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

by Anthony Powell

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: A Dance to the Music of Time (01-03)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,830318,835 (3.96)429
A QUESTION OF UPBRINGING A BUYER'S MARKET THE ACCEPTANCE WORLD Anthony Powell's brilliant twelve-novel sequence chronicles the lives of over three hundred characters, and is a unique evocation of life in twentieth-century England. It is unrivalled for its scope, its humour and the enormous pleasure it has given to generations. These first three novels in the sequence follow Nicholas Jenkins, Kenneth Widmerpool and others, as they negotiate the intellectual, cultural and social hurdles which stand between them and the 'Acceptance World'.… (more)
  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 429 mentions

English (29)  Spanish (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (31)
Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
"This is perhaps an image of how we live."

The first three novels in this 12-volume series: A Question of Upbringing, A Buyer's Market and The Acceptance World, tracing the lives of the young male protagonists from their final year in school in the early 1920s to their years after university, discovering love, career, hope, loss, jealousy, society, and art.

Consistently enjoyable in its recreation of a world that for Powell was already his long-lost youth, and for my generation seems impossibly distant.

These first three volumes are the least exciting in the series, for my money, although the moments of high comedy often shine. But they gain much from the resonances they will leave for the remainder of the series. Perhaps now that I'm so abysmally old (gosh, nearing my mid-30s), I understand all the more how crucial, how seminal, how heartbreakingly eternal are the loves and joys of our youth. ( )
  therebelprince | Oct 24, 2023 |
I am trying to read the whole series over the course of a year by reading one volume each months. This book collects the first 3 volumes. There is a fairly vast number of characters already, but the rather deadpan and detached narrator keeps it all manageable. Each book really seems to constitute around 3 or 4 long chapters, each one describing at length some sort of social event in the narrators life. I'm really enjoying these glimpses into British life in the 1920s and 1930s amongst quite a mix of upper class and more bohemian society. The comparison to Proust is clear and maybe a more English take on that is just what I needed. These are also much quicker to read due to being composed of sentences of a normal length. ( )
  AlisonSakai | Oct 10, 2021 |
A perceptive writer and an easy read, although the book requires some thought here and there, in order for the reader to fully appreciate the author's insights into character.
Add another star if you are an Anglophile, or are interested in England between the wars, or are old enough to reminisce about those years.

Remove a star if you are young and don't care about those years in England. ( )
  KENNERLYDAN | Jul 11, 2021 |
Who knew that youth was so couth? ( )
  farrhon | Jan 25, 2021 |
The next book on my 1951 reading list was [A question of Upbringing]; this is the first part of Anthony Powell's 12 volume series A Dance to the Music of Time. It was much better value to buy the first three volumes in one book rather than just the first volume and as they were there in front of me I read all three volumes: I am just grateful that I did not buy all 12. Powells immense saga follows the lives of a number of individuals who meet as students at their Public School in the early 1920's. We follow the story in the first person through the eyes and many thoughts of Nick Jenkins, who like most of his school friends comes from a well-to-do family and these three books take us up to 1933. Anthony Powell was educated at Eton and Balliol college Oxford and his series of novels has the feel of an autobiography, certainly the milieu of Public school and debutante balls and then sliding into well paid positions of employment either in the city or through contacts made at University has a ring of authenticity. The social milieu could be described as upper middle class with plenty of Lords and Ladies hovering around the upper echelons.

Readers seem to have a love-hate relationship with this series of books and I can understand just why that is. Powell writes, as one might not be too surprised from his background, with a plum in his mouth and sometimes that plum becomes so large that the reader losses much of what is said. His long sentences with their many sub-clauses can become indistinct at best and completely obfuscate any meaning at worst. I lost count of the number of times I got to the end of one of these epics with only a vague impression of what I had just read. This style of writing is particularly evident in the second volume, and although it does occurs in volume three; The Acceptance World this book is a little more focused. One might give credit to Powell for imitating the confused thoughts of a 20 year old just making his way in the world, but I think this would be generous. Much Of volume 2 is focused on two events a debutants ball and a rather more bohemian party that some stragglers get to afterwards. Our protagonist Nick while spending much time describing the details of the guests dress and manners, their opulent surroundings and some of the events he witnesses, seems at a loss to understand their behaviour and even incidents in which he becomes involved remain a bit of a mystery.

Powell looks at everything through his protagonist Nick from an establishment point of view. This is a novel that reinforces the rigid class system that existed for wealthy people in the 1920's-30's and one could argue that Powell has his finger on the pulse of this era, however I sense an admiration of the social milieu in which he places his characters, it is though he is saying how wonderful it all was. One of the characters Widmerpool (we hardly ever learn their Christian names) who is less wealthy than most and realises he must work twice as hard as his contemporaries to get on says "brains and hard work are of very little avail unless you know the right people". This proves to be over optimistic because it is not the connections you might be able to forge, but the connections that your father or grandfather were able to make. It was all down to the position of your family in society. Widmerpool like other characters who were not from the right families are figures of fun in Powells hands, all the jokes are on them because they do not know how to behave correctly. It is all very well to have an accurate description of the young wealthy class in the period in which they lived, but not perhaps at the expense of all else. Reading the novels made me feel that they were outdated, but then thinking about the public school boys that currently run the British government in 2021; perhaps nothing much has changed.

Powells characterisations of his female characters are depressingly familiar; judged on their attractiveness to the male gaze and their propensity to conform to their partners wishes. Independently minded women are seen as either a threat or something to be managed and forever remain a mystery to their male counterparts. Nick himself who is very much a cypher in that he is a witness to events that happen around him, rather than instigating any of them, becomes in the third volume active in pursuing a love affair, but he is like a blind man stumbling towards an urge that needs satisfying.

There is much in these novels that were not to my taste, but they can have a dream like quality enhanced by Powells writing style. Characters did not elicit my care or sympathy for their predicaments, but I did enjoy the slow pace of the events and the insight of a world that I know existed and perhaps still exists. I will not be tempted to read any more of the books in this series; three were enough and I rate them as follows:
A Question of Upbringing - 3 stars
A Buyers Market - 2.5 stars
The Acceptance World - 4 stars. ( )
5 vote baswood | Jan 20, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 29 (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.

» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Powell, Anthonyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Calzada, JavierTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Larios, JordiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maspons, OriolPhotographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mir, EnricDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Trevor, WilliamIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vance, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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.
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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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A QUESTION OF UPBRINGING A BUYER'S MARKET THE ACCEPTANCE WORLD Anthony Powell's brilliant twelve-novel sequence chronicles the lives of over three hundred characters, and is a unique evocation of life in twentieth-century England. It is unrivalled for its scope, its humour and the enormous pleasure it has given to generations. These first three novels in the sequence follow Nicholas Jenkins, Kenneth Widmerpool and others, as they negotiate the intellectual, cultural and social hurdles which stand between them and the 'Acceptance World'.

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Average: (3.96)
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