hits counter The Soldier's Art - Ebook PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

The Soldier's Art

Availability: Ready to download

A Dance to the Music of Time – his brilliant 12-novel sequence, which chronicles the lives of over three hundred characters, is a unique evocation of life in twentieth-century England. The novels follow Nicholas Jenkins, Kenneth Widmerpool and others, as they negotiate the intellectual, cultural and social hurdles that stand between them and the “Acceptance World.”


Compare

A Dance to the Music of Time – his brilliant 12-novel sequence, which chronicles the lives of over three hundred characters, is a unique evocation of life in twentieth-century England. The novels follow Nicholas Jenkins, Kenneth Widmerpool and others, as they negotiate the intellectual, cultural and social hurdles that stand between them and the “Acceptance World.”

30 review for The Soldier's Art

  1. 5 out of 5

    Algernon (Darth Anyan)

    It should come as no surprise for the readers who follow the movements of the Dance that Anthony Powell likes to start each episode with an allegorical scene, a trigger for the memories of the past and a sort of preview of events to come. For the number eight novel, the simple act of Nick Jenkins buying a greatcoat at the start of 1941 is loaded with hidden messages and premonitions of danger. The first scene is a London tailor shop that specializes in costumes for the theatre. One of these effi It should come as no surprise for the readers who follow the movements of the Dance that Anthony Powell likes to start each episode with an allegorical scene, a trigger for the memories of the past and a sort of preview of events to come. For the number eight novel, the simple act of Nick Jenkins buying a greatcoat at the start of 1941 is loaded with hidden messages and premonitions of danger. The first scene is a London tailor shop that specializes in costumes for the theatre. One of these effigies wore Harlequin's diagonally spangled tights; the other, scarlet full-dress uniform of some infantry regiment, allegorical figures, so it seemed, symbolising dualism of the antithetical stock-in-trade surrounding them ... Civil and Military ... Work and Play ... Detachment and Involvment ... Tragedy and Comedy ... War and Peace ... Life and Death ... Such careful coreography of the story makes the reviewer's job easier, but conveys little of the emotional turmoil brought by the war into the lives of the Dancers. And, at least for me, "The Soldier's Art" proved to be the most heartwrenching and disturbing episode so far in the chronicles of Nicholas Jenkins and friends. I have remarked before on the elegance of style and sharp critical eye that first attracted me to Powell's work. I have also remarked often on the apparent disconnect between the narrator, a passive observer, and the tumultous live surging around him. Well, this time around the blitz is striking painfully close to the heart, taking away some of the most loved characters in the series, bringing down the fortunes of some, raising the stock of others. Suddenly, everything is up in the air, and the thread of life can be cut down in an instant. I am not giving names here, who survives, who doesn't. The year 1941 should be enough indication of the random and merciless nature of the Hand of Fate that comes down from the sky in a rain of fire, on the pure of heart and on the cheaters alike. The musical arhitecture that defined earlier novels is reflected once again in a three part split of the story : a lengthy opening movement, detailing regimental life; a middle sequence of a brief respite during a leave in London; a dramatic finale that brings out into the open long held secrets and rivalries, then scatters the players to the four winds. To continue with the musical concerto analogy, the major theme is sung at first by a raid on the division's headquarters in Ireland, a night spectacle of searchlights criss-crossing the sky, looking for Luftwafe planes, punctuated by the heavy bass of explosions nearby. Nick is in a sour mood, completely disillusioned with the army lifestyle since his first honorable instinct to volunteer. Since then I had served a million years at these Headquarters, come to possess no life but the army, no master but Widmerpool, no table companions but Biggs and Soper. His uncouth companions are even making fun of his education and bookworm inclinations: I no longer attempted to conceal the habit, with all its undesirable implications. At least admitting to it put one in a recognisably odd category of persons from whom less need be expected than the normal men. In the course of performing his sub-lieutenant duties, Jenkins has to deal with bullies, with drunkards, with laziness, malice, arrogance - a full panoply of human weakness exacerbated by the confined quarters and by the lack of any entertainment or feminine presence. By far the most aggravating presence turns out to be our old acquaintance Widmerpool, a perennial guest star in each of the previous novels, (in)famous for his unexpected and often hilarious appearances in the least likely locations. His character until now has been kept ambiguous, as if Nick Jenkins was undecided between laughter, pity and grudging admiration for Widmerpool all encompassing ambitions. Daily interactions now, from a subordinate position, have finally lifted the veil of ambivalence from my eyes and put me firmly in the camp of Widmerpool detractors. I simply loathe the patronizing tone he takes with Nick ( Don't worry, my boy, I'll keep you in the picture. ) , the machinations he resorts to in order to climb the military ladder, the malicious digging in the mud in order to discover ways to bring down his adversaries, even the fake industrious image he projects of working too hard (by inventing useless, unnecessary tasks). (view spoiler)[ Not to mention the final betrayal of Nick, abandoned without a qualm when a better position was offered to Kenneth (hide spoiler)] . Despite my criticisms, Widmerpool remains one of the most intriguing characters in the series, an illustration of what every author probably knows : that readers are often attracted not by heroes but by scoundrels. There was something impressive in his total lack of interest in the fate of all persons except himself. Perhaps it was not the lack of interest in itself - common enough to many people - but the fact that he was at no pains to conceal this within some more or less hypocritical integument. The army seems to attract these types of personalities who seek power, social status and then abuse their authority in any way imaginable. Even Nick admits that Widmerpool is not an isolated case - Colonel Hogbourne-Johnson, Sunny Farebrother and Odo Stevens are cast from the same mold. I have come across the type myself repeatedly, both in my nine months stint in the armed forces (felt like nine years) and later in the companies I worked for, so I can certify that Powell's aphorism is still valid: If you want your own way in the army, or elsewhere, it is no good following the rules too meticulously, a canon all great military careers - and civil ones - abundantly illustrate. As a side note, one way to identify these personalities is by their lack of a sense of humour, of self-awareness of their ridiculous posing : Widmerpool didn't like being teased To conclude my notes on this first movement in the novel, Jenkins still has his sense of humour, although it is sorely tested by the regimental routines. A very few passages of almost burlescue comedy remind me of the effervescent lifestyle of pre-war London, as chronicled in earlier novels: Port, Eric? Yes, Derrick! Twelve dozen, Eric? That's it, isn't it, Derrick? - - - - YOU'VE NEVER FOUND TROLLOPE EASY TO READ? The last shout comes from the lips of the absolute ruler of the tiny kingdom of Nick's division, General Liddament, who I thought a caricature of the professional soldier when I first met him in the previous volume (his shout then was "YOu DON'T LIKE PORRIDGE, SOLDIER?"). This time around, Jenkins hints at hidden depths in the General, found relaxing in the night with a thick book - a capable and resourceful leader who can judge his inferior officers accurately and who likes to keep them on their toes by behaving erratically. A dark horse, if you will. Liddament might become Nick Jenkins' ticket out of a bad military posting, one where his true talents are wasted: We live such a short time in the world, it seems a pity not to do the jobs we're suited for. With Widmerpool already present on the scene, and with life in the regiment firmly closed off against the outside world, I was beginning to wonder how will the magician Powell pull the rabbit out of the hat this time? What character will suddenly appear in the least likely circumstance, what Dancer will rejoin the quadrille now? Let me say only this: I didn't have any inkling about this, and I was left with my mouth hanging open for a couple of seconds. Hats off, Mr. Powell! I bow in front of the Master! (view spoiler)[ The waiter was Stringham what a reversal of fortune! the aristocrat is serving slops to a couple of roughnecks from the boondocks, revelling in his lowly status (hide spoiler)] Time for a breather after a shock like that, so let's head to London for a week of well deserved leave: I felt more than ever glad a week's leave lay ahead of me, one of those curious escapes that in wartime punctuate army life, far more than a 'holiday', comparable rather with brief and magical entries into another incarnation. London actually is a whirlwind of activity and social interactions, compared with the boring routines of regimental life. Nick can hardly draw breath, as in the first day of leave he applies for a new job as liaison to the Free French, is invited to dinner by old friends Chips Lowell and Hugh Moreland, and there meets with a couple more rabbits pulled out of the hat by Powell. (view spoiler)[ Chip's errant wife Priscilla and the widow Maclintick, now cohabiting with Moreland (hide spoiler)] In a classical concert the middle movement is a tranquil one, a moment of reflection and contemplation between two more allert themes. In Powell's script for the eight volume, the order is reversed, and the London visit becomes the most dramatic moment of the whole series so far. The dance of swords and guns becomes again the game of musical chairs, as some couples get separated, others start living together (in sin or with a priest's blessing). Nick gets some updates on the careers of his friends, most of them also serving in the armed forces, and he maintains his usual discretion about his wife Isobel and his newborn child. I'm not even sure right now if it is a boy or a girl. I would like to comment more on these romantic entanglements, and on the dark outcome of this sole fateful evening in London, but I don't like spoilers myself and I try to avoid them in my reviews. If the previous movement made me open my mouth in theatrical surprise, the blitz in London left me speechless with grief. A moment of silence for the often forgotten victims of the air war, on both sides of the conflict, I believe is the only appropriate comment. >><<>><<>><<>><< The next quote is not technically from the beginning of the third movement, but illustrates for me the dualism of restlessness and dread at the prolonged preparations for England to actually join the war theatre: Sullen reverberations of one kind or another - blitz in England, withdrawal in Greece - had been providing the most recent noises-off in rehearsals that never seem to end, breeding a wish that the billed performance would at last ring up its curtain, whatever form that took. Soon after Jenkins returns from leave the tedious routine of regimental life is shattered by a series of revelations about nefarious activites on the part of officers and petty officers, by a series of new appointments for the main actors, by fresh personal tragedy (view spoiler)[ Biggs commits suicide (hide spoiler)] , and in the last pages of the novel by the sound of thunder as all the instruments in the orchestra strike a powerful chord : Germany invades Russia! The wait is over! The endgame has begun! I have once again tried to be vague and not spoil the denouement or the new destination for the Dancers. The promise of the opening allegory is fulfilled as the drama walks side by side with ridiculous, arrogant fools are brough down and minor players show unexpected resilience and fortitude. The world is definitely changing, social barriers are coming down, life becomes more precious when death hangs up above everybody's head, and the only solution is to look inside yourself and find there the strength to endure. I have kept for my closing lines a famous Robert Browning poem that gives the title for the current of the dance, a quote that is offered appropriately by one of the unexpected part time actors in the drama, (view spoiler)[ Charles Stringham (hide spoiler)] I shut my eyes and turned them on my heart. As a man calls for wine before he fights, I asked one draught of earlier, happier sights Ere fitly I could hope to play my part. Think first, fight afterwards - the soldier's art; One taste of the old time sets all to rights.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kalliope

