references to Mussolini and fascists, so while much of the first three books took place in the shadow of World War I, we can see foreshadowing of the war to come. Maybe I am being a barbarian in only giving volume one 4 stars, because the writing is absolutely top notch. But I place a big value on story, and I want to see where the arc goes. Also, honestly, Powell did teeter on the brink of long-winded self-indulgence at times. I know, I know, the story isn't the main thing here, but to merit 5 stars (making it a "favorite"), Powell has to satisfy me all the way to the end. I may revisit this rating after I finish the series, and I plan to read the next three volumes this year.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bette

    I have very mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, Powell gives a highly detailed picture of English life between the wars for a certain class of men. And some of it is quite funny. On the other hand, it was incredibly slow moving (though listening to large parts of it dramatized the book more than reading it). Nicholas Jenkins, the protagonist of the book, is very passive, more an observer than a truly well-rounded character. And his views of women are condescending and derogatory. I I have very mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, Powell gives a highly detailed picture of English life between the wars for a certain class of men. And some of it is quite funny. On the other hand, it was incredibly slow moving (though listening to large parts of it dramatized the book more than reading it). Nicholas Jenkins, the protagonist of the book, is very passive, more an observer than a truly well-rounded character. And his views of women are condescending and derogatory. I don't think that I've ever encountered such sweeping and ridiculous generalizations about the so-called "fair sex" in a novel, and I've read a lot of 18th and 19th-century lit. Jenkins's (& Powell's, presumably) views of women are quite misogynstic. I'm glad I read the first movement, having heard about the book many years ago and having been curious about it. But I will not read the remaining 9 novellas. I think I'll try the BBC miniseries!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    A Dance to the Music of Time is a twelve-novel cycle examining English society from the 1920s to the 1960s through the lives of its predominantly upper middle class characters, which is presented as the memoirs of the narrator, Nick Jenkins. The cycle is broken into four "movements", consisting of three novels each. This, the first movement, is comprised of A Question of Upbringing, A Buyer's Market and The Acceptance World. The title is a reference to Nicolas Poussin's painting of the same nam A Dance to the Music of Time is a twelve-novel cycle examining English society from the 1920s to the 1960s through the lives of its predominantly upper middle class characters, which is presented as the memoirs of the narrator, Nick Jenkins. The cycle is broken into four "movements", consisting of three novels each. This, the first movement, is comprised of A Question of Upbringing, A Buyer's Market and The Acceptance World. The title is a reference to Nicolas Poussin's painting of the same name, which is housed at the Wallace Collection in London. Nick Jenkins explains the significance of the painting at the beginning of the first novel: These classical projections, and something from the fire, suddenly suggested Poussin's scene in which the Seasons, hand in hand and facing outward, tread in rhythm to the notes of the lyre that the winged and naked greybeard plays. The image of Time brought thoughts of mortality: of human beings, facing outward like the Seasons, moving hand in hand in intricate measure, stepping slowly, methodically sometimes a trifle awkwardly, in evolutions that take recognisable shape: or breaking into seemingly meaningless gyrations, while partners disappear only to reappear again, once more giving pattern to the spectacle: unable to control the melody, unable, perhaps, to control the steps of the dance.Time – how it passes, how people interact and alter with its passage - is what the work is about. It’s unlikely to appeal to readers who want an action packed, plot driven novel. However, readers who favour intelligent prose, a large cast of well-developed characters* (many of them based on real people) and interesting social history over plot will be amply rewarded. I was prompted to listen to the audiobook version of this novel, which is superbly narrated by Simon Vance, after learning that the Tory Anthony Powell was a close friend of the socialist George Orwell, as well as a fellow Etonian. If not for reading a biography of Orwell, I may never have tackled Powell, even though the audiobook had been sitting around on my computer for quite some time. I’m glad I did and I’m looking forward to listening to the Second Movement. *Okay – well-developed male characters: the women are rather less interesting.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth (Alaska)

