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A Dance to the Music of Time: 4th Movement

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A Dance to the Music of Time: 4th Movement PDF, ePub eBook 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. In this climactic volume of A Dance to the Music of Time, Nick Jenkins describes a world of ambition, intrigue, and dissolution. England has won the war, but now the losses, physical and moral, must be counted. Pamela Widmerpool sets a snare for the young writer Trapnel, while her husband suffers private agony and public humiliation. Set against a background of politics, business, high society, and the counterculture in England and Europe, this magnificent work of art sounds an unforgettable requiem for an age. Includes these novels: Books Do Furnish a Room Temporary Kings Hearing Secret Harmonies

30 review for A Dance to the Music of Time: 4th Movement

  1. 5 out of 5

    Vit Babenco

    Autumn dies, winter arrives… Turning the last page of the book I’ve got a feeling of deep nostalgia exactly like it is shown on the famous painting by Ford Madox Brown: The Last of England. It was so sad to say goodbye to all the characters – I lived among them so long. People think because a novel’s invented, it isn’t true. Exactly the reverse is the case. Because a novel’s invented, it is true. Biography and memoirs can never be wholly true, since they can’t include every conceivable circumstanc Autumn dies, winter arrives… Turning the last page of the book I’ve got a feeling of deep nostalgia exactly like it is shown on the famous painting by Ford Madox Brown: The Last of England. It was so sad to say goodbye to all the characters – I lived among them so long. People think because a novel’s invented, it isn’t true. Exactly the reverse is the case. Because a novel’s invented, it is true. Biography and memoirs can never be wholly true, since they can’t include every conceivable circumstance of what happened. The novel can do that. The novelist himself lays it down. His decision is binding. The biographer, even at his highest and best, can be only tentative, empirical. The autobiographer, for his part, is imprisoned in his own egotism. He must always be suspect. In contrast with the other two, the novelist is a god, creating his man, making him breathe and walk. The man, created in his own image, provides information about the god. A Dance to the Music of Time is a great drama and a delicious farce. It is lifesize…

  2. 4 out of 5

    Teresa

    The Fourth Movement is suffused with the narrator’s study of Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy and while I haven't read the Burton, it’s familiar enough for me to have enjoyed the references to it, the last of which is perfect for the ending. The narrator Nick, or Nicholas, as he’s increasingly called as he ages, is the ultimate observer. Any time the contortions needed to tell the stories of other characters– backstories, conversations relayed by others—merely threaten to turn a bit ridi The Fourth Movement is suffused with the narrator’s study of Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy and while I haven't read the Burton, it’s familiar enough for me to have enjoyed the references to it, the last of which is perfect for the ending. The narrator Nick, or Nicholas, as he’s increasingly called as he ages, is the ultimate observer. Any time the contortions needed to tell the stories of other characters– backstories, conversations relayed by others—merely threaten to turn a bit ridiculous, Powell manages a sleight-of-hand and we stay under his spell. For example, Nick relates to the reader the various and separate conversations going on under a fictional Tiepolo ceiling, conversations that don’t include him at all, and I thought, how acute Nick’s hearing must be! But that passing thought did not mute the scene’s power: it remains a favorite. Powell pokes fun at himself with a couple of references to Nick’s running into the same people over and over again; and while the final sequence of encounters is rather unusual, it’s also an entertaining, important summation. The sarcasm, wit and satire never overwhelm the seriousness of the themes. I feel inadequate explaining what these books have been ‘about’. But what about that 17th-century Burton quote near the end of the final novel? Despite our technologies, tools and toys changing over the years, it fits the ills of today. Perhaps you are someone who is discouraged that human nature never seems to change. I find it oddly reassuring.

  3. 4 out of 5

    David

    It took me a year to read this entire saga. Four volumes each comprising three books make up Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time, originally published as 12 books over the course of 24 years. We've gone from Nick Jenkins' boyhood, in which he has memories of the outbreak of World War I, to his senior citizen years as he watches with wry bemusement the arrival of the 1960s. The Fourth Movement is a bit grimmer from start to finish. It's not my favorite of the four Seasons. Powell has bee It took me a year to read this entire saga. Four volumes each comprising three books make up Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time, originally published as 12 books over the course of 24 years. We've gone from Nick Jenkins' boyhood, in which he has memories of the outbreak of World War I, to his senior citizen years as he watches with wry bemusement the arrival of the 1960s. The Fourth Movement is a bit grimmer from start to finish. It's not my favorite of the four Seasons. Powell has been introducing and reintroducing characters since the beginning of the series, and now they begin dropping like flies, constant reminders to Nick that he too is mortal. The first book, Books Do Furnish a Room, picks up a few years after the end of the last. World War II is in the recent past, but while Nick frequently reflects on his wartime experiences, it's the Fifties now, pops! X. Trapnel, a beatnik sort of deadbeat writer whose legend will grow larger after he passes away (off-screen, in typical Powell fashion) in the next book, is the central new personality Powell introduces. Nick is resuming his literary career, but we hear little about his own endeavors; he's much more interested in narrating the rise and fall of X. Trapnel, with his affections ranging from his name to his death's-head cane, who falls into the succubus-like embrace of Pamela Widmerpool. The Widmerpools — Kenneth and Pamela — loom large in these final installments. Their match-made-in-hell reaches truly abysmal depths before both of them are escorted offstage. Really, these last two books are full of as much grotesquerie as humor. They still have Powell's rich, nuanced prose and detailed characterization, but the touch is not as delicate as in the previous volumes, maybe because Powell has spent nine previous books arranging the Dance and now he's winding it down, whirling dancers off-stage one by one. Temporary Kings takes place ten years after Books Do Furnish a Room. Most of it takes place at a literary conference in Venice, where Powell introduces a few new characters, including some rather caricatured Americans. She had, so she related, stayed on after the rest of the party had gone home. Glober, it seemed, had been more attractive to her, far more attractive, than outwardly revealed by her demeanor at dinner. In admitting that, she went so far as to declare that she had greatly approved of him at sight, as soon as she entered the room where we were to dine. Glober must have felt the same. The natural ease of his manner concealed such feelings, like Mopsy's exterior reserve. Later that night mutual approval took physical expression. 'Glober did me on the table.' 'Among the coffee cups?' 'We broke a couple of liqueur glasses.' 'You obviously found him attractive.' Temporary Kings chronicles the beginning of the downfall of the Widmerpools. Pamela, after her disastrously sordid affair with the late X. Trapnel in the last book, is back with her husband, now Lord Widmerpool, and still humiliating him like a modern Megeara. Pamela's never-explained rage reaches a crescendo, intersecting with the American writer Russell Gwinnett and the American film producer Louis Glober, both sexual deviants in their own way but no match for Pamela's chthonian fury. And finally, there is Hearing Secret Harmonies, in which Widmerpool himself, at the end of a long life of ever-increasing power, becomes every bit as absurd and full of himself as always as a self-styled "counter-cultural" figure, rebelling against the Establishment in which he is a Peer of the Realm. Nick sees the arrival of the Hippies, and Powell's view of them can hardly be considered benign. Scorp Murtlock, the "reincarnation" (possibly literally) of Dr Trelawney, initially appears as a long-haired mystic in the company of one of Jenkins' nieces, but over the course of the book, he becomes an ever more powerful and sinister figure, finally contending with Widmerpool himself in what is, in one sense, the ultimate battle of two Men of Will, and in another sense, an anticlimactic coda to 12 volumes of careful, intricate lifelines involving scores of characters. The thudding sound from the quarry had declined now to no more than a gentle reverberation, infinitely remote. It ceased altogether at the long drawn wail of a hooter - the distant pounding of centaurs' hoofs dying away, as the last note of their conch trumpeted out over hyborean seas. Even the formal measure of the Seasons seemed suspended in the wintry silence. This is a series that requires a heavy investment of time and effort. It's not "plotty" and it's not fast-paced and while it's not lacking in drama, the drama is as often something that happens between chapters as on the page. So why should you read it? Because it's a masterpiece. A slow, convoluted dance spanning decades. It's not quite like anything else I've ever read, and I don't know that I'd want to read something else like it. It seriously took a year to wade through to the end, taking a break to read other books between volumes. But it is a masterpiece. Powell probably was one of the greatest writers of all time.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Manny

