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A Dance to the Music of Time: First…

A Dance to the Music of Time: First Movement, Spring (1962)

by Anthony Powell

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,469217,677 (3.98)382
  1. 10
    Invitation to the Dance by Hilary Spurling (davidcla)
    davidcla: Guide to characters, literary and place references, allusions to painting, chronology of narrated events. Entertaining to dip into at random, sometimes helpful when reading chronologically but one must keep an eye out for spoilers.
  2. 00
    Any Human Heart by William Boyd (KayCliff)

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» See also 382 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
I read ‘A dance to the music of time’ about 20 years ago and having recently enjoyed a Proust or Powell series of articles in the LRB by Perry Anderson I decided to re-acquaint myself on Audible with Simon Vance reading.

I’ve had a long day in the kitchen stocking and currying turkey remains, but I hardly noticed as Simon Vance read through volume three of this first section - witty and genuinely funny, a perfect listen for kitchen antics. Roll on the next 3 volumes.

This first section ends with a mildly interesting discussion re. the Proust/Powell differences and a gauging of Powell’s position vis-à-vis Waugh, Greene and Henry Green - as the discussion is between two Americans I note their comment, that in the UK we underrate Powell - I think that may be true.

My mother, now deceased, was a bookseller and she told me a story that when Powell was getting very old he decided to sell his book collection. He contacted an antiquarian firm of booksellers and arranged for a valuation. When they arrived they were surprised to find that he’d removed and disposed of all the dust jackets; never mind, they thought, the dedications and signatures on the hundreds of gifted copies from over six decades of the most prominent writers of their time would more than compensate for the loss of the covers.

As it was nearing lunch, and Powell insisted on a snack and a snooze, he sent the excited booksellers, with whom a price had been agreed, to a nearby hostelry with instructions not to return before 3.00pm. When they did return Powell had a large fire blazing in the sitting room, books were everywhere, lying open minus their signed dedicated title pages which had been consigned to the flames. Of course our antiquarians were shocked and appalled; “but why have you done this?” they asked - replied Powell: “I don’t want all and sundry reading what my friends and colleagues have written to me over the years.” (This Review also appears on goodreads). ( )
1 vote peterbrown | Dec 31, 2018 |
A verdade é que todas aquelas salsichas e bananas espalhadas na cara (!?!) do início de A Question of Upbringing me fez lembrar do quanto gosto do chá com bolo do pequeno Marcel. Mas se eu quiser tentar gostar desse livro, vou ter que esquecer que Proust existe e tentar me concentrar e pensar na obra por si só, já que Em Busca do Tempo Perdido sofre do mesmo mal dos grandes amores, uma vez experimentado tudo que lhe é subsequente parece ínfimo, pálido e sem gosto, mas nem por isso deixaremos de experimentar outros tipos de amores, talvez não tão intensos ou definitivos, mas ainda dignos de um pousar.
Ainda, assim, vai ser meio difícil não lembrar de Proust toda vez que pegar o livro na mão, já que a esperteza editorial colocou Paul Rhys na capa desta edição, o mesmo Rhys que vivera o amante de Marcel naquele filme com Alan Bates. Meio impossível, não? Menos mal que o estilo é distinto das longas idas e vindas que fazem de Proust o que ele é, característica maior pela qual o aprecio e que torna abismal uma comparação com Powell.

Quero reler Em Busca do Tempo Perdido.............................. Já faz quase dez anos desde que o li pela primeira vez e literalmente salvou minha vida. Mas o livro do Powell me faz lembrar de forma massiva ao Contraponto do Huxley e não propriamente do Proust, Powell basicamente fez uma versão super-estendida em tempo e espaço do livro do Huxley. ( )
  Adriana_Scarpin | Jun 12, 2018 |
Imagine if you will.......you.....settled into a cozy chair, inside the mind of the protagonist of a novel, with nothing better to do than be a silent observer of his every thought and feeling. Weird? Boring? Fascinating? All of these feelings were part of my experience reading this first volume of "A Dance To The Music of Time:First Movement". I am thoroughly impressed with Powell's ability to communicate the impressions, feelings and thoughts of a character to the degree he has done so in this novel. Set in the early 1900s in London, the story moves through the development of a prep school coy as he matures and moves out into London society, dipping his toes in several different social groups. As the volume ends, he may or may not have found love, and the reader is left heaving a sigh of relief at finishing this somewhat strenuous read, and also looking forward to the second volume. Reading this novel is not for the reader who requires action. It is more for the lover of the psychological. It would be a five star read if not for the occasional long tedious stretches. ( )
  hemlokgang | Dec 28, 2016 |
A Question of Upbringing 4 stars