    First posting 6/11/2014 for A Question of Upbringing Second posting 7/29/2014 for A Buyer's Market Final Posting 8/19/2014 for The Acceptance World This edition includes the first three books of the 12-volume series. I'll "review" them individually, as that is how I'm reading them. A Question of Upbringing introduces us to who I assume will be the four main characters throughout the series. It is told in the first person by Jenkins (first name as yet unknown) and begins in "about the year 1921." The First posting 6/11/2014 for A Question of Upbringing Second posting 7/29/2014 for A Buyer's Market Final Posting 8/19/2014 for The Acceptance World This edition includes the first three books of the 12-volume series. I'll "review" them individually, as that is how I'm reading them. A Question of Upbringing introduces us to who I assume will be the four main characters throughout the series. It is told in the first person by Jenkins (first name as yet unknown) and begins in "about the year 1921." The "boys" are apparently in the last years of public school. Widmerpool is at least a year older than Stringham, Templer, and Jenkins. Each has sufficient family resources to be in public school, but the differences are apparent. There is not much plot, just a telling of life as it happens. I don't expect the series to be very deep, nor especially emotional, but a very pleasant read being the times and lives of just the sort that appeals to me. A Buyer's Market tells us the narrator is Nicholas "Nick" Jenkins. That might have been in the first story and I missed it. The boys are now definitely men and out in the world. I think these will just be a pleasant interlude to heavier reading. I think they are on the 1001 list because of the insight into this wealthier class of people in the years between the wars and a way of life that probably no longer exists. The Acceptance World is the final installment in this first 3-volume book of the series. I feel as if I'm settling into Nick Jenkins telling his story. He makes observations about people - and he knows a lot of them. Their personalities are varied. They are mostly people who are somewhat affluent, or come from affluent families. His characters try to keep up the appearance of affluence, even when they no longer have any real hope of being such. This story takes place in the Depression, or the slump. Jenkins is a writer - yes, this is semi-autobiographical - and his contacts for the most part move in the world of letters and art. I'm giving it 4 stars at this point, but I think it resides at the lower part of that group. I look forward to the rest of the series, although I may have to lay it aside for a few months.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Robert Sheard

    A Question of Upbringing is the first novel of a twelve-novel sequence called A Dance to the Music of Time. It has been described as the English equivalent of Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past and its books have been called quintessentially English novels. Nicholas Jenkins attends an upper-class boarding school (based on Powell’s own experience at Eton), where he befriends two older students, Charles Stringham and Peter Templer. Separated into four chapters, each section follows Jenkins A Question of Upbringing is the first novel of a twelve-novel sequence called A Dance to the Music of Time. It has been described as the English equivalent of Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past and its books have been called quintessentially English novels. Nicholas Jenkins attends an upper-class boarding school (based on Powell’s own experience at Eton), where he befriends two older students, Charles Stringham and Peter Templer. Separated into four chapters, each section follows Jenkins at a different phase early in life. The first chapter outlines his fall semester and his growing association with Stringham and Templer, as well as some mention of another acquaintance, Kenneth Widmerpool. The second chapter is the winter holidays. Stringham is finished with school and is going to spend the spring in Kenya with his father, but before he leaves he takes Jenkins with him to his mother’s and step-father’s home for the break. The third chapter is after Jenkins finishes school and spends time in France, studying the language and learning more about life before he goes up to university. In France he crosses paths once again with Widmerpool. And the final chapter is at university. Templer doesn’t attend, but comes for a visit with some friends from London. And Stringham decides to leave university early to work in London. But by the end of the chapter, Jenkins realizes he probably won’t see either of them much in the future. The entire novel feels very much like a prologue to the volumes that come later, but as a stand-alone work, there’s not much to recommend it. Nothing really happens, and Jenkins spends the entire 230 pages making observations about the many people he meets (and who will presumably appear again in later volumes), and commenting upon the changeable nature of friendships and romances. Decent enough theme, but no real story to go with it at this stage. I wasn’t a particular fan of Powell’s style, so when coupled with the absence of a plot, this wasn’t a successful experience for me. I’m pretty firmly in the camp, from what I’ve read, that the series is vastly overrated. I won’t be going on to volume two.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    A Dance to the Music of Time is a delicious book: I am loving every minute of reading it. Originally comprising 12 separate novels published from 1951 to 1975 it now comes in four volumes and I’ve only read the first volume so far, but I am hooked. Sometimes compared to Proust’s A La Recherche du Temps Perdu (Remembrance of Lost Time), Anthony Powell’s masterpiece might also be called a comedy of manners. It is much easier to read than Proust, and not just because the sentences are shorter: it’s A Dance to the Music of Time is a delicious book: I am loving every minute of reading it. Originally comprising 12 separate novels published from 1951 to 1975 it now comes in four volumes and I’ve only read the first volume so far, but I am hooked. Sometimes compared to Proust’s A La Recherche du Temps Perdu (Remembrance of Lost Time), Anthony Powell’s masterpiece might also be called a comedy of manners. It is much easier to read than Proust, and not just because the sentences are shorter: it’s more amusing, less angst-ridden, and the ‘Britishness’ of its subtle ironies is part of its charm. A clumsy summary might make this work seem like a soap-opera, so I shan’t try except to say that the novels follow the fortunes of a group of young men through their adolescence and adulthood, from the immediate post WW1 period to the early 1970s. It begins when Jenkins, Templer, Stringham and Widmerpool are in the same house at Eton, and it moves on as they muddle their desultory way through and out of university and then into careers of one sort or another. They muddle into and out of relationships too: love, business, artistic and so on. Along the way there is a veritable cavalcade of eccentric and sometimes dubious characters from all walks of life. To see the rest of my review please visit http://anzlitlovers.com/2012/01/22/a-...