    8.-- A SOLDIER'S ART. Having left a longer time pass between reading this eighth volume and the previous ones, I was afraid it would take me a bit more effort to immerse myself in The Dance again. But no, Powell’s fluid and rhythmic prose very quickly drew back in again. It is a delight to read. As the second book that takes place during the war, we are now deep into it; the Germans have occupied France and are bombing England. The volume ends around June 1941, when Hitler has invaded Russia. 8.-- A SOLDIER'S ART. Having left a longer time pass between reading this eighth volume and the previous ones, I was afraid it would take me a bit more effort to immerse myself in The Dance again. But no, Powell’s fluid and rhythmic prose very quickly drew back in again. It is a delight to read. As the second book that takes place during the war, we are now deep into it; the Germans have occupied France and are bombing England. The volume ends around June 1941, when Hitler has invaded Russia. But as in the previous volume, all that remains as a backdrop and we witness the military life of the protagonist hearing concerns about whether a two pound check bounces, or what is the layout for fork + knife + spoon when the Mess waiter lays the table. Well, not really, we do get closer to it this time, but only when we move out of the military barracks and follow the protagonist as he goes to London. Then we witness the death of some of his friends during a couple of air raids. The horror is felt by the reader, but less openly so by the characters in the novel. The ‘Englishness’ of the way the war is lived is summed up in one of the impressions voiced by one of them: I have an impression of acute embarrassment when bombed, said Moreland. That rather than gross physical fear—at present anyway. It’s like an appalling display of bad manners one has been forced to witness. And this remains one of the extraordinary characteristics of these novels, the keen scrutiny of a particular society and the acute analysis of human behaviour, seen through the eyes of someone who however manages to keep himself hidden. From his observations, a theme emerges in this eight movement: words or action. It is once stated as “Action over Words means Action over Reason”. And the novel finishes with the verses from Robert Browning’s Childe Roland To The Dark Tower Came. As a man calls for wine before he fights, I ask’d one draught of earlier, happier sights, Ere fitly I could hope to play my part. Think first, fight afterwards—the soldier’s art: One taste of the old time sets all to rights.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Vit Babenco