Sillery showed interest in this remark, in spite of his evident dissatisfaction at the manner in which Miss Weedon treated him. He seemed unable to decide upon her precise status in the household: which was, indeed, one not easy to assess. It was equally hard to guess what she knew, or thought, of Sillery; whether she appreciated the extent of his experience in such situations as that which had arisen in regard to Stringham. Sitting opposite him, she seemed to have become firmer and more masculine; while Sillery himself, more than ever, took the shape of a wizard or shaman, equipped to resist either man or woman from a bisexual vantage.

I am starting a year-long re-read of A Dance to the Music of Time, having originally read them in the late 1990s, shortly after the BBC series aired. A Question of Upbringing is one of the books I remember best, as it covers the narrator's time at public school (unnamed, but obviously Eton) and University. Later in the series the books merged together in my memory, and I couldn't tell you which events happens in each book.

The first time I read this book, I don't think I noticed the resemblance to Brideshead Revisited, probably because events are spread out over more than one book. but Stringham's story is story is very similar to Sebastian Flyte's, and characters talk about his mother's estate much in the same ways as people talked about Brideshead. There is a similar car crash while the characters are at university. and although Jean is Templer's sister and not Stringham's, Nicholas's relationship with her over the years reminds me of Charles Ryder's with Julia Flyte.

It's a good start to the series, telling an interesting story while it introduces many of the characters who will drift in and out of the narrator's life over the years. I just wish Nicholas Jenkins wasn't such a colourless presence in the books. The way he tells us about the lives of his friends and acquaintances but leaves us guessing about important events in his own life becomes ever more irritating over the course of the series.

A Buyer's Market 4 stars

However, Gypsy Jones' comment, when thought of later, brought home the impossibility of explaining Widmerpool's personality at all briefly, even to an sympathetic audience. His case was not, of course, unique. He was merely one single instance, among many. of the fact that certain acquaintances remain firmly fixed within this or that person's particular orbit; a law which seems to lead inexorably to the conclusion that the often repeated saying that people can 'choose their friends' is true only in a most strictly limited degree.

This book is set around 1928, by which time Nicholas Jenkins is aged about 24 and has a job in publishing. It revolves around a series of social events, starting with the day he attends a dinner party at the Walpole-Wilsons, whose niece Barbara he has been in love with for the past year, and goes on to a ball. While walking homewards with Widmerpool, he meets an old friend of his parents, the artist Mr. Deacon and his young friend Gypsy Jones, and they then come across Stringham, and they all end up at a party held by Mrs Andriadis, the former mistress of a Balkan royal and current lover of Stringham.

During the course of the book, Nicholas keeps meeting the same people at house parties, birthday parties and funerals as the dance of life continues. I have never liked Nicholas, as he is too passive and for all his interest in the interactions of his circle of friends and acquaintances and what drives them, he is a bystander rather than a participant in their lives. I know he doesn't care for Widmerpool, but he has known him for a long time and it is really bad that he doesn't tell him that Gypsy was already 'in trouble' before Widmerpool met her, and just lets him go ahead with paying for her abortion.

The Acceptance World 4 stars

Umfraville returned to the room. He watched the completion of the game in silence. It was won by Barnby. Then he spoke. 'I have a proposition to make,' he said. 'I got on to Milly Andriadis just now on the telephone and told her we were all coming round to see her.'My first thought was that I must not make a habit of arriving with a gang of friends at Mrs. Andriadis's house as an uninvited guest; even at intervals of three or four years. A moment later I saw the absurdity of such diffidence, because, apart from any other consideration, she would not have the faintest remembrance of ever having met me before.

The story starts in 1931, so the depression has begun, but Nick isn't really affected, although there are casual mentions of people he knows having lost money due to 'the slump'. The dance metaphonr is not only relevant to the way people come in and out of each other's life over the years, but also to the way the story flits from social event to social event, with hardly a mention of Nick's work or home life. The one time he does go to a business meeting (at the Ritz of all places) he ditches the meeting in favour of going to dinner with his old school friend Templer. Nothing ever seems to happen to Nick, and we usually find out about events in the other characters' lives at second hand, when Nick catches up with the gossip at yet another social gathering.