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ed

    This and the other four volumes are actually a total of 12 novels following a welter of British characters from 1914 until the mid 1960s. I am about to start reading the whole sequence for the third time. There is also a great BBC dramatization on DVD: Dance to the Music of Time. This is the British equivalent of Proust's In Search of Lost Time. I guess I find it closer to life as it was lived in the 20th century and certainly to the idea of our lives as a dance that characters keep returning to, This and the other four volumes are actually a total of 12 novels following a welter of British characters from 1914 until the mid 1960s. I am about to start reading the whole sequence for the third time. There is also a great BBC dramatization on DVD: Dance to the Music of Time. This is the British equivalent of Proust's In Search of Lost Time. I guess I find it closer to life as it was lived in the 20th century and certainly to the idea of our lives as a dance that characters keep returning to, in different changing guises, mirroring society's evolution as well as their personal characters. In Widmerpool Powell has created an awesomely representative villain whose growing evil is perfectly understandable given his starting point and what happens around him. Though memorably someone once said: 'we are all someone's Widmerpool': someone thinks us evil in some way. And he has one of my favorite tragic characters: Charles Stringham. But it is the way minor characters pop up over the 50 year trajectory that I find fun. And also finding out the real people Powell based his characters on: which includes George Orwell. Anyway if you have six months reading to find: this novel sequence is something to try.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Nigeyb

