The final chapter of this novel sees Jenkins in his first year at University, attending Sunday afternoon tea parties hosted by the wily Sillery, an influential don whose primary aim is to uncover and exploit any connections that might be of use to him. Stringham is also studying at the same University, although his arrival is delayed by an accident which puts him out of circulation for several months.
Unlike Jenkins, Stringham is unhappy at the college, and it is not long before he convinces his mother and stepfather to allow him to depart. As the novel draws to a close, Jenkins parts company with Stringham, and there is a sense that a particular chapter in his life is coming to an end. I knew now that this parting was one of those final things that happen, recurrently, as time passes: until at last they may be recognised fairly easily as the close of a period.
This was the last I should see of Stringham for a long time. The path had suddenly forked.
With regret, I accepted the inevitability of circumstance. Human relationships flourish and decay, quickly and silently, so that those concerned scarcely know how brittle, or how inflexible, the ties that bind them have become. How relationships develop and then dissipate over time; how complex and powerful the business of love can be; how our personalities are often formed in the years of our youth, thereby setting the pattern for much of our lives. These are just some of the points that strike me on reading this book, but there are many more. These are the things that appear to matter most.
No doubt several new characters will be introduced as the Dance takes shape. I was amazed how Powell kept introducing new, fascinating characters. I really liked Uncle Giles as well. I am beginning to get that sense of characters appearing briefly, then cropping up again a number of years down the line. Quiggin and Manners, for instance. Great review, Jacqui! I had read A Question of Upbringing some years ago, but then for some reason never went on to read the rest of the books in the twelve part cycle.
As a result, I had no recollection of the book other than some vague impressions, until I read your review. I now find myself in a position where I want to continue with the series, but do not want to re-read the first book. However, now that I have some idea, maybe I will delve straight into Book 2 and see how it goes. Thanks, Radhika. Firstly, the good news is that Powell lands the ending. Anyway, lovely review as ever Jacqui. When I read these I committed to reading them as every other book I read — i. I read whatever I fancied, then a Dance, then whatever else struck me, then a Dance.
I have so many memories of these books and the characters in them. Yes, wonderful. I may well do something similar, although probably one every third or fourth book rather than one in two. It feels important to leave a bit of space between the volumes, just to clear the mind a little — but not too much in case the characters and their circumstances begin to fade. Was that something you recall noticing too? Great review as always Jacqui. The book sounds like a great start to what seems like an ambitious series of novels. I also took a look at the Wikipedia entry entry on the series.
All the books look to be worth reading. Thanks, Brian. It does feel like an ambitious series, a sense of range or scope alongside the minutia of character. Maybe I deliberately did this with a view to reading them first; dramatisations can often spoil a subsequent first reading, I find. I remember Simon R Beale as Widmerpool as a standout performance. Just looked it up online: it was way back in ! Yes, definitely. Simon Russell Beale, though…that is a major selling point for the series. The literary critic Quiggin is trying to hold on the trophy wife he stole from another old schoolmate. Mona the wife dreams of becoming an actress on the silver screen, while casting apraising eyes at the peer living next door.
Templer, her ex-husband, is patching his pride by taking starlets out to night clubs, but his aphorisms are sounding more than a little bitter Women may show some discrimination about whom they sleep with, but they'll marry anybody. A wealthy lord is living in the poor houses because he wants to study the social conditions of the proletariat.
A retired army general is taking an interest in Virginia Woolf and Carl Jung. The elderly butler is about to be arrested by the police for obscure reasons and is very shifty when asked to put the liquor on the table. Widmerpool continues to refuse to conform to the image Nick has constructed of him, and proves that the will is not always enough for success, especially in matters of the heart I have used the quote above as a sort of key to understanding why Widmerpool, and others like him, are constantly coming back into the Dance, the basic duality between the people of will business tycoons, politicians, critics and contemplative people who search for the meaning of life Nick and his Boema of painters, writers, musicians, social butterflies.
For Nick Jenkins, I believe maturity means accepting the fact that the dividing line between the two categories is constantly shifting and it needs to be updated as new information is available or as old events are examined in a new light: The fact that Widmerpool seemed a grotesque figure to some who knew him provided no reason why he should not inspire love in others. I record these speculations not for their generosity of feeling, but to emphasise the difficulty in understanding, even remotely, why people behave as they do.
Nick, as a man who keeps an open mind, is a student of human nature and is ready to admit he was wrong in his previous judgements of people, appears to me as the perfect guide for the rest of the Dance, a guarantee that we will continue to be enchanted and intrigued by what the future has in store for us: So often one thinks that individuals and situations cannot be so extraordinary as they seem from outside: only to find that the truth is a thousand times odder.
