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Hearing Secret Harmonies (1975)

by Anthony Powell

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: A Dance to the Music of Time (12)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3271157,528 (3.87)1 / 37
'He is, as Proust was before him, the great literary chronicler of his culture in his time.' GUARDIAN A Dance to the Music of Time is universally acknowledged as one of the great works of English literature. Reissued now in this definitive edition, it stands ready to delight and entrance a new generation of readers. In this sixth volume, with Britain on the brink of war yet again, Nick Jenkins reflects back on his childhood growing up in the shadow of World War I. Wanting to follow in his father's footsteps, Nick sets his sights on becoming an officer in the Army, and asks his old school friend Widmerpool, who is gaining prominence in the business world, if he will help him. But reserves lists are quickly filling up with names, and it's not long until the threat of war is the one thing on everyone's mind.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
A dazzling series and a close to perfect ending. ( )
  arewenotben | Jul 31, 2020 |
This novel brings Anthony Powell's majestic twelve volume sequence, 'A Dance to the Music of Time' to a triumphant close. The sequence is clearly largely autobiographical, with narrator Nick Jenkins's life closely mirroring much of Powell's own, although, once again, despite the first-person narration, we learn precious little about the writer. His observations of his friends and acquaintances remain as acute and diverting as ever, although Jenkins himself remains an enigma.

We are now in the 1960s, and Jenkins is living in semi-retirement in Somerset, largely disengaged from his former literary endeavours. Kenneth (now Lord) Widmerpool is as odious as ever, although his immersion within a pseudo-religious cult definitely comes as a surprise. His character has come a long way from the opening volume, A Question of Upbringing, in which he seemed a peripheral character, notably principally for his apparent oddness, and inability to conform, despite his own wish not to stand out. Since then he has been, in turns, a solicitor, a competent business fixer, a successful military administrator, a politician, and, latterly, a self-imposed authority, expressing his forthright views through the editorial columns of newspapers of the newly-minted medium of television.

By the time this novel opens, Widmerpool has just returned from a stint in America where he had garnered some prominence as an advocate of the counterculture, and has re-established himself in the public view as ‘Ken’ Widmerpool. Appointed as the Chancellor of one of the newly-chartered universities, he makes regular public appearances espousing his radical views on educational reform.

Meanwhile, a new character emerges at the start of the book. Scorpio ‘Scorp’ Murtlock is a sinister figure with an unbridled capacity to wreak havoc wherever he goes. He has established himself as the leader of a faux religious community, with whom he travels around in a horse-drawn gypsy carriage. As an early advocate of New Age mysticism, they travel around ancient Druidic sites, and participate in arcane rituals. Murtlock is, however, ambitious for power and influence, and is also determined to become acquainted with Widmerpool for his own nefarious purposes.

As with all of its predecessors, there is relatively little action in the novel. Powell treats us to his customary set pieces, including a marvellous depiction of a literary prize dinner, in which a disordered Widmperool inadvertently steals the show. A lot of the surviving old favourites are here: J G Quiggin, Mark Members, Matilda Donners, Norman Chandler and even, fleetingly, Bithel, who had featured so humorously in "The Valley of Bones".

I think it would be fair to say that this is not the strongest novel in the sequence, although that still leaves considerable scope for it to be a fine novel. It must, anyway, be difficult to bring such a magnum opus to a satisfying conclusion. Powell maintains his mastery of the plot, effortlessly tying up a huge selection of long-running loose ends. I enjoyed re-reading this novel, and indeed the whole sequence, for the umpteenth time, though, as always, I felt saddened to have completed it. ( )
  Eyejaybee | Mar 21, 2020 |
Completed the 12 part book. ( )
  EadieB | Jan 19, 2016 |
Book 12 of the music of time

The final book in the series and I found it a let down in terms of story
( )
  BookWormM | Jan 15, 2016 |
This the final book of the 12 part Dance to the Music of Time finds Jenkins and his cohorts all older and watching the next generation getting married except Widmerpool who seems to have gone around the bend. It is set in the late 60s. According to the reviewer, Jenkins had a fascination with the hippies. These hippies were definitely strange. More like Manson followers. ( )
  Kristelh | Oct 17, 2015 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Anthony Powellprimary authorall editionscalculated
Broom-Lynne, JamesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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for Robert Conquest
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Duck, flying in from the south, ignored four or five ponderous explosions over at the quarry.
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[I was reading] Harington's translation of "Orlando Furioso" - bedside romance of every tolerably well-educated girl of Byron's day - ... Harington's version (lively, but inaccurate) was then hard to come by; another (less racy, more exact), just as suitable for the purpose. Although by no means all equally readable, certain passages of the poem left a strong impression.
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'He is, as Proust was before him, the great literary chronicler of his culture in his time.' GUARDIAN A Dance to the Music of Time is universally acknowledged as one of the great works of English literature. Reissued now in this definitive edition, it stands ready to delight and entrance a new generation of readers. In this sixth volume, with Britain on the brink of war yet again, Nick Jenkins reflects back on his childhood growing up in the shadow of World War I. Wanting to follow in his father's footsteps, Nick sets his sights on becoming an officer in the Army, and asks his old school friend Widmerpool, who is gaining prominence in the business world, if he will help him. But reserves lists are quickly filling up with names, and it's not long until the threat of war is the one thing on everyone's mind.

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