    "A Dance to the Music of Time" is a twelve-volume cycle of novels by Anthony Powell. The books are available individually or as four volumes. Spring A Question of Upbringing (1951) A Buyer's Market (1952) The Acceptance World (1955) Summer At Lady Molly's (1957) Casanova's Chinese Restaurant (1960) The Kindly Ones (1962) Autumn The Valley of Bones (1964) The Soldier's Art (1966) The Military Philosophers (1968) Winter Books Do Furnish a Room (1971) Temporary Kings (1973) Hearing Secret Harmonies (1975) (Dates ar "A Dance to the Music of Time" is a twelve-volume cycle of novels by Anthony Powell. The books are available individually or as four volumes. Spring A Question of Upbringing (1951) A Buyer's Market (1952) The Acceptance World (1955) Summer At Lady Molly's (1957) Casanova's Chinese Restaurant (1960) The Kindly Ones (1962) Autumn The Valley of Bones (1964) The Soldier's Art (1966) The Military Philosophers (1968) Winter Books Do Furnish a Room (1971) Temporary Kings (1973) Hearing Secret Harmonies (1975) (Dates are first UK publication dates) This twelve-volume sequence A Dance to the Music of Time traces a colourful group of English acquaintances from 1914 to 1971. The slowly developing narrative centres around life's poignant encounters between friends and lovers who later drift apart and yet keep reencountering each other over numerous unfolding decades as they move through the vicissitudes of marriage, work, aging, and ultimately death. Until the last three volumes, the standard excitements of old-fashioned plots (What will happen next? Will x marry y? Will y murder z?) seem far less important than time's slow reshuffling of friends, acquaintances, and lovers in intricate human arabesques." Time and Anthony Powell: A Critical Study by Robert L. Selig Below is a review of each of the three novels that are contained within "Spring". * * * * * 1. A Question of Upbringing (Volume 1): I've wanted to read "A Dance to the Music of Time" since discovering that Julian Maclaren-Ross features somewhere in the series as a character called X. Trapnel. Such is my interest inJulian Maclaren-Ross (I am, of course, assuming you have already read "Fear and Loathing in Fitzrovia: The Bizarre Life of Writer, Actor, Soho Raconteur Julian Maclaren-Ross" by Paul Willetts) that this is sufficient to inspire me to tackle one of the longest works of fiction in English literature. You probably feel exactly the same. If you don't then you should consider it. Published in 1951, "A Question of Upbringing" is the reminiscences of Nick Jenkins (presumably based on Powell himself) who recounts his last few years at public school around 1921, a summer spent in France, and then onto university. It's a familiar world of gilded privilege, akin to the early sections of "Brideshead Revisited", though with very little by way of drama or narrative. Instead the reader is introduced to a variety of disparate characters and some prescient anecdotes. I say prescient as Jenkins hints at the ways in which their lives will turn out. What makes this book a delight is the beautiful writing, which really captures the era and milieu, and which is aligned to regular doses of humour. Powell captures the transition of adolescence into adulthood perfectly: the insecurities, the naivety, the fast changes, the gaucheness, the way friendships may evolve and fracture, and how life choices made at this stage can shape whole lives. I suspect this series will get better and better and "A Question of Upbringing" lays the groundwork for what it is to follow. I cannot wait to find out. 4/5 Click here to see my review of A Question of Upbringing (A Dance to the Music of Time #1) * * * * * 2. A Buyer's Market (Volume 2): "A Buyer's Market" is the second book in Anthony Powell's twelve novel sequence "A Dance To The Music of Time" and it picks up the narrative in 1928, via a flashback to Paris where narrator Nick Jenkins introduces us to an artist called Mr Deacon. Nick is now in his early twenties and whilst more grown up, still uncertain of his place in the world. I assume this explains the book's title. Nick and his contemporaries are searching for money, jobs, sex, social status etc. and their search takes them to a succession of social events that Nick recounts in the same first hand manner of "A Question of Upbringing". Also, in common with "A Question of Upbringing", it's full of day-to-day detail and Nick's perception of those he encounters. How reliable is Nick as a narrator? He frequently revises his opinions about those he meets not least Widmerpool whose personal journey continues apace. The narrative technique adds to the sense of surprise and gives the book a few memorable twists. For me Widmerpool is very much the star of the show and I love the way he kept turning up in ever more incongruous and unexpected places - constantly surprising and confounding Nick Jenkins. There are also, and again in common with the first book, some moments of sublime humour, and much of the exquisite writing has a pleasing and playful tone. I enjoyed this book every bit as much as "A Question of Upbringing", and now look forward to reading the third instalment, "The Acceptance World". Reading the first two instalments of "A Dance To The Music of Time" has been an absolute joy and akin to the pleasure of slipping into a hot bath. I recommend both books and eagerly anticipate completing the journey from 1914 to 1971 - and discovering what happens to Nick and his group. 4/5 Click here to see my review of A Buyer's Market (A Dance to the Music of Time #2) * * * * * 3. The Acceptance World (Volume 3): Ten years on from the start of A Question of Upbringing, which starts with narrator Nick Jenkins recounting his last few years at public school, The Acceptance World begins in London in 1931. The recurring characters have all undergone significant change. Some that seemed to have the world at their feet have squandered their gifts, whilst others who were more pitiful in their younger incarnations are enjoying success. The economic gloom that characterised the 1930s seems to permeate this part of "A Dance to the Music of Time", despite this, The Acceptance World is supremely enjoyable. This volume introduces a hint of mysticism, a new character called Myra Erdleigh tells Nicks fortune through the ancient practice of cartomancy (reading ordinary playing cards) and, later in the story, there is an incident with a planchette. I'd never heard of them before but apparently planchettes came to prominence in the years following the establishment of Spiritualism in America in the mid-nineteenth century, kick starting a craze for supernaturally tinged parlour games, séances etc. that must have continued into the early 1930s (probably with a resurgence after World War One). The Acceptance World is certainly the most dramatic volume so far, with a merry-go-round of relationship change. Almost as soon as two disparate characters meet there's a likelihood of a change in relationship status in the offing. As I work through the series it is becoming clearer how some of what happens in the early stages, sets up the Dance as we move forward in time. This is making the series progressively more enjoyable, rewarding and compelling. I raced through The Acceptance World such was the pleasure it gave me. I've enjoyed all of the first three volumes however this has been the most enjoyable so far. I encourage anyone who starts the series, and is unsure about whether to commit, to stick with it. It becomes ever more enjoyable and rewarding. My other tip is to refer to AnthonyPowell.org where there are lists that help the reader to keep track of who is who, along with a synopsis of every volume, and interesting and insightful essays. 5/5 Click here to see my review of The Acceptance World (A Dance to the Music of Time #3)