    There is war – the time of sorrow and contrasts: some die at the frontline and some serve the military bureaucracy in the homeland… …behind the glass windows of a high display case, two headless trunks stood rigidly at attention. One of these effigies wore Harlequin’s diagonally spangled tights; the other, scarlet full-dress uniform of some infantry regiment, allegorical figures, so it seemed, symbolising dualisms of the antithetical stock-in-trade surrounding them… Civil and Military… Work and P There is war – the time of sorrow and contrasts: some die at the frontline and some serve the military bureaucracy in the homeland… …behind the glass windows of a high display case, two headless trunks stood rigidly at attention. One of these effigies wore Harlequin’s diagonally spangled tights; the other, scarlet full-dress uniform of some infantry regiment, allegorical figures, so it seemed, symbolising dualisms of the antithetical stock-in-trade surrounding them… Civil and Military… Work and Play… Detachment and Involvement… Tragedy and Comedy… War and Peace… Life and Death… And this allegory is also an excellent description of the method Anthony Powell uses in creating A Dance to the Music of Time… from cotillion to rhapsody, from fugue to elegy, from waltz to funeral march… Life continues, the war goes on, bombs fall and death takes its toll.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    I shut my eyes and turned them on my heart. As a man calls for wine before he fights, I asked one draught of earlier, happier sights Ere fitly I could hope to play my part. Think first, fight afterwards - the soldier's art; One taste of the old time sets all to rights. -- Robert Browning, "Childe Roland To The Dark Tower Came" It seems almost by accident my pacing of Powell's 12 volume A Dance to the Music of Time brings me to book 8 in August. I didn't plan it. I fall into Powell in fits and starts. I shut my eyes and turned them on my heart. As a man calls for wine before he fights, I asked one draught of earlier, happier sights Ere fitly I could hope to play my part. Think first, fight afterwards - the soldier's art; One taste of the old time sets all to rights. -- Robert Browning, "Childe Roland To The Dark Tower Came" It seems almost by accident my pacing of Powell's 12 volume A Dance to the Music of Time brings me to book 8 in August. I didn't plan it. I fall into Powell in fits and starts. I'll read a couple books and move on to other books. But I keep coming back. The 3rd Movement of 'A Dance to the Music of Time' is basically three novels covering WWII. The Valley of Bones (Book 7) is obviously concerned with the beginning. Book 8, 'The Solider's Art' finds the characters set into the middle of the War. After Dunkirk, during the raids on London, and right unto Germany declaring war on Russia (Summer 1941 if memory holds). I haven't read The Military Philosophers yet, but I anticipate it will follow through with the end of the war, and perhaps a bit of Britain post war. Anyway, a couple things stood out about this novel. The beginning starts out with Jenkins buying an army coat at a theatrical costume shop in London. The bent, elderly, bearded assistant mistakes Jenkin's motives for buying the coat, believing him to be in a play. It was beautifully done. It was rich, ironic, and anticipated the themes of war as theatre, etc. In the final act/chapter of this movement Powell brings it back around to dress when he is having a discussion with Chessman and remarks "It is a tailor's war, anyway" in response to seeing Cheesman wearing a waistcoat underneath his tunic. Like every Powell book, this one involves dinners, drawing rooms (this one bombed out), friends rotating in and out of Jenkin's life. Some of these friends, however, leave permanently in this book. It was touching and like most all of the Powell books I've read, infinitely quotable. He weaves into each of his conversations pearls of wisdom, and clever observations about people and motives. It really is an amazing series.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ted