    The First Movement is about Class, the Second is about Love, the Third is about Duty. Now we're at the end, so what is the Fourth Movement going to be about except Death? I have read the series several times, and I'm still not completely sure about the Fourth Movement. It isn't as much fun as the others, at least not at a surface level. As Buck pointed out in a comment to my review of the Second Movement, it has a tendency to meander around, and the aperçus are sometimes not as sharp as they were The First Movement is about Class, the Second is about Love, the Third is about Duty. Now we're at the end, so what is the Fourth Movement going to be about except Death? I have read the series several times, and I'm still not completely sure about the Fourth Movement. It isn't as much fun as the others, at least not at a surface level. As Buck pointed out in a comment to my review of the Second Movement, it has a tendency to meander around, and the aperçus are sometimes not as sharp as they were in the earlier books. In particular, the demonic Scorp Murtlock, who eventually turns out to be Widmerpool's nemesis, is, by Powell's standards, crudely drawn. One straightforward analysis of the book is that Powell himself was getting old, and couldn't quite cut it any more. So perhaps Powell had lost some of his talent by now - these books were written when he was in his early 70s - but I also think it's possible to read their fragmented construction as intentional. Powell is not afraid of presenting unpleasant truths, though he generally has an indirect way of doing it. Getting old and dying is, most people agree, unpleasant, though there is a tendency not to dwell on the details. Powell could have made several points here in a straightforward way. He might have told us that, as we become older, we lose our physical strength and, even worse, our mental alertness. He might have said that we find it increasingly difficult to understand the world and feel connected to it. He might have said that younger people will, more and more often, fail to take us seriously. They will treat us with indifference and contempt, or just not see us at all. This kind of thing has been said directly to great effect; for example, in Doris Lessing's The Summer Before The Dark, there is a stunningly graphic scene showing how women, as they lose their sexual attractiveness, literally become invisible to men. But Powell, as already noted, doesn't tend to use the direct approach, and in particular loves to use absences rather than presences; as with Nick's feelings for Jean in the Second Movement, it's more what he omits than what he says. Here, we have the character of X. Trapnel. I think it's clear that Trapnel is, objectively, intended to be a great writer, probably the most distinguished one that Nick meets in the course of a long life spent hobnobbing with authors and artists. But Nick never really understands X. Emotionally, he can't feel that Trapnel is important or interesting, except as an agent of the fate that's now starting to breathe down Widmerpool's neck. It's only through other people's reactions that you can see Trapnel is a major talent. Alas, I don't think that Powell's ability to bring a character to life deserted him here. I'm going to be 52 soon - about the age Nick is at the start of Books Do Furnish A Room - and I can already see the process he's describing in his oblique fashion. There are younger stars in my field whom I'm aware of, and whom I know intellectually are very good, but they don't excite me they way they once would have. I don't pounce on their papers and read them fervently. Instead, I spend my time continuing to investigate ideas that my generation developed, which the new guys will politely dismiss as irrelevant. It's painful to project the curve forward, but this is what Powell is doing in his quiet, unflinching way. The survivors from earlier books, more and more surrounded by a bustling cast of new characters that they barely notice, play out the ends of terrible dramas which are equally unnoticed by the younger people. Feelings which have been carefully hidden for decades suddenly emerge for a moment, but most of the spectators don't even realise anything has happened. I think it will be like this to be old: it all rings true. Powell's final volume is much better than its reputation.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    For some reason I thought that the final three novels of this twelve novel cycle wouldn't be as satisfying as the earlier works. I assumed, I guess, that Powell would run out of steam as his narrator, Nick Jenkins, aged. But I was wrong: I love the Fourth Movement as much as I love the first three and, having come to the end of the saga, I miss being in the world of the Dance. The three novels that make up the Fourth Movement, Books Do Furnish a Room, Temporary Kings and Hearing Secret Harmonies For some reason I thought that the final three novels of this twelve novel cycle wouldn't be as satisfying as the earlier works. I assumed, I guess, that Powell would run out of steam as his narrator, Nick Jenkins, aged. But I was wrong: I love the Fourth Movement as much as I love the first three and, having come to the end of the saga, I miss being in the world of the Dance. The three novels that make up the Fourth Movement, Books Do Furnish a Room, Temporary Kings and Hearing Secret Harmonies cover the period from 1945/1946 to approximately 1970. This is in sharp contrast to the novels of the Third Movement, which deal with World War II. As a result, time passes quickly in this Movement: a year or more can go by in the space of two chapters, with post-WWII austerity giving way to 1960s counter culture. What struck me most about the Fourth Movement is the extent to which it deals with the creative process and particularly with the nature of fiction*. Although Nick Jenkins personally experiences many of the events upon which the narrative centres, even more of these events happen off-stage, with Jenkins being told about them by other characters. To this process of story-telling is added a metafictional element, with novel-writing emerging as a theme in and of itself. I listened to the audiobook edition of the novels, superbly narrated by Simon Vance. Powell's wonderful prose, biting humour and vast cast of characters with their complicated inter-relationships will live with me for a long time. If I remember correctly, I've given four stars to each of the Movements, most likely because I'm stingy with five star ratings. But this is a pretty amazing cycle of novels and I'm going back to up the rating to five stars. *This is true of the entire novel cycle, but the emphasis on writing and writers struck me as strongest in the Fourth Movement.