  19. 5 out of 5

    Gary Lee

    This contains the first three novels of Powell's cycle. A Question of Upbringing -- 4 out of 5 stars. This first novel, of the overall twelve novels involved, comes across as little more than a high(er)-brow version of A Seperate Peace. And to me, that's not a bad thing. It's quite readable, if a bit dry in places, and manages itself very well. It's essentially the first (230page) chapter of an overall novel that spans the life of the main character; so, this time is spent introducing the character This contains the first three novels of Powell's cycle. A Question of Upbringing -- 4 out of 5 stars. This first novel, of the overall twelve novels involved, comes across as little more than a high(er)-brow version of A Seperate Peace. And to me, that's not a bad thing. It's quite readable, if a bit dry in places, and manages itself very well. It's essentially the first (230page) chapter of an overall novel that spans the life of the main character; so, this time is spent introducing the character, as well as detailing certain important bits of his adolescence and young adult life. Not much more. There are eleven more novels to fill in the rest. I think that's where most readers get annoyed. If one comes to each novel in this cycle, expecting a definite beginning/middle/end structure, they won't really find it. While each book is able to stand on its own, it's the entire cycle that is meant to be read as one single (very long) novel. A Buyer's Market -- 4/5 stars A bit more involved and engaging than the first novel. This second novel finds the main character (and subsequent supporting characters) a few years older, and not much wiser. They've now finished with University and are starting to make their first appearances in the London social scene. That's about it for this one -- as with the previous novel, this one follows episode after episode of Jenkins' young adult life, but only going from one social episode to the next -- one party or weekend outing after another. One character is introduced in the first chapter, dead in the last chapter. There's a questionable abortion -- questionable in that it might have been a scheme for money. Homoerotic overtone, heteroerotic overtones -- it's all here. Just as in life. The Acceptance World -- 5/5 stars The first two novels set everything up -- the major characters, themes, motifs, history, mythology, etc. And now, Powell starts to get into the beginning of the heart of the narrative. The characters are now taking jobs, marrying, having affairs, divorcing, becoming drunks, becoming major players in society, becoming social revolutionaries -- in part, they're growing older and finally interacting with the world around them. I'm quick to write this one off as the best novel of the three collected in this first volume, but I'm not sure if it's because it actually is the best of the three or because I've become familiar with all of the main characters and have become interested in their lives and interactions. Starting 7/1/08, I'm giving myself one year to make it through Powell's cycle. We'll see how it goes...