    Colonel Pedlar stopped for a moment … then began to move again. ‘What do you think of the news?’, he asked. ‘Well, it’s rather awful, sir. B was in my mess –‘ ‘Oh, I don’t mean B,’ he said. ‘Haven’t you seen a paper or heard the wireless this morning? Germany’s invaded Russia.’ or, if you prefer, Takes place: 1941, from early in year to June 22. Jenkins approaching his mid-30s. Book published: 1966. Anthony Powell was 60 years old. Significant series characters (view spoiler)[bold that appear in Colonel Pedlar stopped for a moment … then began to move again. ‘What do you think of the news?’, he asked. ‘Well, it’s rather awful, sir. B was in my mess –‘ ‘Oh, I don’t mean B,’ he said. ‘Haven’t you seen a paper or heard the wireless this morning? Germany’s invaded Russia.’ or, if you prefer, Takes place: 1941, from early in year to June 22. Jenkins approaching his mid-30s. Book published: 1966. Anthony Powell was 60 years old. Significant series characters (view spoiler)[bold that appear in the very first novel (hide spoiler)] that visit the narrative (however briefly, dead or alive): Ralph Barnby, Bithel, St John Clarke, Edgar Deacon, Sir Magnus Donners, Sunny Farebrother, Amy Foxe (Stringham’s mother), Buster Foxe (third husband of Stringham’s mother), Captain Rowland Gwatkin, Isobel (Jenkins’ wife), Lady Molly & Ted Jeavons, Uncle Giles, Gypsy Jones, Chips Lovell, Hugh Moreland, David Pennistone, Odo Stevens, Charles Stringham, Peter Templer, Dr Trelawney, Widmerpool. Besides these, six of Jenkins’ nine siblings-in-law – (Tollands all) - find places in the narrative (small or otherwise): (view spoiler)[[in birth order, Viscount Erridge (Alfred), Frederica (Budd), Norah, Robert, Hugo and Priscilla. Missing are George, Susan and Blanche. (hide spoiler)] Here’s a list of the main characters (as I reckon), in no order whatsoever – Charles Stringham, Sunny Farebrother, Hugh Moreland, Chips Lovell, Lieutenant Bithel, Widmerpool, Priscilla (Jenkins’ youngest sister-in-law), and Odo Stevens. Now add four new characters – Captain Biggs, Colonel Eric Pedlar (actually appeared briefly in Valley of Bones), Colonel Hogbourne-Johnson and Warrant Officer Diplock – and of course Jenkins himself, for a baker’s dozen to keep your eye on. (view spoiler)[Oh all right, if you want to know the actual order I have (by highest to lowest, regarding their weight in the narrative - (view spoiler)[ Widmerpool. Moreland. Lovell. Priscilla. Stringham. Stevens. Hogbourne-Johnson. Pedlar. Biggs. Farebrother. Bithel. Diplock. (hide spoiler)] (hide spoiler)] The War Taking place entirely in 1941, the narrative is of course set against that backdrop. We have mention of actions, places in the war, for example the opening quote. (The date mentioned above goes with that quote.) The war informs everything, it’s always and everywhere present. Yet, at the same time, it’s nowhere. Much as if we’re watching a drama, the action is (almost) always off stage. Occasionally we hear the volume come up behind the curtain, something has happened in closer vicinity to the narrative than cross-Channel, or somewhere requiring a definite spin of the globe to locate under one’s finger. Indeed, more than one character does die, from effect of war direct or indirect. Even main characters have no shield. Stringham Powell continues to advance his overall theme of how we are affected by times movement, in quite unanticipated, even incredulous, ways. The example which impressed me most in this regard is Jenkins’ reaquaintance with his school friend Charles Stringham, who has become (suddenly, to Jenkins’ point of view – he last saw him less than five years ago) almost a stranger - a man whose station in, and outlook on, life seems to have changed radically.Purely gastronomic considerations were submerged in confirmation of a preliminary impression; an impression upsetting, indeed horrifying, but correct … What I had instantaneously supposed, then dismissed as inconceivable, was, on closer examination, no longer to be denied. The [mess] waiter was Stringham. Well, right along with Jenkins, this reader was stopped in his tracks with that. Two exclamation points stopped. Thus begins a fifteen page section about this meeting of old friends (mixed in with a hilarious dinner scene in the mess hall, with two officers embroiled in a ridiculous feud described with dripping irony). Stringham explains quite simply how things have changed for him, how he is quite settled into, even pleased, with his new situation. Yet Jenkins makes it obvious in his narration that he cannot take Stringham’s words at face value, that he can’t get past the feeling that Charles must be ill, perhaps mentally unbalanced. Near the end of the book Jenkins and Stringham have another meeting. When they part, Jenkins writes, He smiled and nodded, then went off up the street. He gave the impression of having severed his moorings pretty completely with anything that could be called ordinary life, army or otherwise. The Soldier’s Art What soldier? And what art? Well, the soldier seems likely to be the singular everyman soldier. But at one point I felt that Powell was talking about Odo Stevens specifically, who is shown in one lengthy scene to have an amazing ability to draw strangers in to him and make himself fascinating to them. Another possibility is that all the characters (in the army) each adapt their own talents and abilities to the army situation they find themselves in. We can see this in more than one character. Of course some practitioners in this sort of dance really don’t have any great ability, adaptable or otherwise, and must make do with keeping their head low and playing whatever bit part comes their way, taking a brief twirl with any partner who offers a hand. But the art … the art, is it really just the characters’ abilities? Is it not rather some ‘art’ of the soldier in the echelons far to the rear? Not bravery or fighting skill – but bureaucratic, administrative ‘skills’ perhaps difficult to envision as distinct from civilian – except that in the army, these skills, some rather distasteful, can be more useful and less distasteful for various unique reasons. All the manipulating, power-grabbing, foolish, comical, so often unsuccessful schemes, the daily drudgery, the long hours – all of it somehow advances, ponderously, a war-effort that appears in the end to have worked! In that final meeting of Stringham and Jenkins, Charles reads a bit of poetry to Nick, from Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.I shut my eyes and turned them on my heart. As a man calls for wine before he fights, I asked one draught of earlier, happier sights Ere fitly I could hope to play my part. Think first, fight afterwards – the soldier’s art; One taste of the old time sets all to rights.The soldier’s art: to think before fighting. Powell describes how in this war, a separation of duties has come about. The front line soldier’s thoughts before he fights are of no concern; and the officers far behind the lines don’t fight at all, spending most of their time doing that thinking – or what passes for thinking in this time and place – they desperately want to believe will have the desired effect.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Connie G

    "The Soldier's Art" is the eighth book in the series, set in 1941 during the war. Nick Jenkins is serving in the British military under Kenneth Widmerpool, his old school acquaintance, in the Divisional Headquarters. Nick hopes to transfer to a better situation more suited to his talents. Widmerpool is self-centered, playing politics to hurt others, and hoping for a promotion. Widmerpool showed up in all the previous books of the series, the character we love to hate. When Nick goes to London on "The Soldier's Art" is the eighth book in the series, set in 1941 during the war. Nick Jenkins is serving in the British military under Kenneth Widmerpool, his old school acquaintance, in the Divisional Headquarters. Nick hopes to transfer to a better situation more suited to his talents. Widmerpool is self-centered, playing politics to hurt others, and hoping for a promotion. Widmerpool showed up in all the previous books of the series, the character we love to hate. When Nick goes to London on leave he meets up with some old friends. Bombs fall in London, injuring or killing people known to Nick. Fate determines who is a victim of the blitz. Author Anthony Powell has fun as he depicts army life--stacks of forms, endless regulations, rivalries, petty arguments, and terrible food. At the close of the book, Nick learns that Germany has just invaded Russia. A friend reads verses from Robert Browning's "Childe Roland To The Dark Tower Came" which gave this book its title: "I shut my eyes and turned them on my heart. As a man calls for wine before he fights, I asked one draught of earlier, happier sights Ere fitly I could hope to play my part. Think first, fight afterwards--the soldier's art; One taste of the old time sets all to rights."