The way Nick portrays things, his circle flit about in their upper middle class world with hardly any interaction with the lower classes, so it comes as a surprise with Dick Umfraville chats to Mrs Andriadis's maid Ethel as if she is a real person. I have also noticed that Nick's descriptions of the people around him can be quite extreme and unrealistic, describing Mona as being 'like some savage creature, anxious to keep up appearances before members of a more highly civilised society' which doesn't really sync with anything she actually does, but provides a big contrast to Nick's own colourless personality. ( )
2 vote isabelx | Dec 29, 2015 |
I burnt my fingers. Typing is hard. So is thinking. These deserve a bit better than what they're going to get, but at least Adam Roberts has already made the joke about multi-volume fantasy novels versus mutli-volume literary novels so I don't have to. I noted that the narrator is the one character who seems to actively take an interest in others, particularly their inner lives, and an empathy even with the unsympathetic seems to be the key, if nothing else, at least to being a writer.

And now: ouchie. ( )
  Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
I first began to read Dance when it was incomplete and there was something to look forward to. The pleasure then afforded was rather greater than that which is offered by a long look back.
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The men at work at the corner of the street had made a kind of a camp for themselves, where, marked out by tripods hung with red hurricane-lamps, an abyss in the road led down to a network of subterranean drainpipes.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Omnibus volume of:

1 -- A Question of Upbringing;
2 -- A Buyer’s Market; and
3 -- The Acceptance World.

NOTE: The Simon Vance audiobook, combined here, is unabridged.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0226677141, Paperback)

Anthony Powell's universally acclaimed epic encompasses a four-volume panorama of twentieth century London. Hailed by Time as "brilliant literary comedy as well as a brilliant sketch of the times," A Dance to the Music of Time opens just after World War I. Amid the fever of the 1920s and the first chill of the 1930s, Nick Jenkins and his friends confront sex, society, business, and art. In the second volume they move to London in a whirl of marriage and adulteries, fashions and frivolities, personal triumphs and failures. These books "provide an unsurpassed picture, at once gay and melancholy, of social and artistic life in Britain between the wars" (Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.). The third volume follows Nick into army life and evokes London during the blitz. In the climactic final volume, England has won the war and must now count the losses.

Four very different young men on the threshold of manhood dominate this opening volume of A Dance to the Music of Time. The narrator, Jenkins—a budding writer—shares a room with Templer, already a passionate womanizer, and Stringham, aristocratic and reckless. Widermerpool, as hopelessly awkward as he is intensely ambitious, lurks on the periphery of their world. Amid the fever of the 1920s and the first chill of the 1930s, these four gain their initiations into sex, society, business, and art. Considered a masterpiece of modern fiction, Powell's epic creates a rich panorama of life in England between the wars.

Includes these novels:
A Question of Upbringing
A Buyer's Market
The Acceptance World

"Anthony Powell is the best living English novelist by far. His admirers are addicts, let us face it, held in thrall by a magician."—Chicago Tribune

"A book which creates a world and explores it in depth, which ponders changing relationships and values, which creates brilliantly living and diverse characters and then watches them grow and change in their milieu. . . . Powell's world is as large and as complex as Proust's."—Elizabeth Janeway, New York Times

"One of the most important works of fiction since the Second World War. . . . The novel looked, as it began, something like a comedy of manners; then, for a while, like a tragedy of manners; now like a vastly entertaining, deeply melancholy, yet somehow courageous statement about human experience."—Naomi Bliven, New Yorker

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:05 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Movement 2. The rumble of distant events in Germany and Spain presages the storm of WWII. In England, even as the whirl of marriages and adulteries, fashions and frivolities, personal triumphs and failures gathers speed, men and women find themselves on the brink of fateful choices. Movement 3. Again we meet Widmerpool, doggedly rising in rank; Jenkins, shifted from one dismal army post to another; Stringham, heroically emerging from alcoholism; Templer, still on his eternal sexual quest. Meet Pamela Flitton, one of the most beautiful and dangerous women in modern fiction. Movement 4. England has won the war, but now the losses, physical and moral, must be counted. Pamela Widmerpool sets a snare for Trapnel, while her husband suffers private agony and public humiliation. It is a world of ambition, intrigue and dissolution set against a background of politics, business, high society and the counterculture in England and Europe.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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