  6. 4 out of 5

    David M

    I confess I embarked on this behemoth out of a sense of filial insecurity. This past summer my idol Perry Anderson published a two part essay in the London Review of Books making the bizarrely hyperbolic claim that Anthony Powell is actually better than Proust. The magus of Marxism is mysterious; the ways of his mind are not like yours or mine; while omniscient, he is also prone to truly outlandish judgments from time to time. On the face of it, Powell's opus would seem to be the apotheosis of t I confess I embarked on this behemoth out of a sense of filial insecurity. This past summer my idol Perry Anderson published a two part essay in the London Review of Books making the bizarrely hyperbolic claim that Anthony Powell is actually better than Proust. The magus of Marxism is mysterious; the ways of his mind are not like yours or mine; while omniscient, he is also prone to truly outlandish judgments from time to time. On the face of it, Powell's opus would seem to be the apotheosis of that middle brow Englishry which Perry made his name combatting. Now having read all 3,000+ pages of it, I can say that by and large it was mildly pleasant, a bit like warm beer. I suppose there's no reason to think that life itself is better represented by intense revelations than dry, sometimes vaguely amusing goings-on. Dance to the Music is basically the story of one man running into another man he doesn't really like over and over again at parties for half a century. Nick Jenkins, the hero, is too nice, or else just too self-effacing, to ever make it clear that he doesn't actually like this other man, Kenneth Widmerpool, and so by default they're sort of like friends. Jenkins is a literary artist of considerable talent, but for some reason (perhaps his native English modesty?) he decides to devote his life's work to the chronicle of his non-friendship with this pompous bore rather than his own intimate life. The sequence consists of twelve separate novels, each around 250 pages. Of the twelve, I found flashes of greatness in precisely two of them - Casanova's Chinese Restaurant and the Kindly Ones, books 5 and 6 respectively. There Powell's smooth, understated style seemed to adumbrate abysses that could not be represented directly. There was also a very memorable moment in the 9th novel when Jenkins breaks down crying at the end of the war. Otherwise, to be honest, I found the whole thing pretty underwhelming. In the last three books, or fourth movement, Powell ditches his understated style to engage in caricature. Thus we get the horrible bitch and temptress Pamela and the late incarnation of Widmerpool as sixties cult leader. In both cases the portrait is a bit too crude to be very clever or effective. All in all, I'd say I've never encountered such a case of unexceptional content wedded to epic form as Dance to the Music. It's just possible that this is itself is paradoxical kind of greatness, but I'll have to meditate on that longer to render definitive judgment.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    What an excellent reading experience! My rating reflects my feelings for the entire series as a whole as well as the final trilogy. full review to come

  8. 4 out of 5

    Gary Lee

    The final set of three, from Powell's overall twelve. Books Do Furnish a Room -- 5/5 I don't know if it was simply because the 'war books' are over and done, or because it really was a strong read -- but this has been one of my favorite of the series. Yet, it took me more than twice my normal time to get through with it. I don't know why. I guess I had to ease back into Powell's rhythm. Temporary Kings -- 5/5 The Dance is drawing to a close, and only the stragglers are left behind....well, and the d The final set of three, from Powell's overall twelve. Books Do Furnish a Room -- 5/5 I don't know if it was simply because the 'war books' are over and done, or because it really was a strong read -- but this has been one of my favorite of the series. Yet, it took me more than twice my normal time to get through with it. I don't know why. I guess I had to ease back into Powell's rhythm. Temporary Kings -- 5/5 The Dance is drawing to a close, and only the stragglers are left behind....well, and the drunks. Much like the last novel, I enjoyed this one immensely even if I did tend to slog through it. There's a part of me that doesn't want to finish the cycle; I don't want it to end. Even though there have been about 300 characters coming in and going out of the narrative, they're all fairly memorable and unique. It's been a long time since I've had such a reading experience. But I digress... Unlike the other novels thus far, Powell brings in a bit of the fantastic (or "surreal" if you will) to this one. Characters begin to resemble ancient paintings, mysticism rears its whithered head, and the ghost of Trapnel looms ominously. Yes, Trapnel is dead. Moreland is dead. And it's hinted that Pamela Widmerpool swallows a handful of pills and ODs. The end is near. Hopefully the obvious showdown between Jenkins and Widmerpool will be worth the price of admission. Hearing Secret Harmonies -- 4/5 Banquet dinners, Literary Awards, proto-punk political dissent, necrophilia, mysticism, Manson Family-like cults...the times, they have a-changed. With the dance over, the elders return home while the youth take out to the night. I was bit disappointed that Jenkins and Widmerpool didn't have the hoped-for final showdown; regardless, this final volume was one of the most fun to read. Like all them, it had it's incredibly slow, seemingly pointless moments, but they can easily be overlooked when regarding the novel as a whole. Final thoughts: Is 'A Dance to the Music of Time' perfect? No. Is 'A Dance to the Music of Time' a masterpiece of English Literature? Without a doubt. 1.) Much like one's own life, this cycle is a trifle uneven -- but no one's life (especially when considering a fifty-year span of it) is entirely exciting or entirely dull; rather, one's life is a continual ebb and flow of experiences, emotions, and lackthereof. 2.) If more people were blessed with Powell's gift for characterization, I think people would be far more eager to read and to stay reading. There are well over 300 different characters encountered across the twelve novels, and somehow Powell makes the reader remember most (if not all) of them. Even if I never read these books again, I think I will always remember some of these characters as fondly as actual people I have known. 3.) I could spend the rest of my life rereading these novels, and still never understand everything that Powell has expertly pulled off within them. Historical references, mythological references, religious references, literary references, dramatic, artistic, scientific, military -- his novels are saturated with them. 4.) While it can be a bit dry at times, Powell's writing is never dull. Twelve novels (over 3000pgs total) seems like a daunting task for a reader, and they certainly would have been had they not been written in so readable a matter. The New York Times might refer to this quality as "unputdownable" -- I know I would.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Marjorie Hakala

    The review that used to live here has been prettied up and moved to The Millions.

  10. 5 out of 5

    carl theaker

    'Books Do Finish a Room' great title- this book focuses on reconnecting with characters from oh several books ago, Jenkins' nostalgia. Postwar Jenkins settles into his literary career. Wicked Widmerpool continues his climb in Parliment while being tortured by spouse Pamela, easily the bitch of year, shooting for the decade. Jenkins does a college reunion of sorts and many characters are re-introduced. We also see again many writers who are reconnected through Jenkins' publishing efforts. 'Temporary Ki 'Books Do Finish a Room' great title- this book focuses on reconnecting with characters from oh several books ago, Jenkins' nostalgia. Postwar Jenkins settles into his literary career. Wicked Widmerpool continues his climb in Parliment while being tortured by spouse Pamela, easily the bitch of year, shooting for the decade. Jenkins does a college reunion of sorts and many characters are re-introduced. We also see again many writers who are reconnected through Jenkins' publishing efforts. 'Temporary Kings' - The Widmerpool tornado reach a climax with wife Pamela, Widmerpool and a famous Communist writer caught in a menage a' trois, of sorts. Rumors and stories of this event cause great consternation. 'Hearing Secret Harmonies' -- AHHH, book 12 complete, 7 months for me, 25 years or so for Powell, the novels covering from 1920s to 1970s. Wonder if Powell planned for this to be his last? He brings in a variety of folks from the earlier books for cameo appearances. The 'Harmonies' in the title refer to the hippie cult, it's leader Scorpio, the mandatory weird character introduced into each story, well it is the '60s. The cult causes Jenkins to reminisce about the 'hippies' he knew in the '30s. It's been a long, fun, strange trip. A friend mentioned 'Dance' to me way back in '85ish and gee sorry I didn't take them up sooner. I liked this read and certainly got into the characters, well, after this many pages, they become part of the family. There is a 'Dance' British TV series production available on DVD. It's worth a watch. Fun to put faces to the names.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Abigail

    A fabulous ending to this quartet. Perhaps would be useful to have a list of characters as they are so vast and many, by the end it takes a great deal of effort to recall some of the earlier more obscure characters.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Trina

    After 4 months of listening to a remarkable audio version narrated by Simon Vance, I have finished with this. There was some of it I didn't love, but most of it I found humorous, sometimes heartbreaking and always compelling. Powell's musings on the passage of life are rich and eloquent, and I wish I had the book to recall these.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Not as much fun as the other three volumes in the collection, and the last book Hearing Secret Harmonies was a bit too wacky for me. Still, a great series altogether, and I might see if I can find some other works by Powell. When the TBR goes down a bit...