  7. 5 out of 5

    Diane Barnes

    Despite the tedious first part describing the boredom and inanity of military life, this eight installment of The Dance is brilliant in bringing us further news of Nick's family and friends, some of whom get blitzed and killed. And the infamous Widmerpool continues his narcissistic rise.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nigeyb

    As with previous volumes, the writing is sublime Anyone missing Kenneth Widmerpool until his final page appearance in "The Valley of Bones" can be reassured that he's back with a vengeance in "The Soldier's Art". For the first time in the series, Widmerpool has gained a role where he can exert power over others and engage in schemes to further his career. Needless to say this opportunity does not bode well for his subordinates who, in this volume, happen to include both Nick Jenkins and Charles S As with previous volumes, the writing is sublime Anyone missing Kenneth Widmerpool until his final page appearance in "The Valley of Bones" can be reassured that he's back with a vengeance in "The Soldier's Art". For the first time in the series, Widmerpool has gained a role where he can exert power over others and engage in schemes to further his career. Needless to say this opportunity does not bode well for his subordinates who, in this volume, happen to include both Nick Jenkins and Charles Stringham. Does this suggest his trajectory is to become ever more monstrous? It is an interesting prospect and one that feels increasingly probable. So often with the "A Dance To The Music Of Time" books, the pay-off, when it comes, is well worth the wait, as we learn the title of "The Soldier's Art" refers to a Browning poem which Stringham discusses with Nick in a pivotal scene and seems to foretell of Stringham's ultimate fate. I shut my eyes and turned them on my heart. As a man calls for wine before he fights, I asked one draught of earlier, happier sights, Ere fitly I could hope to play my part. Think first, fight afterwards--the soldier's art: One taste of the old time sets all to rights. Elsewhere World War 2 starts to take its toll in sad and dramatic ways, and this book serves as a timely reminder that this was an era of uncertainty and bloodshed. The death of characters who readers have come to know well over seven previous volumes helps to reinforce the senseless tragedy of the war. As with previous volumes, the writing is sublime, and the slow, methodical approach to some superb set pieces is a wonderful thing to behold. I adore these books and will be reading them all again once I finish the series. 4/5

  9. 5 out of 5

    Katie Lumsden

    Another fantastic book in this series, perhaps one of my favourites so far.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kim Kaso

    Nick's adventures continue, this time giving us a view of Army life as the British begin making moves to engage more directly with the Germans. Military politics and gossip abound as he encounters old friends, acquaintances, and classmates, with the ever awkward yet ambitious Widmerpool becoming his superior officer. It is a bit like reading someone's diary written in the omniscient third person narrative voice. All the day-to-day, most big things left unnoted.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Eleanor

    The title comes from a poem by.Browning quoted towards the end of the book: "Think first, fight afterwards - the soldier's art". This book has a more somber feel to it, as death claims some of Nick's family and friends. I am so in the grip of this work that I have gone straight on to the next volume.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    The Soldier's Art is the eighth book of the twelve-volume series "A Dance to the Music of Time", and the second in the war trilogy. It was published in 1966, and touches on themes of separation and unanticipated loss. Its sequel is "The Military Philosophers." 4* A Question of Upbringing (A Dance to the Music of Time, #1) 4* A Buyer's Market (A Dance to the Music of Time #2) 4* The Acceptance World (A Dance to the Music of Time, #3) 4* At Lady Molly's (A Dance to the Music of Time, #4) 4* Casanova The Soldier's Art is the eighth book of the twelve-volume series "A Dance to the Music of Time", and the second in the war trilogy. It was published in 1966, and touches on themes of separation and unanticipated loss. Its sequel is "The Military Philosophers." 4* A Question of Upbringing (A Dance to the Music of Time, #1) 4* A Buyer's Market (A Dance to the Music of Time #2) 4* The Acceptance World (A Dance to the Music of Time, #3) 4* At Lady Molly's (A Dance to the Music of Time, #4) 4* Casanova's Chinese Restaurant (A Dance to the Music of Time, #5) 4* The Kindly Ones (A Dance to the Music of Time, #6) 4* The Valley of Bones (A Dance to the Music of Time, #7) 4* The Soldier's Art (A Dance to the Music of Time, #8) TR The Military Philosophers (A Dance to the Music of Time, #9) TR Books Do Furnish a Room (A Dance to the Music of Time, #10) TR Temporary Kings (A Dance to the Music of Time, #11) TR Hearing Secret Harmonies (A Dance to the Music of Time, #12)

  13. 5 out of 5

    gwayle

    Returning to this series is like a breath of fresh air. Man, can Powell write! The novel is divided into three parts: one and three follow Nick through WWII Britain as Widmerpool's assistant in the military. The numbing march of daily life is alleviated only by the nefarious (and amusing!) plots of those rise-in-the-ranks types (Widmerpool chief among them). The army encourages the ambitious and allows aspects of their personalities to grow unchecked in alarming directions--revenge, sabotage, br Returning to this series is like a breath of fresh air. Man, can Powell write! The novel is divided into three parts: one and three follow Nick through WWII Britain as Widmerpool's assistant in the military. The numbing march of daily life is alleviated only by the nefarious (and amusing!) plots of those rise-in-the-ranks types (Widmerpool chief among them). The army encourages the ambitious and allows aspects of their personalities to grow unchecked in alarming directions--revenge, sabotage, brown-nosing, and underhandedness abound. Not terribly much happens in the army parts (aside from this endless scheming), though we run into Stringham again, and Nick has ample opportunity and material for his favorite past time: examining the personalities, motivations, etc., of the men around him (the exaggerated circumstances of the military certainly provide an intriguing backdrop). The middle part of the novel takes place in London during Nick's leave and brings to the series a gravity I don't think I've felt before: a blitz kills several familiar characters, and the random suddenness of it all is chilling. I read this marvelous installment in a single day, and I can't recommend this series enough--for its insight, humor and fine prose.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    This is the eighth volume in the series and my favorite by far. With Widmerpool having a starring role instead of the cameos he has had in past volumes, Bithel's difficulties(although sad it was definitely comical) and the reappearance of Stringham and Sunny Farebrother, there was lots to keep the reader involved. Never having been in the military it was a bit difficult to keep track of all the acronyms however.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lars Guthrie

