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Hearing Secret Harmonies by Anthony Powell
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Hearing Secret Harmonies

by Anthony Powell

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This is the twelfth and final novel in a sequence that I've been reading gradually over the last two years, and although I have loved the earlier ones and the way each successive novel builds on what's gone before, I was quite disappointed in this final installment. The grotesqueries and degradations of some of the characters' fates just seemed unnecessary and not consonant with their trajectories so far (though, when I think about it, I imagine that's how the sixties and seventies seemed to Powell's generation). ( )
  savoirfaire | Apr 6, 2013 |
Mainly concerned with the decline and fall of the awful Widmerpool and tying up the various threads in the finale of this unique and truly stupendous work. Having read the entire twelve volumes over a shortish period,I am amazed at the complexity and scope of 'A Dance to the Music of Time' and am full of admiration for the author. ( )
  devenish | Mar 27, 2013 |
With a few exceptions, I enjoyed the Dance volumes, but I always found beginning one something of a shock. The author tosses you into the action at a point far distant from where you were left in the last book. In Book 12, Nick Jenkins is by now a respected though minor author who seems to have settled gracefully into his years. [ Hearing secret harmonies] brings him into contact with several pieces of his past--young relatives, professional colleagues, old lovers. Hovering above all is the shadow of Widmerpool, Jenkins' contemporary, whose passage into age has been much less settled and whose life comes to a bizarre end as the book closes.

I've become more impressed with Powell's handling of his material over the series. The books seem to hang together awkwardly at times and frequently Powell doesn't tell you what you want to know. He uses Nick Jenkins as a camera lens and characters are swept in and out of his life in unpredictable patterns. It's not the way your ordinary novelist writes, but it is the way life happens. People come and go. Someone important to you at one stage of your life becomes a stranger later, or vice versa.

I'll miss The Dance and may, if I live long enough, read it again. ( )
1 vote Bjace | Jul 11, 2012 |
A triumphant resolution to Powell's outstanding twelve volume chronicle. Widmerpool is as odious as ever, though his immersion within a pseudo-religious cult definitely comes as a surprise. As ever we learn relatively little about Nick Jenkins, the narrator of this epic - throughout the sequence he has taken a back-seat role, always observing though never initiating the events unfolding around him.
Newly introduced in this volume is the sinister Scorpio Murtlock who has the ability to wreak havoc wherever he goes, and who is determined to become acquainted with Widmerpool for his own nefarious purposes.
All the old favourites are here: J G Quiggin, Mark Members, Matilda Donners, Norman Chandler and, briefly, Bithel, who had featured so humorously in "The Valley of Bones".
I don't think that this is the strongest novel in the sequence, though I presume that it must always be difficult to bring such a huge opus to a close. Powell certainly performs very well, tying up most of the long-running loose ends. I enjoyed re-reading this novel though, as always, I felt saddened to have completed it. ( )
  Eyejaybee | Nov 17, 2011 |
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Duck, flying in from the south, ignored four or five ponderous explosions over at the quarry.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0006142710, Paperback)

A Dance to the Music of Time – his brilliant 12-novel sequence, which chronicles the lives of over three hundred characters, is a unique evocation of life in twentieth-century England.

The novels follow Nicholas Jenkins, Kenneth Widmerpool and others, as they negotiate the intellectual, cultural and social hurdles that stand between them and the “Acceptance World.”

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:32:38 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

It is the mid 1960s and many of the characters who have taken part in this vast panorama of modern life are either old or dead. Observed as always by Nicholas Jenkins, several of those who remain have begun to 'hear secret harmonies'. Notably, Widmerpool has abandoned the everyday worlds of politics and the City for others that offer different - though by no means less potent - areas of domination. The dance to the music of time is drawing to an end for Nicholas and his contemporaries, its sombre moments heightened by light hearted interludes.… (more)

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