  14. 4 out of 5

    Michael Battaglia

    Having depicted your characters attempting to live day by day during the most involved conflict that the world thus far had ever known, where do you go from there? Well, if you're Anthony Powell, apparently you veer headfirst into domestic drama against the setting of a post-war backdrop. People get married who shouldn't get married, people cheat on their spouses, explore their sexual identities, hang out in fancy places. And talk about books a lot, pretentiously if at all. It feels like I'm amo Having depicted your characters attempting to live day by day during the most involved conflict that the world thus far had ever known, where do you go from there? Well, if you're Anthony Powell, apparently you veer headfirst into domestic drama against the setting of a post-war backdrop. People get married who shouldn't get married, people cheat on their spouses, explore their sexual identities, hang out in fancy places. And talk about books a lot, pretentiously if at all. It feels like I'm among friends. To that end the last three novels in the, ah, twelvetet (?) are sometimes considered a bit of a letdown when compared to the first nine that comprise the beginning sequences. The characters have become older and a bit more set in their ways and to some extent it feels like Powell is struggling to find interesting things for them to do that are within the realm of possibility (it's not like Widmerpool can become prime minister, as amazing as that would be). The newer characters that are introduced are generally interesting but he doesn't seem to have as much of a handle on them as he did the original set and even that precise control slackens by the very end, where the plot dictates as much how people should act instead of letting their personalities guide us to the end. Part of the problem is that coming off the peak of World War Two, pretty much almost anything can feel like an encore, or at least an epilogue (mirroring no doubt how some soldiers felt returning home, after being a part of saving civilization as we know it, sitting at the table to the same pot roast every night for the rest of your life probably felt initially like an anticlimax of sorts . . . although not getting shot at constantly may be a fair trade-off) and coming back to your old life can feel a bit boring in comparison. Having taken us through the boom years before the war and the war itself, he's got us in the much more austere 1950s, where conformity still has a stranglehold on culture and all the attempts to let loose and be free come across as very odd to all the old guys. This is still rich fodder for a single novel, unfortunately trying to stretch that theme across three separate novels winds up pushing it and they suffer from a combination of spinning their wheels and a gradual sense of "who cares?" Powell's prose and eye for characters hasn't quite lost a step, it's just that the subject matter doesn't quite live up to what's gone before. In all honesty, the tone isn't that far off from the pre-war novels but there we had the shock of the new, getting to know these people, while here it's more a settling of accounts as people inevitably drop off for the great multi-part series in the sky, in a much more sedate setting. When things get wild here, it feels more artificial, like he's trying to insert drama where it doesn't quite belong. As I said, the settings don't inspire much optimism. The main plot of "Books Do Furnish a Room" centers around the attempts at publishing a literary magazine called "Fission", which Jenkins gets involved in with some other characters. The hijinks as all the personalities collide isn't quite as exciting as all the dinner party escapades from earlier novels, and by the fortieth time Jenkins mentions Robert Burton you want to reach into the book and slap him. He manages to get one decent character out of oddball writer Trapnel, who should come across as a collection of tics masquerading as a human being but manages to turn into an actual conflicted artist. The main problem here is the focus on Pamela Widmerpool as someone we should care about. She gets way too much time in this book, not only hamstringing the latent awesomeness that is Widmerpool (who becomes a member of Parliament here, of course) but dragging the book into soap opera territory by becoming a character straight out of "Dynasty". Granted, she's supposed to be hot but she's so unrelentingly mean to every single person in striking distance not only does her marriage make little sense but you wonder why anyone even bothers with her. She's just angry for no reason all the time and while she's certainly distinctive, it becomes rather tedious after a while watching people attempting to be polite to her before she snarls in their direction. It does become hilarious how none of this fazes Jenkins, however. The drama ramps up toward the end, with Widmerpool and Trapnel and Pamela all circling each other, leading to some interesting setpieces but everything prior to that is drenched in Powell's silky smooth prose, it goes down nice and easy but leaves very little aftertaste to remember. By the time you get to "Temporary Kings" you can almost hear the steam coming out of Powell's ears as he endeavors to make any of this simmer above even a low boil. Moving the action to Proust's narrator's favorite place, Venice, isn't exactly the "what do ordinary blokes do in that time period" feel we're hoping for, as Jenkins attends a literary convention that somehow manages to encompass almost every single person he's ever met that's still alive by this point. More soap opera elements are introduced (spying! murder! infidelity! sometimes all at the same time!) but there are times when it feels like he's throwing things against the wall to see what sticks. Very little does. Again, some of the new characters find room to distinguish themselves from all the other genteel men we've encountered before but even when events start to pick up here comes Pamela Widmerpool again to do something cray-cray even as another male foolishly throws himself at her despite the fact that even if she were twice as nice as the book portrays her she'd still be an utterly miserable person. Her caustic presence basically neuters whatever benefit you might get from Widmerpool and whatever plot seems to be involving him doesn't seem to go much of anywhere at all. Once again, things pick up toward the end, especially with a surprise appearance by local weird witch psychic person Mrs Erdleigh, who I always imagine as one of those strange ladies from "A Wrinkle in Time", but it's kind of too little too late and most of the juicy stuff is recounted to Jenkins by other people after the fact. It does get bonus points for being set in a foreign city I've actually visited, however. By the time we reach the supposed finale of the last volume, "Hearing Secret Harmonies", it's more of a grand finally. While the subtraction of Pamela Widmerpool should only improve matters, Powell decides to go completely off the rails here and have a countercultural cult figure heavily into the plot. That would be weird enough but having Widmerpool join the cult is pretty much the last straw for hoping gentle satirical realism would win the day. The character becomes nearly unrecognizable in this book, and while you can suggest that part of that is because he's going out of his mind, it removes the one defining thing about him, that even though he's absolutely mediocre in every possible way, he succeeds through sheer singleminded willpower. Meanwhile there's a sense of wrapping the loose ends up, as the few characters who are old enough to die generally get around to doing so while the younger ones gradually drift away. As the plot begins to focus more and more on the cult (culminating in an interesting chain of events at a wedding) it starts to take on an air of ridiculousness and by the time we receive word of Widmerpool's final fate (fittingly, it basically closes out the novel), it almost seems like the character himself went "the heck with this nonsense"and did the logical thing. And thus it ends. That said, after three thousand (or close to) pages, is it all worth it? To a good extent, yes, even if it doesn't show day to day life in the earlier part of the century as much as it seems to think it does (how often do you hang out in Venice?), the earlier novels especially are excellent at conveying the subtle shift of society into newer classes, as one way of life gives way to another. The war novels are by and large both exciting and funny, and there are enough scattered decent moments among the final three books to remind you that Powell hasn't lost his talent, just misdirected it. He gives us one of the strongest literary figures of all time in Widmerpool, a man sturdy enough to move both with and against the tide. But Powell's style is so consistent that it all hangs together nicely and never becomes a slog. With Proust (to compare one last time), it often felt like reading it was akin to engaging in an arm wrestling match with an opponent who didn't know how to tire. Here, Powell guides you along and treats you nice and while he never achieves the emotional highs or lows that Proust manages, it's never less than engaging and you never forget that you're in the hands of a master. Still, there's an emotional distance to the proceedings that all the best prose and funniest scenes in the world can't overcome. For all the hullabaloo of people living and dying and cheating and loving, ultimately Powell's decision to have Jenkins keep himself as merely the window through which we observe the series keeps you from really feeling the century or the passage of time through it. By the time we reach the end we don't feel that we know him better than we did at the beginning and it never feels like he learned anything from all he's seen. Instead he's had a front row seat for the antics of Widmerpool, a far more dynamic character and while it probably wouldn't have worked, you almost wish the book had been narrated by him. In the end, it winds up being the view of a century and a vanished time as seen through glass that is perfectly clear and perfectly insulated: while there's nothing to obstruct the absolute clarity of the view, no matter how close you get to the barrier you never feel the heat being generated on the other side, or when the fire starts to go out and the chill starts to set in.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    After a hundreds of pages dealing just with World War II, Anthony Powell brings us through the postwar decades with the last three novels of "A Dance to the Music of Time", which tracks Nicholas Jenkins and his social circle across an enormous breadth of 20th-century Britain. BOOKS DO FURNISH A ROOM, the tenth novel, opens in the winter of 1945/46 as Britain settles back into peacetime, though not without annoying rationing and shortages. Jenkins has come to his old university for research toward After a hundreds of pages dealing just with World War II, Anthony Powell brings us through the postwar decades with the last three novels of "A Dance to the Music of Time", which tracks Nicholas Jenkins and his social circle across an enormous breadth of 20th-century Britain. BOOKS DO FURNISH A ROOM, the tenth novel, opens in the winter of 1945/46 as Britain settles back into peacetime, though not without annoying rationing and shortages. Jenkins has come to his old university for research towards a biography on Robert Burton, but soon first himself involved in the launch of a new literary magazine with distinct leftist tones. Indeed, we return to a world of shady politics left behind in the early 1930s in THE ACCEPTANCE WORLD, the third novel of the sequence, and many of the characters from those days return. Widmerpool, his political career now taking off, also comes into the picture, and his continual defence of the Soviet Union makes him a more repulsive antagonist than ever. But beyond revisiting old friends, BOOKS DO FURNISH A ROOM introduces two new characters with very distinctive personalities. One is the novelist X. Trapnel, whose bohemianism mystifies his fellow characters and ultimately leads to his grisly ruin. The other character is Pamela Widmerpool. Though she appeared first in the previous novel, she was mostly a force of nature destroying the lives of numerous male characters offscreen. Here Jenkins talks with her on several occasions, revealing something of her as a person. As this volume was written at the end of the 1960s in a more frank era, Powell felt that his language could be a bit more coarse, and it is Pamela who utters all the profanity. The relationship between Widmerpool and his wife sometimes descends into mere soap opera, and the literary allusions, especially to Burton, get rather tiresome. Still, this is a pretty OK entry in the series. The last two volumes are unfortunately very weak. TEMPORARY KINGS brings us over a gap of more than a decade to Venice 1958, where Jenkins is attending a literary conference. We're introduced to some American characters, but only so that Pamela Widmerpool can destroy them. This novel is tedious, the coincidences too hard to swallow, and there's a real lack of the comedy that sustained the series. HEARING SECRET HARMONIES takes place another decade on, in the late '60s, and here Powell had gotten bored with the usual trend of the "Dance" to be centred around dinner parties and inspired by real life events, so he creates an outlandish plot with a cult leader, magical powers and ritual sex. In these last volumes, Powell tries to pare the basic plot down to Jenkins versus Widmerpool, and indeed Widmerpool's demise is what brings these multi-volume reminisces to a close. But in TEMPORARY KINGS and HEARING SECRET HARMONIES, Widmerpool is a completely different character, doing things not at all in keeping with the fellow we've long followed. Also, in the last two novels the sex really gets out of hand. In early volumes in the "Dance", the presence of a few homosexual characters added realism to the work, but Powell now reveals nearly every male character (and not a few female characters) to be homosexual and bases the plot on this, which rather reminds me of mid-century British humour's excessive reliance on cross-dressing. I am happy that I read the Dance and I'd probably even recommend it. The bulk of the series is very entertaining, and pushing through to the end didn't require so much extra effort. Still, it's a pity that Powell couldn't keep it together in the end.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Brenda Cregor