    Stingham returns in this eighth volume of 'Dance to the Music of Time,' as well as other familiar characters. This made this more of a favorite for me than the previous 'Valley of Bones,' in which Nick's army career necessitates a new cast of characters. Stringham's seemingly winning his battle with alcoholism, if resentful of his family's intervention and although bitter and even miserable, he comes across with a kind of nobility. Moreland's back, surprisingly shacked up with Maclintick's widow Stingham returns in this eighth volume of 'Dance to the Music of Time,' as well as other familiar characters. This made this more of a favorite for me than the previous 'Valley of Bones,' in which Nick's army career necessitates a new cast of characters. Stringham's seemingly winning his battle with alcoholism, if resentful of his family's intervention and although bitter and even miserable, he comes across with a kind of nobility. Moreland's back, surprisingly shacked up with Maclintick's widow. And the war and military life evolve from farce to matter-of-fact horror, as two characters lose their lives to bombing, and Maclintick's suicide is echoed. Powell amazingly keeps all the balls in the air in a saga that has now moved over three decades or more, while still contributing his tidy observations on the human condition. One I particularly liked, especially given that I am reading this opus because of a re-established childhood friendship: 'Friendship, popularly represented as something simple and straightforward—in contrast with love—is perhaps no less complicated, requiring equally mysterious nourishment; like love, too, bearing also within its embryo inherent seeds of dissolution, something more fundamentally destructive, perhaps, than the mere passing of time, the all-obliterating march of events….'

  16. 4 out of 5

    Corey

    This roman-fleuve (this is #8 of a 12 novel-sequence) just gets better as you go deeper into it. Thanks to my friend Tess for recommending Hilary Spurling's "Invitation to the Dance: A Handbook to Anthony Powell's 'A Dance to the Music of Time'," It really helped me remember what I was supposed to already know about a character. I can't recommend these books strongly enough.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    The eighth novel in the series continues to follow the character of Nick Jenkins through more of the war years. He is now a junior officer on Widmerpool's staff and is stationed at a Divisional HQ somewhere outside of London. Here, military relationships and various aspects of home front army life are explored. A number of characters from the earlier books in the series reappear in quite unexpected circumstances. The London blitz, with its indiscriminate, brutal terror is always in the backgroun The eighth novel in the series continues to follow the character of Nick Jenkins through more of the war years. He is now a junior officer on Widmerpool's staff and is stationed at a Divisional HQ somewhere outside of London. Here, military relationships and various aspects of home front army life are explored. A number of characters from the earlier books in the series reappear in quite unexpected circumstances. The London blitz, with its indiscriminate, brutal terror is always in the background as Mr. Powell's characters struggle on with their lives. The writing here is just exquisite throughout.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Catullus2

    More about the dreariness and deadliness of wartime, excellent depictions of London during the Blitz, Charles Stringham (one of my favourite characters) provides some comic relief.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tom Ewing

    "The Valley of Bones" was a departure for Powell's series, an almost stand-alone novel of work and boredom in which the brief reappearance of the narrator's old life seemed (to him and me) an almost unreal distraction. In "The Soldier's Art" the old intrigues and characters of the 1930s novels reappear, but this time shabbier, with relationships worn away by time and war. The war, inevitably, removes characters and locations from the novels for good: sometimes foreshadowed, sometimes suddenly. A "The Valley of Bones" was a departure for Powell's series, an almost stand-alone novel of work and boredom in which the brief reappearance of the narrator's old life seemed (to him and me) an almost unreal distraction. In "The Soldier's Art" the old intrigues and characters of the 1930s novels reappear, but this time shabbier, with relationships worn away by time and war. The war, inevitably, removes characters and locations from the novels for good: sometimes foreshadowed, sometimes suddenly. As usual, Jenkins the narrator purposely elides most of the emotion felt by Jenkins the character, making the terse bulletin of the novel's final sentence hit particularly hard. And also as usual, Powell is addicted to coincidence as a device - at the climax of the book's second section he offers his most macabre one yet. The writing is as polished as ever - the slight, off-key wrongness of Stringham, now sober but obviously badly damaged, is so perfectly observed that conversations with him are painful to read. Structurally, though, "The Soldier's Art" is less satisfying as a stand-alone than some earlier books. There is no single prominent figure introduced here whose story is allowed to play out - no Deacon or Gwatkin or McLintick. Instead, Widmerpool finally takes centre stage, as we see his machinations (and their debris) at first hand, and the shoddy, if not sinister, way he treats old acquaintances. This is a pivot for the series - its most regular character sliding from a comic figure to something more central, and close to antagonistic. But for all his enjoyable comeuppance, Widmerpool's story can't be closed off here. More than A Buyer's Market or Casanova's Chinese Restaurant, this book has the slightly unraveled feel of a middle book in a trilogy.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Judi Moore

    Not quite as strong as the previous 7 in my opinion. His sentence structure is convoluted for a modern reader so when errors creep in sometimes meaning can become quite opaque. Nevertheless I enjoyed this one and am looking forward to #9. There was plenty of the ridiculous scheming Widmerpool in this one; he only turned up at the very end of #7. When I jotted down my thoughts here about #7 I suggested that the series is largely autobiographical. This may be true but perhaps I should also note th Not quite as strong as the previous 7 in my opinion. His sentence structure is convoluted for a modern reader so when errors creep in sometimes meaning can become quite opaque. Nevertheless I enjoyed this one and am looking forward to #9. There was plenty of the ridiculous scheming Widmerpool in this one; he only turned up at the very end of #7. When I jotted down my thoughts here about #7 I suggested that the series is largely autobiographical. This may be true but perhaps I should also note that there are several volumes of his memoirs (none of which I've read). I wonder if they cover the same ground? This book resonated particularly for me as my father joined the Regular army from the Territorials at quite an advanced age at the outbreak of WWII and this was an insight into what his army life might have been like before he shipped overseas to spend the rest of his war in India and Burma.