My favorite illustration of the above mentioned Law is in the portrait of Jeavons, the veteran of the Somme who married a lady of the high society, and who seems out of sorts, an anachronism, among the sparkling guests of his wife: Like one of those mammoths - or, in Jeavons case, somewhat less gigantic form of primeval life - caught in a glacier and physically preserved into an age when his very kind was known only from fossilised bones, or drawings on the walls of subterranean caves, he somehow managed to look just as he must have looked in hardly a day older.
Perhaps a better simile to indicate the effect of remoteness he gave, standing there with a vacant expression and both hands in his pockets, would be that of some rare insect enclosed in amber. Before the end of the novel though, Jeavons is revealed as a dark horse, a man of secret passions and hidden depths.
Also as a heavy drinker and occasional lecherous habits. He is, like the world he lives in, shaped by the momentous events of a world war: 'People don't think the same way any longer,' he bawled across the table.
Everything's changed about all that. Always feel rather sorry for your generation as a matter of fact, not but what we haven't all lost our - what do you call 'em - you know - somebody used the word in our house the other night - saying much what I'm saying now?
Struck me very forcibly. You know - when you're soft enough to think things are going to be a damned sight better than they turn out to be. What's the word? That's the one. We've lost all our bloody illusions. I rate this as high praise for Anthony Powell, given the delight in the use of language and in the raucous goings on that have put Wodehouse among my favorite writers.
Wasn't your father the chap who rode his horse upstairs after dinner? Samuel Pepys also gets a nodding reference in relations to a country manor that we will probably visit in a later novel. Romance is in the air, as Nick Jenkins, while still reticent in sharing with us details of his private love life, is for once determined to take the plunge: Would it be too explicit, too exaggerated, to say that when I set eyes on Isobel Tolland, I knew at once that I should marry her?
Something like that is the truth; certainly nearer the truth than merely to record those vague, inchoate sentiments of interest of which I was so immediately conscious. I wish Nick all the happiness in the world until the next time we meet him at the Dance, and I am grateful to him for pointing out that Lady Molly's house, after all, is not that different from my house or your house, from my family or my circle of friends, if only one cares to look under the surface: Little about the house could be thought quiet, or conventional, when closely examined.
Perhaps, after all, when closely examined, no sort of individual life can truly be so labelled. Aug 11, Eleanor rated it really liked it Shelves: books , literary-fiction.
I have been spending too much time on photography and not enough on reading, so have taken a long time to read this. No reflection on the book at all - it's delicious. Wonderfully funny passages, as for example those involving the butler Smith. When asked whether there was any champagne: "Smith's face puckered, as if manfully attempting to force his mind to grapple with a mathematical or philosophical problem of extraordinary complexity. His bearing suggested that he had certainly before heard th I have been spending too much time on photography and not enough on reading, so have taken a long time to read this.
His bearing suggested that he had certainly before heard the word 'champagne' used, if only in some distant, outlandish context; that devotion to his master alone gave him some apprehension of what this question - these ravings, almost - might mean.
Nothing good could come of it. This was a disastrous way to talk. That was his unspoken message so far as champagne was concerned. After a long pause, he at last shook his head. Jun 20, Katie Lumsden rated it it was amazing Shelves: 5-stars. A great read. This is one of my favourites in the series. Jul 05, Paola rated it really liked it Shelves: musings-on-life , sociology-social-anthropology , english-class-system , history. It took me a while to get going, but with the fourth novel I am really starting to enjoy the series.
There is quite a bit of action as far as relationships go - but we are at that age in which marriages and relationships both flourish and wither. As usual, the plot does not really matter, it simply has to carry around these well constructed characters that give insight in the intellectual, economic and political elites in the interwar period. But it is still hit and miss, bright young things still looking for their footing, now however appreciating that their actions may have long lasting consequences.
Anthony Powell: Dancing to the Music of Time review
Really loved this book! I am already into next book and I just can't stop reading Powell to write my reviews. I am to involved with his soap opera type style to quit and write a review before going on! This is such a great selection. I will have to read Proust next to compare the difference because Powell has me hooked! Nov 17, Steven rated it liked it Shelves: british.
And more parties and more people meeting up and more gossip This fourth book in the series takes place two years after the third. The narrator, Nick Jenkins, who has in the meantime written a couple of novels, is now working as a screen writer in the film industry, not a job that he particularly enjoys but a job nonetheless. The appearance of General Conyers and his family introduces a whole additional set of characters that we have not previously met, but many old faces remain. Widmerpool, for example, as one of the most persistent characters in the ser This fourth book in the series takes place two years after the third.
Widmerpool, for example, as one of the most persistent characters in the series of novels, has continued his inexorable rise to power and is about to marry. Widmerpool was a recurring milestone on the way. How many of these quotations reflect the views of Powell or to what extent are they uniquely the ideas of Nick Jenkins? Is the attempt to make such a distinction valid? Does it even matter? Wayne C. Booth, in his book The Rhetoric of Fiction discusses such issues of real-life and implied authorship, and I raise them here only to be provocative.