    [Page 241 of the 12th novel] “...the story used to haunt me. I don’t quite know why. It seemed to start so well, and end so badly. Perhaps that’s how well constructed stories ought to terminate.” No. Let's get this straight. You can have a story end tragically, without it ending badly. This story ended badly. Powell had 12 VOLUMES of narrative, spanning entire lifetimes of the characters, to think of an ending which would be satisfying, if not "happy". Is it well written, yes. But, there are beautifu [Page 241 of the 12th novel] “...the story used to haunt me. I don’t quite know why. It seemed to start so well, and end so badly. Perhaps that’s how well constructed stories ought to terminate.” No. Let's get this straight. You can have a story end tragically, without it ending badly. This story ended badly. Powell had 12 VOLUMES of narrative, spanning entire lifetimes of the characters, to think of an ending which would be satisfying, if not "happy". Is it well written, yes. But, there are beautiful women and men with nothing else to offer. These books offered rich language, with nothing to say. Friends, if you like the appearance of great literature, this series will satisfy that urge, but it has no depth. With all of its references to art, literature, history, psychology, counter-culture, politics, high society and potentially startling thematic elements of necrophilia, perverse rites in religious cults, serial adultery, voyeurism, suicide, the occult, etc.,[ though there was never an explicit description of these practices], the overall "theme" of the book fell flat. Was I supposed to laugh or cry? Cry because I was laughing? Laugh because I was crying? Initially, the title captivated me: A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME. In addition, the way the title was tied in with a work of art which caused me to contemplate the "seasons of the mortality" made me hope for a work of fiction, which would give me truth. Even the fact that there were 12 volumes in the series ( 3 in each of the 4 movements) impressed upon my mind that there had been great thought involved in dividing the stories of the characters in a way which would cause the reader to reflect on their short sojourn in mortality, by connecting the 12 novels with the 12 months of the year, one unit of time by which mortals measure their fragile existence. I once heard that if a thousand years on Earth is a year to God, basically, if you live to about 84, your life will be about two hours long. We haven't much time to do what we were placed here to do ( disregard that remark, if you are an atheist), and the characters absolutely wasted their fictional time in existence. One by one, each of the shallow, joyless, characters either died off with few, or no surviving family and friends, to mourn them, or faded into lives of obscurity, not because they did not launch themselves into fame and fortune, but because their sphere of service, if they ever offered any, and charity was either non-existent or self-centered. Their mortal "dance" was without beauty, rhythm, or soul. They actually...stood still, in so many respects. Essentially, this book/series followed the lives of people who ended up not mattering, because no one and nothing mattered to them, or that which "mattered" to them, did not matter in the end...in many cases, not even themselves. If you want to know who will populate hell, read this series. If you want to know what hell will be like, read this series. You will marvel at how people so full of promise could amount to so little, spiritually speaking. I am going to be extra extra good, because if I meet up with any people like these characters in the after-life, I might just have to throw myself into the endless pit of fire...along with these books. It must concur with Powell's friend, V. S. Naipaul, when he said, after the author's death: "...it may be that our friendship lasted all this time because I had not examined his work".