  21. 4 out of 5

    David

    Contains one of the most bitter passages in the entire sequence, the separate deaths of two related characters during an evening of tip-and-run single bomber air raids in the London Blitz. The description of Priscilla as she would look when she were old is heartbreaking. It is a novel which wrestles boldly with the eternal curse that is the stuff of virtually all "part two of three" narratives in which little new is introduced and little optimism is available. Also terrifying (yet also, somehow, Contains one of the most bitter passages in the entire sequence, the separate deaths of two related characters during an evening of tip-and-run single bomber air raids in the London Blitz. The description of Priscilla as she would look when she were old is heartbreaking. It is a novel which wrestles boldly with the eternal curse that is the stuff of virtually all "part two of three" narratives in which little new is introduced and little optimism is available. Also terrifying (yet also, somehow, dignifying) in its presentation of Stringham in his last days. Pace all that, there remains Powell's dry humour, sensitive social awareness, and due sense of irony--naturally exacerbated by the war setting. Ultimately, I discourse fair words to you anent this novel. My 60th reading.

  22. 4 out of 5

    David

    The central tip-and-run raider element of The Blitz gets emotionally tougher with every re-read. I shudder at the observation “For a second one saw what she would be like when she was old.” The return of Stringham to the front lines of the narrative is welcome, even if, as he says himself, also “not untinged by shadow.” Biggs shows that casualties may have nothing to do with being on the front lines. And Widmerpool is odious, growing ever more inescapably from a mild grotesque into a monster. Th The central tip-and-run raider element of The Blitz gets emotionally tougher with every re-read. I shudder at the observation “For a second one saw what she would be like when she was old.” The return of Stringham to the front lines of the narrative is welcome, even if, as he says himself, also “not untinged by shadow.” Biggs shows that casualties may have nothing to do with being on the front lines. And Widmerpool is odious, growing ever more inescapably from a mild grotesque into a monster. The ‘critique of the novel’ section, involving Nicholas and General Liddament, grows funnier with each repetition.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Gregory

    "Charles." "Hullo, Nick." "This is extraordinary." "What is?" "You turning up here." "What makes you think so?" "Let's get off the main road." "If you like." We went down into a kind of alley-way, leading to a block of office buildings or factory works, now closed for the night. "What's been happening to you, Charles?" "As you see, I've become a waiter in F Mess. I always used to wonder what it felt like to be a waiter. Now I know with immense precision." "But how did it all come about?" "How does anything "Charles." "Hullo, Nick." "This is extraordinary." "What is?" "You turning up here." "What makes you think so?" "Let's get off the main road." "If you like." We went down into a kind of alley-way, leading to a block of office buildings or factory works, now closed for the night. "What's been happening to you, Charles?" "As you see, I've become a waiter in F Mess. I always used to wonder what it felt like to be a waiter. Now I know with immense precision." "But how did it all come about?" "How does anything come about in the army?"

  24. 5 out of 5

    Deanne

    It's difficult to work out Nick's role in WWII, he seems unsure himself. Widmerpool seems more comical the more of a stuffed shirt he becomes, reminds me of a young Captain Mainwaring from Dad's army. As ou expect some of the characters are lost during the war and even more are added. It's the scope of the series and how Powell keeps the characters straight even through the marriages, divorces, births and deaths.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nente

    The intensity is sure turning up, which perhaps explains my fascination with this volume. Also, I can't help wondering if Powell is trying to bring off all possible pairings between his characters or what.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Larry

    In this volume, Nicholas Jenkins is still serving in England as a second lieutenant. Although there is still often much humor about the foibles of the army and it's officers, three of his relatives are killed in the blitz. This novel ends with the German invasion of Russia, a totally unexpected suicide, and news that an old friend was killed when the plane he was in was shot down.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Illiterate

    A very English war. Similar themes to Valley of the Bones but less comic.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sammy

    "Mr. Deacon used to say nothing spread more ultimate gloom at a party than an exuberant manner which has roused false hopes." I have remarakably little to say on this novel, the 8th in Powell's series. We're now into the depths of WWII, which impacts on the lives of Jenkins, Stringham, the Lovells, and many others. Heights of both Powell's comedic and delicate tragic skills achieved. The real success here is Widmerpool - perhaps the only character to have appeared in every novel thus far, alongsi "Mr. Deacon used to say nothing spread more ultimate gloom at a party than an exuberant manner which has roused false hopes." I have remarakably little to say on this novel, the 8th in Powell's series. We're now into the depths of WWII, which impacts on the lives of Jenkins, Stringham, the Lovells, and many others. Heights of both Powell's comedic and delicate tragic skills achieved. The real success here is Widmerpool - perhaps the only character to have appeared in every novel thus far, alongside Jenkins? The oaf has become a monster.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The title for the eighth volume of Anthony Powell’s Dance to the Music of Time comes from Robert Browning’s poem Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came: I shut my eyes and turned them on my heart. As a man calls for wine before he fights, I asked one draught of earlier, happier sights Ere fitly I could hope to play my part. Think first, fight afterwards—the soldier’s art; One taste of the old time sets all to rights. Charles Stringham has wandered his way back in to Nicholas Jenkin’s life, this tim The title for the eighth volume of Anthony Powell’s Dance to the Music of Time comes from Robert Browning’s poem Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came: I shut my eyes and turned them on my heart. As a man calls for wine before he fights, I asked one draught of earlier, happier sights Ere fitly I could hope to play my part. Think first, fight afterwards—the soldier’s art; One taste of the old time sets all to rights. Charles Stringham has wandered his way back in to Nicholas Jenkin’s life, this time as a waiter on the base where our narrator is stationed. Stringham has sobered up and has entered an introspective period, wanting to do little more than think about life, both in general and his in particular. Nick has worried a great deal about Stringham and worked what little influence he has to try to help his friend, but in the end Stringham is doing exactly what he wants. It is Stringham who reads this passage from Browning to Nick near the end of the novel (Stringham has been reading Browning because he is one of Tuffy’s favorite authors, Tuffy Wheedon being his old caretaker, one-time lover, and the woman who helped him give up alcohol). As I’ve said before, one of the challenges of reading each book in this series is to figure out what sort of guiding principles, if any, Powell uses to decide which stories he will tell in any given volume. While he is certainly forced by the chronology of events and the need to set up narratives for later reaping, Powell of course has total control over his fictitious world and can reasonably do as he pleases. So why these stories? Why these stories in this volume? I often turn to the title as an aid in determining Powell’s principles. In this case, everything about the titular line seems fitting. In mid-1941, we are deep in Britain’s involvement in the Second World War. Nick and all the other men in his life are involved in the war effort, most of them as soldiers, even if their posts are not glorious ones. Even those who are not wearing a uniform are contributing. Barnby is painting camouflage on buildings to preserve them from the raids, and Moreland’s musical career is tied directly to the war efforts. Soldiers and arts. Art also has the meaning of deception and artifice, and part of the art in this novel are the maneuverings of Widmerpool, Farebrother, Stevens, and the other officers using their own arts to further their military career and hoped-for corresponding glory. It is great fun getting to see Widmerpool in this new environment and to witness his strained relationship with Nick. Of course the real meat of the Browning line is the first half: “Think first, fight afterwards,” which is the noble opposite of our American version, “shoot first, ask questions later,” or “kill them all, and let God sort it out.” This is above all a book about thinking. Nick’s experience with the war is not on the front lines. We are not in tanks or in the thick of battle. We experience the whole war so far on the home front—only not on the front at all. The war touches the characters of the novel through the unpredictable raids and bombs dropped from unseen planes by unseen Germans. The destruction arrives without warning and lives are snuffed out without ceremony. There is no “fight” at all in these narratives. Bombs fall and Aunt Molly dies. Bombs fall and Bijou dies. Bombs fall and Chips Lovell dies. Bombs fall at Priscilla dies. Bombs fall and whole buildings are erased from existence. All there is to do in the world of the novel is think. As Browning describes it, the art of the soldier is to be able to use the power of his pre-war memories to charge his batteries for the fight ahead, to use the memories of home to “set[] all to rights.” This particular interpretation seems more like a theme for the entire series than for this particular volume. The past revisits Nick again and again as people pass in and out of his vision, and his thoughts as a narrator are free to move forward and backward in time, jumping ahead to an untimely death, and back to recall similar and contrasting times to breathe new meaning into the present. Returning briefly to Stringham, his new incarnation is mesmerizing. While his changes seem to unsettle Nick, they are brought to life so compellingly by Powell that the character is in turns heartbreaking (as when he says that he no longer falls in love with the world or anyone now that he is permanently sober) and charming. Powell is at his best bringing the little motions that define a character into sharp focus, and this novel has that power at every turn. This is one of the better novels in the series.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ali