  20. 4 out of 5

    carl theaker

    12 novellas, oh, about 3000 pages, covering 50 years of London life with the who's who, socialites, writers, b-list celebrities, politicos, and historical figures all thrown in, most of whom would be unknown to any contemporary Londoner let alone the rest of us, written by a snooty erudite, somehow it all works. If you're in it for the long haul, I suggest an 'Invitation to the Dance' by Hillary Spurling, a guide and glossary to all that is about to appear before you. The first 3 books contained in 12 novellas, oh, about 3000 pages, covering 50 years of London life with the who's who, socialites, writers, b-list celebrities, politicos, and historical figures all thrown in, most of whom would be unknown to any contemporary Londoner let alone the rest of us, written by a snooty erudite, somehow it all works. If you're in it for the long haul, I suggest an 'Invitation to the Dance' by Hillary Spurling, a guide and glossary to all that is about to appear before you. The first 3 books contained in Spring introduce Nick Jenkins/Powell, the narrator, and his compatriots at college in the 1920s. Jenkins becomes a reviewer, creator and appreciator of the visual arts, like Powell in real life, and uses famous paintings symbolically throughout the series, thus the title 'A Dance to the Music of Time'. Like all good English novels everybody endures school and everyone has family money of some level to sustain them. Now that I think about it, only in DH Lawrence works do the characters ever get their hands dirty. Powell begins a steady supply of odd characters who give Jenkins something to compare, contrast and be bemused by. These characters come and go, giving a cohesion over the dance of time. The boys are always thinking about the girls and Jenkins falls in love fairly regularly in that genteel way that no one, outside the reader, ever knows. Life gets rolling by the third book 'Acceptance World' where just about everyone gets married and almost all divorced. It's all good reading in a MasterPiece theater way; the Great Depression is a having some effect on the characters, but is handled as a subtle backdrop to personal relationships and political rantings in Hyde Park.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Timothy Hallinan

    My favorite novel of the 20th century is probably Anthony Powell's twelve-volume marathon, A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME, written between 1951 and 1975. Supremely civilized, enormous in design, an unforgettable picture of a way of life (and a class) that were disappearing even when Powell was one of the "bright young people" who were so visible in the 1920s in London, the books that make up Dance are also very funny. I first read DANCE when I was in my early thirties, and the story (in the first t My favorite novel of the 20th century is probably Anthony Powell's twelve-volume marathon, A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME, written between 1951 and 1975. Supremely civilized, enormous in design, an unforgettable picture of a way of life (and a class) that were disappearing even when Powell was one of the "bright young people" who were so visible in the 1920s in London, the books that make up Dance are also very funny. I first read DANCE when I was in my early thirties, and the story (in the first three books) of the friendship of three boys thrown together in school and the gradual dissolution of those friendships as the world calls the young men in different directions, meant a great deal to me at the time. I'd never read anything that seemed to speak so directly to my own life. This was emphasized by the loss, in the book, of one boy -- the most brilliant one -- into a life of drink and another into sexual dissipation that ruins his relationships and irremediably coarsens his character. I had watched several friends hit the rocks by that time and had sailed pretty close to them myself. The remaining books chronicle the irresistible rise of the boy the others had scorned, the implacable Widmerpool, who amasses power almost as revenge for being unloved and unliked, and who demonstrates a resilience to humiliation -- even sexual humiliation -- that's almost mythical in scope. I think Widmerpool may be the fictional creation I most admire. By the way, Powell's four-volume memoir, TO KEEP THE BALL ROLLING, also speaks to a level of civilization that seems today to be as lost to us as Atlantis.

  22. 4 out of 5

    James

    Powell takes you back to a time and place, Britain and France in the 1920s, that no longer exists. He also describes a class culture that is unfamiliar to this reader who grew up in the Midwest. He does this with a prose style and a structure that, through episodes in the lives of four boys on the verge of adulthood, slowly builds a story that seems very true to life. You gradually learn about the relationships through the eys of the narrator, Jenkins, and by the time he says goodbye to his Uncl Powell takes you back to a time and place, Britain and France in the 1920s, that no longer exists. He also describes a class culture that is unfamiliar to this reader who grew up in the Midwest. He does this with a prose style and a structure that, through episodes in the lives of four boys on the verge of adulthood, slowly builds a story that seems very true to life. You gradually learn about the relationships through the eys of the narrator, Jenkins, and by the time he says goodbye to his Uncle Giles at the end of the first volume, A Question of Upbringing, you have become engaged with these individuals, their loves and dreams for the future.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    This book was in 3 parts and this is some of my frustration on how to rate the book. Even having completed the book, I'm still struggling with some of the first portion. I either was missing key points along the way, or that part of the story could have been shorter. By a lot. By the last portion, I really liked it. I could see things more clearly. The people seemed more 3 dementional. I'm probably going to have to read the next book now, which I didn't imagine I would say when I finished the fi This book was in 3 parts and this is some of my frustration on how to rate the book. Even having completed the book, I'm still struggling with some of the first portion. I either was missing key points along the way, or that part of the story could have been shorter. By a lot. By the last portion, I really liked it. I could see things more clearly. The people seemed more 3 dementional. I'm probably going to have to read the next book now, which I didn't imagine I would say when I finished the first part of the book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    MoriartyandHerBooks