  17. 4 out of 5

    Miriam

    This is the FINAL BOOK of the original Modern Library list that started me reading the "best" books of the 20th century. I did it. This is not a very good book, but it relies on the layers of the previous books in the series to good effect. I still continue to dislike the narrator, a boring guy who stands by and judges everyone while sailing through life based on the connections everyone else provides for him. The book loops back for several of the previous books' anecdotes--it's interesting to w This is the FINAL BOOK of the original Modern Library list that started me reading the "best" books of the 20th century. I did it. This is not a very good book, but it relies on the layers of the previous books in the series to good effect. I still continue to dislike the narrator, a boring guy who stands by and judges everyone while sailing through life based on the connections everyone else provides for him. The book loops back for several of the previous books' anecdotes--it's interesting to watch Jenkins/Powell ruminate on past events in the light of advancing age. I've come to realize that, while not much happens to Nick (or not much seems to ruffle his inner calm or develop his personality in any real way), his consciousness is consistent and does stitch the books together. His reflections on art and literature and how they match up (or don't) with "real" life. How those literary and artistic allusions aren't always the ones you might have hoped for or predicted for yourself or the people around you. The rest is just boring, interconnected (bed-hopping, spouse-swapping: yes, it's still boring in the British way), upper crust society parties and events. He always seems to have work and money, easily provided by his social connections. And he takes it all as his due, which is hard to stomach. So this book can have three stars, because it successfully brings to a close this ridiculously long work. As for Widmerpool, whose antics I always looked forward to (as did Nick, I think), he gets an ignominious end. I would have liked better to understand how he ended up in that cult. How did he make the decision to forsake his previous goals and social climbing? Or was his success, capped by becoming a peer of the realm, not all he'd hoped? Considering how long-winded Powell lets him be at various other points in the series, it seems odd not to get to understand how he got there.

  18. 4 out of 5

    William

    There's a scene in Hearing Secret Harmonies, the last and strongest of the three collected here, which struck me as the sort of thing one expects to happen in old age. Mr Deacon, a personally familiar and once-derided painter, undergoes a critical resuscitation. His works, once scattered and neglected in the numerous homes of Nick's friends, have been assembled in a gallery, fetching prices which would have seemed incredible to the artist himself. Nick visits the gallery. He accepts the critical There's a scene in Hearing Secret Harmonies, the last and strongest of the three collected here, which struck me as the sort of thing one expects to happen in old age. Mr Deacon, a personally familiar and once-derided painter, undergoes a critical resuscitation. His works, once scattered and neglected in the numerous homes of Nick's friends, have been assembled in a gallery, fetching prices which would have seemed incredible to the artist himself. Nick visits the gallery. He accepts the critical change-of-wind as something inevitable in the cycle of art-fashions, even mentally commends the young critic responsible for the shift. And yet he cannot bring himself to admire the paintings - going so far as to feel gratified in perceiving certain defects, proof that his generation knew something about what they were talking about. The point isn't really that one generation is more right or more wrong - merely that one, Nick's own, no longer counts; Nick is free to his reservations, but they don't really matter. The young gallery curator even contradicts him when he points out that Mr Deacon's real first name was Edgar. Times will change, but one cannot change indefinitely with them; something must remain. I thought it a very powerful moment, and the restraint with which Powell handles it, as he does everything else in this series, is especially impressive. He hesitates always to make grand statements. Even when Nick is confronted by his great lost love, Jean Duport (in the same gallery, unsurprisingly, this being Powell), all we get is: 'There could have been no doubt in the mind of an onlooker - Henderson, say, or Chuck - that Jean and I had met before. That was about the best you could say for past love.'

  19. 5 out of 5

    Amerynth

    I've been reading Anthony Powell's epic, 12-book "A Dance to the Music of Time" throughout 2014. I'm reading one novel a month and will be reading the final three books through December. I'm posting reviews as I go. "Books Do Furnish A Room" is the 10th book in the series but Powell hasn't lost any steam here. In fact, this was one of my favorite books in the series so far. Our faithful narrator Nick Jenkins is now relating the deaths of several of the characters. (I was somewhat surprised when I've been reading Anthony Powell's epic, 12-book "A Dance to the Music of Time" throughout 2014. I'm reading one novel a month and will be reading the final three books through December. I'm posting reviews as I go. "Books Do Furnish A Room" is the 10th book in the series but Powell hasn't lost any steam here. In fact, this was one of my favorite books in the series so far. Our faithful narrator Nick Jenkins is now relating the deaths of several of the characters. (I was somewhat surprised when Jenkins mentions he is 40.... for some reason I had assumed he in his 40's in the war years.) His friends seem to be dying at a fast clip as we're losing characters left and right. Much of the book also focuses on Widmerpool and his unhappy marriage, which I assume is the start of the MP's downfall. 5 stars. "Temporary Kings," the 11th book in the series is also pretty terrific. The title aptly reflects the loss of vitality experienced as the characters are aging and often coming to the end of their lives or careers. Widmerpool manages to stay afloat after a series of challenging circumstances, but his unhappy marriage implodes. Very much looking forward to the final book in the series. 5 stars. The final book "Hearing Secret Harmonies" kind off in a weird direction for me.... there wasn't quite enough build up for me for taking Widmerpool in his sad final decisions. However, the final installment was certainly interesting and tied up the story. 4 stars.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    Did Anthony Powell get tired of his creation as he worked towards the close? Was he – some artists DO – losing a stroke or two? Did he find himself so out of sympathy with what Britain was becoming in the 1960s and 70's that he lost his keenness of vision? These thoughts occurred to me as I read the last three books of this long saga, feeling progressively less enthralled as I went. The first volume, "Books Do Furnish a Room," is terrific, as Nicholas Jenkins and many of the other characters we Did Anthony Powell get tired of his creation as he worked towards the close? Was he – some artists DO – losing a stroke or two? Did he find himself so out of sympathy with what Britain was becoming in the 1960s and 70's that he lost his keenness of vision? These thoughts occurred to me as I read the last three books of this long saga, feeling progressively less enthralled as I went. The first volume, "Books Do Furnish a Room," is terrific, as Nicholas Jenkins and many of the other characters we have grown to know tally their losses and accommodate themselves to the austere realities of life in post-war Britain, and Jenkins in particular navigates through the often baroque currents of London's publishing world. Pamela (now Widmerpool) makes a spectacular reappearance, and her almost Wagnerian presence animates this volume and much of the next ("Temporary Kings"). But her absence is one of the things that makes the very last volume of the trilogy, "Hearing Secret Harmonies," seem oddly diminished. There are wonderful moments all through all three volumes, but the arc is downward; and when I wanted Powell to gather his forces for a coda, he just stopped. I can't imagine NOT reading this "movement" of the Music of Time; but it doesn't have the same magical quality as its predecessors.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Cyril