The way in which Powell orchestrates the characters and relationships and this is really what all of his novels are all about from book to book within the series is fascinating. Each volume introduces a new cast of characters and focuses more or less on them while simultaneously weaving characters from previous novels into the mix almost continuously. A first person narrative, it is written in precise yet conversational prose.
Winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize , At Lady Molly's is set in England of the mids and is essentially a comedy of manners, but in the background the rise of Hitler and of worldwide Fascism are not ignored. The comedy is character driven and ranges from the situational to the epigrammatic. Many of the scenes are studies in embarrassment with those involving the supremely self-important Widmerpool inducing acute embarrassment in the reader.
The driving theme of At Lady Molly's is married life; marriages — as practised or mooted — among the narrator's Nick Jenkins acquaintances in bohemian society and the landed classes are pondered. Meanwhile the career moves of various characters are advanced, checked or put on hold. Page There is no greater sign of innate misery than a love of teasing. Page The Lewis gun may be sounding at the barricades earlier than some of your Laodicean friends think. Page Woman may show some discrimination about whom they sleep with, but they will marry anybody.
Page All men are brothers, but, thank God, they aren't all brothers-in-law. Brilliant and funny again. Apr 24, Brooklyn rated it it was amazing. Delightful - hilarious - insightful. A joy. Shelves: amazon. At the end of the first season of Powell's "monumental" novel, A Dance to the Music of Time , I stated that each book was getting better. I believe the main reason is that Jenkins reverts back to his observer role, whereas he had finally become much more of an active character in the last book.
At Lady Molly's: Book 4 of A Dance to the Music of Time
Herein, everything revolves around Widmerpool's strange engagement to a woman much older than him and much mo At the end of the first season of Powell's "monumental" novel, A Dance to the Music of Time , I stated that each book was getting better. Herein, everything revolves around Widmerpool's strange engagement to a woman much older than him and much more eccentric, if more of a "class" with their compatriots than Widmerpool. I am starting to fear that Widmerpool may be the single most important character in the novel, boding ill for my enjoyment.
The problem is that Powell's humor centering around Widmerpool is akin to the humor of Seinfeld. Like the characters of that show, Widmerpool is often sailing amongst the people around him, steadfast in his selfishness, and then has a bowl of sugar unexpectedly dumped on his head. While you do not feel sorry for him--he is, after all, quite an ass in his egotistical way--the manner by which he gets his comeuppance does not put the other characters in all that favorable a light either.
Truth to be told, I was much more interested in Jenkins, newly ensconced in the world of British cinema screenplay writing, and engaged by the end of the book. Unlike his romance with Jean Duport, his wooing of Isobel Tolland occurs entirely offstage, and one wonders at whether it was a thing born of love or of that endlessly ticking biological clock.
Stringham and Templar, so important at the beginning of Powell's narrative, are little more than quick asides here. Now that I'm a third of the way through the Dance, I'm committed to finishing its steps. I only hope that this current turn was simply a miscue on the part of my partner, Mr. Powell, and not a headlong fall into the bandstand. May 11, Nik Morton rated it really liked it. Early s. As before, the narrator, Nick Jenkins seems cold and detached. For every foot of American film shown in this country, a proportionate length of British film must appear.
The Quota, in fact. When the Dogdene frame was removed, like the loosening of a corset of steel, the unconventional, the eccentric, even the sluttish side of her nature became suddenly revealed to the world. The house is always full of people she is doing good turns to. Children stay here while their parents are fixing up a divorce.. Penniless young men get asked to meals. Like a huge fish swimming into a hitherto unexplored and unexpectedly exciting aquarium, he sailed resolutely forward.
I am glad to say the Labour Party is against it to a man — and the more enlightened Tories, too. Not a lot changes, really Again, Nick meets Quiggin and the Tolland family, notably Erridge.
At Lady Molly's (Dance to the Music of Time) - AbeBooks - Anthony Powell:
One became all at once aware of the delicious, sparkling proximity of young feminine beings. The room was transformed. The books are observational, dealing with manners, pomposity, venality, and the narrator is virtually invisible. An alcoholic who imbibed from the cellar, he was shaken when asked if there were any champagne in the cellar. One bottle would do. Even a half-bottle. Suppose yourself to be netted in some elaborate dream, where the examination topic for tomorrow involves the invention of a fictional conversation. The characters must be Englishmen, located at some midpoint in the recent age of ideology, who are part upper-crust and part bohemian, yet who are earnestly discussing the supernatural:.
I did not realise that he was committed to all this sorcery. Extremes of policy have such a tendency to merge. Will they cease to be born, or find jobs in other professions? I suppose there will always be a position for a man with first-class magical qualifications. And Mr.