    Apologies to the people also in the book group, but I just CANNOT read 11 more books of this. I understand it's an examination of the English upper middle class, but stuff has to HAPPEN. It takes a great skill to talk about a character's day to day life, and make it worth reading, but I personally do not feel Powell has this skill. That being said I only read Book 1 out of 12, but to force myself to read 11 more when I really got no enjoyment out of the first, would be unfair to myself I think. Apologies to the people also in the book group, but I just CANNOT read 11 more books of this. I understand it's an examination of the English upper middle class, but stuff has to HAPPEN. It takes a great skill to talk about a character's day to day life, and make it worth reading, but I personally do not feel Powell has this skill. That being said I only read Book 1 out of 12, but to force myself to read 11 more when I really got no enjoyment out of the first, would be unfair to myself I think. Hopefully other reads enjoy it more, and maybe one day I'll pick Book 2 up, but not this year.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Shelley

    On a recent holiday to London we decided not to be too touristy and spent our time walking the streets and soaking up the feel of the city. We actually stayed around the corner from Shepherd's Market in Mayfair - exactly where Nick Jenkins resided. So, reading this was not only wonderful because of the great characters and comic relief, the sense of place for me was magical.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Bettie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. (view spoiler)[ Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)] (view spoiler)[ Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)]

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mark Joyce

    A book of this length will inevitably divide opinion but I’m firmly with those who consider it a subtle, under-stated masterpiece worthy of comparison with The Great Gatsby and Brideshead Revisited. It goes into much greater detail than either of those two books on the social dynamics of debutant balls, country house parties and London private members’ clubs and as such may try the patience of those with a limited appetite for that kind of thing. But, like Fitzgerald and Waugh, Powell is really A book of this length will inevitably divide opinion but I’m firmly with those who consider it a subtle, under-stated masterpiece worthy of comparison with The Great Gatsby and Brideshead Revisited. It goes into much greater detail than either of those two books on the social dynamics of debutant balls, country house parties and London private members’ clubs and as such may try the patience of those with a limited appetite for that kind of thing. But, like Fitzgerald and Waugh, Powell is really writing about the loss of innocence and the fragility of human relationships. For my money he achieves an impact just as powerful as those two greats. I don’t mind admitting there were a couple of points at which I had to blink and cough hard into a clenched fist in order to maintain a manly disposition.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Whitley

    I count the Dance to the Music of Time as one of the most important literary achievements of the 20th century. I've read the entire sequence of novels twice, and found the second reading a richer experiences than the first, such is the density and complexity of Powell's amazing achievement. Powell has created the richest and most detailed fictional narrative in the English language, in my opinion. I will read the series a third time in a few years, because there is much hidden in the story, I fe I count the Dance to the Music of Time as one of the most important literary achievements of the 20th century. I've read the entire sequence of novels twice, and found the second reading a richer experiences than the first, such is the density and complexity of Powell's amazing achievement. Powell has created the richest and most detailed fictional narrative in the English language, in my opinion. I will read the series a third time in a few years, because there is much hidden in the story, I feel, that can only be reached after a basic familiarity with the text has been achieved.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Renee M

    I've rated the individual books which make up this First Movement as 4 stars each; however, the overall experience definitely rates 5 stars for me. I'm so thoroughly loving this journey into the world of Nick Jenkins.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    I picked this one and the second movement up at the book sale. Its supposed to be difficult but beautiful. Right up my alley.

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