    This is one of the masterworks of the English language. I am awed by the ability of the author to keep a coherent story over such a long period of time and so many pages. As others have noted, this is really one long (very long) novel. Few will have the fortitude to complete the entire opus (and if time is short and you have better things to do, life will go on if you don't read these books), even though the reading is not difficult. True, the writing style can be a tiny bit on the opaque side o This is one of the masterworks of the English language. I am awed by the ability of the author to keep a coherent story over such a long period of time and so many pages. As others have noted, this is really one long (very long) novel. Few will have the fortitude to complete the entire opus (and if time is short and you have better things to do, life will go on if you don't read these books), even though the reading is not difficult. True, the writing style can be a tiny bit on the opaque side on the times, but it is not at all a hard as that of Henry James. The novels reminds me of the USA Trilogy, although of a more personal nature. The narrator continues to remain mostly a spectator, and a cowardly one at that. Very little is mentioned of himself or his family. He doesn't even mention the names of his own children even though nephews, nieces and the children of friends are noted. It is probably for the best, for the reader has fewer names to recall. This particular volume follows the narrator into and older age, and follows the tale of Widmerpool to the misty end. If you do have the stamina, I think you will enjoy both the effort you will exert and the story you pull out.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Graychin

    Twelve novels in four volumes. One million words in three thousand pages. And fully six weeks of my life... It will take time to properly digest, but the ‘Music of Time’ is one of those novels (‘supernovel’ might be a better term) for which the tribute “an actual addition to life” seems to have been intended. As it’s consumed fully half my summer, one might suggest it's proven a subtraction from life instead. But then what sort of illiterate fool would suggest such a thing, really? Though contain Twelve novels in four volumes. One million words in three thousand pages. And fully six weeks of my life... It will take time to properly digest, but the ‘Music of Time’ is one of those novels (‘supernovel’ might be a better term) for which the tribute “an actual addition to life” seems to have been intended. As it’s consumed fully half my summer, one might suggest it's proven a subtraction from life instead. But then what sort of illiterate fool would suggest such a thing, really? Though containing undoubted moments of glory, I found the very final piece (‘Hearing Secret Harmonies’) regrettably weak when compared to ‘Books Do Furnish a Room’ and ‘Temporary Kings,’ which ranked with ‘Buyer’s Market,’ ‘The Kindly Ones’ and ‘The Military Philosophers’ among my very favorites. But the whole thing hangs together, and standing with the whole of it before me now, like the Poussin painting after which it’s named or the curious tapestry decorating the walls of Magnus Donners’ dining hall, ‘A Dance to the Music of Time’ makes an endlessly fascinating prospect.

  23. 5 out of 5

    BiblioPhil

    Sustains its power, only fading in the last book. Immortalises Julian Maclaren-Ross and Barbara Skelton, though not as they might have wished to see themselves. The coincidences may be forgiven for the pleasure of coming across once again Jeavons, Sunny Farebrother etc. Interesting to read his version of a Sixties commune in the light of The Girls: if it isn't that convincing, the aristocratic insouciance seems a sane reaction.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Derek Davis

    Dance is one of the monuments of 20th century British literature. As a monument, it is immediate, clearly chiseled, foursquare and, despite intricate carvings of angels, stark. As a monument, at least to me, it is also less "to read" than "to have read." And, as a monument, it does not clearly disclose its sculptor -- whether, in this case, the author, Powell, or its universal narrator, Nick Jenkins. This last "movement," which includes the final three novels, takes Jenkins into his 60s, when many Dance is one of the monuments of 20th century British literature. As a monument, it is immediate, clearly chiseled, foursquare and, despite intricate carvings of angels, stark. As a monument, at least to me, it is also less "to read" than "to have read." And, as a monument, it does not clearly disclose its sculptor -- whether, in this case, the author, Powell, or its universal narrator, Nick Jenkins. This last "movement," which includes the final three novels, takes Jenkins into his 60s, when many of his contemporaries have died, either in WWII or of a combination of mostly natural causes. But it also expands on characters introduced during the earlier wartime years, particularly the explosive, self-centered, beautiful, erotic, fearfully consuming Pamela Flitton. For continuing readers, it most enduringly examines the slow rise and later rapid dissolution of the long novel's most consuming and enigmatic character, Kenneth Widmerpool. Though perhaps impossible in the limited confines of the "real" world, these two oppositely aligned but equally destructive forces marry and wreak havoc at every turn, their alliance within Dance necessary, if not inevitable. A new interwoven sub-cast in this movement includes novelist X. Trapnel, destroyed in part by Pamela, Trapnel's biographer, the American Gwinnett, and the young cult leader Murtlock. Such an outline may sound as though a great deal of action takes place, but actually, as in the rest of this 3,000-page opus, little – almost nothing – happens onstage. The reports we hear, through Jenkins, range from mildly removed through emotionally distant to windblown supposition. Stylistically and in its orchestration of events, Dance is close to perfection. Sentences slither and knot through themselves to come out the other end in a straight line of meaning. Present and past intertwine in Jenkins' mind with remarkable clarity and cohesion. Characters introduced years in the past recur with enticing recollection. That's not only difficult to do but, yes, monumental to achieve. I haven't read critiques of Powell's work (I never do), but I think he was trying to tie together a definitive package of mid-20th-century England. If so, his success depends on how you define "England" in the social sense. If it's a narrow slice of upper-middle-, lower-upper-class life, he'd done his job (even if this slice is now mostly toast). But if it's the country's society as a whole, evolving, then hardly. Though Jenkins interacts through the years with almost everyone he has ever known (the foundation of the "dance" concept), his group, despite disparate backgrounds and types of progress, takes on a narrow, claustrophobic quality. Where they step off the dance floor and have the temerity to die in the cloakrooms of, say, Japan during the war, they dissipate and cease to be "those who matter." Is this deliberate on Powell's part? It bugs me that I can't say, can't pin down the author's intent. Which ties in to my biggest problem with the whole production: How are we to take Nick Jenkins? Does he stand in for Powell? Is he intended as an objective-commentary mechanism? Is he being presented as an uber-character who is peculiarly lacking in affect and empathy? Is he representative of an uncaring or at least undemonstrative social stratum? Is he all of these together? Or is he something else, a dissociated outcaste of the 20th century who is unaware that he is dissociated or an outcaste? What do we know of Jenkins by the end? He writes novels, possibly fairly successful ones. He previously edited periodicals. He had two or three early love interests that turned out poorly, then married Isobel (who is given perhaps 40 lines of dialog over 12 volumes). He has two, possibly more offstage children, one a girl (Caroline?) born during WWII, another a son (unnamed) who was interviewed by a university. Those dribbles of fact are all we know of him, personally. He is embraced by one and all as a friend or trusted acquaintance, the one to whom you choose to impart the latest news and serious developments. But we have no idea why, since he does little but ask questions and absorb responses. Despite my giving all the "movements" four, in most case five stars, I don't know who to recommend this work to. An exquisite 19th-century verbal tapestry transposed to the 20th century, it should exist largely because it does. Any author who would undertake such a labor should be rewarded with recognition and careful consideration. But it's not an easy read, not an enjoyable read I'd guess for most. It can seem an exercise in verbalism, a sort of literary isometrics. But once you've started, if you accept the scope and encompassment of it all, you will want to finish. It is, truly, monumental.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    "People think because a novel's invented, it isn't true. Exactly the reverse is the case. Because the novel's invented, it is true" (Hearing Secret Harmonies 84). The above sums up how I feel in finally finishing the 2500+ pages that are A Dance to the Music of Time, a herculean effort that conveys the psyche of the English post-WWI all the way through 1971. The lives of these characters are more true to me than the historical accounts of impersonal figureheads in nonfiction. And who's to say any "People think because a novel's invented, it isn't true. Exactly the reverse is the case. Because the novel's invented, it is true" (Hearing Secret Harmonies 84). The above sums up how I feel in finally finishing the 2500+ pages that are A Dance to the Music of Time, a herculean effort that conveys the psyche of the English post-WWI all the way through 1971. The lives of these characters are more true to me than the historical accounts of impersonal figureheads in nonfiction. And who's to say any of it's not true anyway? Or even that the nonfiction's true? A major theme throughout the novel in toto is "the repetitive contacts of certain individual souls in the earthly lives of other individual souls" (HSH 128). Some people flit in and out of our lives like film changeover cues, while others resurface like a wad of cat hair first on the bed, then on the floor, then suddenly again on your shirt as you sit in a cafe weeks later. And it's important to know the cat hair's route, too. Respect is due to this seeming randomness of life, and it should be kept in mind that "many things seeming incredible on starting out, are, in fact, by no means to be located in an area beyond belief" (Temporary Kings 224). Everything's interconnected. Everyone's dancing to that music of time. Just try not to. I also enjoyed this rather tongue-in-cheek self-commentary toward the end: "It seemed to start so well, and end badly. Perhaps that's how well constructed stories ought to terminate" (HSH 241). Recommended for those dedicated few who want to annihilate the Times list like I just did! Woo! You can do it! Took me 10 years off and on, but finally!!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    Actually, I listened to the Books Do Furnish A Room, volume 10 of the series and volume 1 of the Winter trilogy. This is my 3rd or 4th pass through the books and, as always, I garner new insights both into the work and its meaning. I remember not caring much for BDFR when it first came out. This time, I was struck deeply by its elegiac feel more than its transitional place (from the War years to the post-War "new" Britain). Although Nick is a writer, we seldom hear much about his work or literat Actually, I listened to the Books Do Furnish A Room, volume 10 of the series and volume 1 of the Winter trilogy. This is my 3rd or 4th pass through the books and, as always, I garner new insights both into the work and its meaning. I remember not caring much for BDFR when it first came out. This time, I was struck deeply by its elegiac feel more than its transitional place (from the War years to the post-War "new" Britain). Although Nick is a writer, we seldom hear much about his work or literature in general, there being far more about music and painting in the first 9 books. Here, the whole novel is actually built around writing and publishing. Of course, one gets the impression that the title, ostensibly a nickname for one of the characters, actually refers to how books furnish the life for an author like AP. The comedy and tragedy continues apace, as the past is remembered and old ties renewed or wrapped up as Nick moves into late middle age and the new world about to descend upon him. The set pieces are, as always, brilliantly illuminated with laugh out loud and almost tearful moments, while Nick's musings are well suited to and by his work on his own book about Burton and melancholy.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Robert Dodds