    he Soldier’s Art is the eighth book in Anthony Powell’s epic twelve novel sequence that I have challenged myself to read this year. Goodness hasn’t the time gone by quickly? the eighth book read already. For those of you not familiar with the novels which make up the sequence of Dance to the Music of time, I am afraid these Anthony Powell reviews might seem dull, I apologise. As the novel opens in 1941 Nick Jenkins is stationed at Divisonal HQ under Major Widmerpool. Alongside Jenkins in F Mess i he Soldier’s Art is the eighth book in Anthony Powell’s epic twelve novel sequence that I have challenged myself to read this year. Goodness hasn’t the time gone by quickly? the eighth book read already. For those of you not familiar with the novels which make up the sequence of Dance to the Music of time, I am afraid these Anthony Powell reviews might seem dull, I apologise. As the novel opens in 1941 Nick Jenkins is stationed at Divisonal HQ under Major Widmerpool. Alongside Jenkins in F Mess is the rather unpleasant Captain Biggs. One unexpected new addition to the ranks in F mess for Jenkins is Stringham – as mess waiter. Biggs is awful to Stringham, and though the two haven’t met for years, Jenkins is anxious to speak to Stringham. Jenkins is a second Lieutenant – an officer, and Stringham a private, but it is Stringham who seems to feel the difference in their rank. Seemingly happy as a mess waiter, Stringham’s not sure they should be socialising. Transferred to the mobile laundry unit, it is Jenkins that Stringham later turns to when he comes across a passed out Bithel in the street. Bithel a character I remember fondly from The Valley of Bones. This was one of my favourite parts of this novel; Jenkins and Stringham, later joined by Widmerpool trying to sort out a drunken Bithel in the pitch dark blackout. We also meet again General Liddament who following a discussion with Jenkins about the reading of French novels in French, recommends Jenkins to Finn, with a possible posting to the Free French forces abroad on offer, a much more interesting prospect than his current dull position with Widmerpool. During Nick’s leave he goes along to the interview in London, though finding his language not quite up to the mark Nick doesn’t get the job, and is soon back at Divisional HQ and F mess. While in London however, Nick meets up with a few old friends, including his sister in law Priscilla, Chips Lovell, Moreland and Odo Stevens. During an evening out in London, Nick experiences the blitz at first hand, people who have been close to him are killed, suddenly and shockingly, just as in life, and illustrates how by now the war is in full swing. “We went to the first floor. The drawing room, thick in dust and fallen plaster, had a long jagged fissure down one wall. There were two rectangular discoloured spaces where the Wilson and Greuze had hung. These pictures had presumably been removed to some safer place at the outbreak of war. So, too had a great many of the oriental bowls and jars that had formerly played such a part in the decoration. They might have been valuable or absolute rubbish; Lovell had always insisted the latter. The pastels, by some unknown hand, of Moroccan types remained. They were hanging at all angles, the glass splintered of one bearing the caption Rainy Day at Marrakesh. Eleanor and I sat on the sofa. She began to cry.” Widmerpool, who has been elusive in some of the previous books, is a big presence in this novel. Here Widmerpool shows his ambition as he tries to arrange postings and generally manipulate the politics of army life to his own liking. This brings Widmerpool into conflict with Colonel Hogbourne-Johnson, and even had me feeling a bit sorry for Widmerpool after one particularly toe-curling exchange with a senior officer, just when his promotion seems almost assured. As the novel ends Jenkins has been told to report to the War Office, so change seems imminent. Again, as in The Valley of Bones, Powell presents the everyday tedium of army life brilliantly. The petty arguments and nastiness like that displayed for Stringham by Biggs, the boredom and the dullness of many routine tasks form a backdrop to the novel and create a sense of the ordinary workaday life during these most extraordinary times. This novel is full of incident, and was, I found a pretty quick read, and has me looking forward to the next instalment.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.