    I have now finished this linked series of novels - which feels more like a single long novel to me. In spite of its length, I read it in a comparatively short period of time, since it was one of those books that I always looked forward to getting back into. The ficititious narrator, Nick Jenkins, is highly reticent about himself, and about his closest connections - his wife Isobel and his children are very shadowy figures indeed. On the other hand, Jenkins is a razor-sharp observer of the doings I have now finished this linked series of novels - which feels more like a single long novel to me. In spite of its length, I read it in a comparatively short period of time, since it was one of those books that I always looked forward to getting back into. The ficititious narrator, Nick Jenkins, is highly reticent about himself, and about his closest connections - his wife Isobel and his children are very shadowy figures indeed. On the other hand, Jenkins is a razor-sharp observer of the doings of others over a period of decades, and brings to life a range of vivid characters. Kenneth Widmerpool, Pamela Widmerpool, X.Trapnel, Moreland, Gwinnet, Scorpio Murtlock... the list goes on. In fact, if there is a drawback to the experience of reading the book, it is that the sheer number of characters sometimes leaves the reader (me, in any case) a little lost. But the key characters are highly memorable, and the most salient events are unforgettable. The novel is full of fine, subtle writing, and humour is never too far from the surface. Powell is especially gifted at describing large gatherings of people, conversations, and physical appearance. All in all, a great read!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Fountain

    3 1/2 stars …literature illuminates life only for those to whom books are a necessity. ~ narrative by Nick Jenkins, the main character The title of this novel is taken from a painting by 17thCentury artist, Nicolas Poussin. The painting has numerous mythological elements: Apollos, Aurora, Time himself playing music, and four dancers who probably represent different stages in life. Poussin is not known to have revealed the exact meaning of his dancers; Powell however, leaves a bit more material from 3 1/2 stars …literature illuminates life only for those to whom books are a necessity. ~ narrative by Nick Jenkins, the main character The title of this novel is taken from a painting by 17thCentury artist, Nicolas Poussin. The painting has numerous mythological elements: Apollos, Aurora, Time himself playing music, and four dancers who probably represent different stages in life. Poussin is not known to have revealed the exact meaning of his dancers; Powell however, leaves a bit more material from which to infer what he thought. He wrote A Dance to the Music of Timein four volumes – that he called movements – each undoubtedly represents one the dancers. The main character and narrator, Nick Jenkins, considers Poussin’s dancers, concluding that they are…unable to control the melody, unable perhaps, to control the steps of the dance. As the author’s alter ego, Nick thus reveals a distinct fatalism in Powell’s world view. My full review: https://100greatestnovelsofalltimeque...

  29. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    Amazing. Obviously doesn't have Proust's passion. Probably one could reread Proust and get a lot more out of it, but rereading In Search of Lost Time is a daunting task. Powell is pretty profound too, and you've got to enjoy Powell's references to Proust, especially in the last paragraphs. The characters are all amazingly drawn, except for the narrator, his wife and his unnamed virtually absent children and that's not Proust. Powell's books remind me of Updike and the Rabbit series except that Ra Amazing. Obviously doesn't have Proust's passion. Probably one could reread Proust and get a lot more out of it, but rereading In Search of Lost Time is a daunting task. Powell is pretty profound too, and you've got to enjoy Powell's references to Proust, especially in the last paragraphs. The characters are all amazingly drawn, except for the narrator, his wife and his unnamed virtually absent children and that's not Proust. Powell's books remind me of Updike and the Rabbit series except that Rabbit, like Proust's M, has a personality. Interestingly, Powell gets 1960's culture a lot better than Updike. But Updike is about events, Powell is into the maturing and developing of all these amazing characters, and their interactions in these amazing dinner/party/salon scenes. Very, very amazing.

  30. 4 out of 5

    David

    While the 4 movements are great in terms of their vastness, this in itself has not made the work great in its content. By far, I found the 3rd movement the most engaging, giving unusual insight into British society during the Second World War and the few years surrounding it. However, no matter how long I was soaked in the society life bickering and tête-à-têtes, I was never engrossed by them. Yes, there are moments that are genuinely funny, humanely insightful, and intelligently philosophical, While the 4 movements are great in terms of their vastness, this in itself has not made the work great in its content. By far, I found the 3rd movement the most engaging, giving unusual insight into British society during the Second World War and the few years surrounding it. However, no matter how long I was soaked in the society life bickering and tête-à-têtes, I was never engrossed by them. Yes, there are moments that are genuinely funny, humanely insightful, and intelligently philosophical, but these moments are dredged in a vast pool of linking passages and unfortunate drollery. The sequence of movements does not have, for me, the immense insight of Woolf's 'To the Lighthouse' or Orwell's 'Nineteen Eighty-Four'. For this reason, I cannot bring myself to recommend this work on.

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