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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Text not TV
'Dance' will never be for everyone. Waugh's knockabout side is not to be found here, and the analogies are actually pretty unhelpful. Powell handles much better than Waugh, because he never forces the issue, the grotesque side of human behaviour, something he said was an essential aspect of accurate writing. Captain Grimes, and, to a lesser extent, Ritchie-Hook are...
Published on 24 Sept. 2010 by Sean Corley

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3.0 out of 5 stars A period piece - not in good way - don't bother unless you like books about public schoolboys with risible attitudes to women
I really do not get why this is a modern classic. I waded through this first volume. Powell has a rather dense writing style which doesn't make this an easy read and I am not easily daunted. The story (?) if you can call it that is narrated by Jenkins - although it is a first person narrative it is not in any sense about Jenkins who is totally colourless. The only...
Published 2 months ago by Katelon


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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Text not TV, 24 Sept. 2010
This review is from: A Dance to the Music of Time: vol.1: Spring (Paperback)
'Dance' will never be for everyone. Waugh's knockabout side is not to be found here, and the analogies are actually pretty unhelpful. Powell handles much better than Waugh, because he never forces the issue, the grotesque side of human behaviour, something he said was an essential aspect of accurate writing. Captain Grimes, and, to a lesser extent, Ritchie-Hook are memorable comic creations, but I never expect to meet them. But I, like everyone else, know one or more Widmerpools. The aspect of Dance that people seldom seem to stress in reviews is its quality as writing. It is, before anything else, a text, and it is in the extraordinary beauty of the text that its distinction lies. I have never seen the TV adaptation, which Powell is said to have liked, but it must be, of course, something quite different. The reason so many people keep reading Dance is surely because of that beauty. From the brazier of the opening to the wintry silence of the close, it is as much the perfection and vitality of the wording as the range of events and people described that makes it live. And of course, any great book allows for no separation of those aspects - what is depicted and how it is depicted. It is a book for adults and it is a book for those who enjoy language as something more than a utilitarian means of conveying information. And it meets the old criterion for excellence in the arts, that it gets better every time. And it has the disturbing effect that after it, other writers, even good ones, come across as a bit approximate.
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68 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another opinion, 15 Sept. 2003
This review is from: A Dance to the Music of Time: vol.1: Spring (Paperback)
I was inspired by the accompanying bad review to write in defence of Powell's first three novels of the 'Dance...' sequence. Even if we accept that the truly outstanding novels of the sequence are from 4-9, the early years of Jenkins, Stringham, Widmerpool etc. are still essential reading. I suppose the superlatives of Powell devotees like myself will always sound a bit obsessive to unbelievers, but the scope and majesty of his 'Dance to the Music of Time' is rivalled only by Waugh's Brideshead in documenting high society and intellectual life between 1914 and 45. Once immersed in Powell's world there is no going back, and no substitute.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for that slow boat to China, 1 Feb. 2015
By 
Marius Gabriel "Author" (London) - See all my reviews
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Anthony Powell's masterpiece centres around a handful of upper-middle-class characters, who make their way from schooldays to old age, passing through the Second World War and concluding in the 1970s. However, there are hundreds of incidental, lesser characters who weave their way in and out of the novels, carrying along the story of an entire generation.

The key character of the novel -- and the most interesting -- is Kenneth Widmerpool, who enters the novel as an oddity -- a lower-class boy at an upper-class school, not quite right in anything he does, mocked by other boys, and yet a puzzle to them. Over the course of the novels, we trace Widmerpool's rising fortunes, and see how his oddness, his accomplished fawning, his determination, his willingness to face any humiliation and survive any snub, take him to the very top of British society. Widmerpool is one of the greatest creations of modern fiction. Every other character in the novel is in some way seen in relation to Widmerpool, and helps in some way to shed light on the rise of a new force in British political life, the Labour Party. And as Widmerpool's fortunes rise, so the old ruling class, the landed gentry and the Old School, are shown in decline. New money replaces old, the status quo crumbles silently into dust.

A common criticisms of this series is that it is wordy. Powell is a writer who loves to expand on the minutiae of life, producing a flow of words which at times overwhelms the reader. Moreover, the books are repetitive, consisting largely of endless conversations between characters which don't always go anywhere, and merge into one another; but this is a group of novels to be read at leisure, rather than to be raced through. Take them along on a slow boat to China.

I recommend the novels very highly to anyone who loves to read well-written English, and who has the patience for the long haul.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Dance to the Music of Spring vol 1: Spring, 22 July 2014
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Dance to the Music of Time: vol.1: Spring (Paperback)
This edition has the first three volumes in the twelve novel, “A Dance to the Music of Time,” comprising A Question of Upbringing, A Buyer’s Market and The Acceptance World. In order, the books are:

1. A Question of Upbringing – (1951)
2. A Buyer's Market – (1952)
3. The Acceptance World – (1955)
4. At Lady Molly's – (1957)
5. Casanova's Chinese Restaurant – (1960)
6. The Kindly Ones – (1962)
7. The Valley of Bones – (1964)
8. The Soldier's Art – (1966)
9. The Military Philosophers – (1968)
10. Books Do Furnish a Room – (1971)
11. Temporary Kings – (1973)
12. Hearing Secret Harmonies – (1975)

A Question of Upbringing

The first novel is A Question of Upbringing. Together, the books are the fictional memoirs of Nicholas Jenkins and some of his friends, family and acquaintances - although the author used many of his own youthful memories in this novel. This first book begins in 1921 with Jenkins still at school (based on Eton, which Powell attended), where he rooms with Charles Stringham and Peter Templar. Also mentioned is a slightly odd character, named Widmerpool, who Jenkins meets up again later in the book, when he visits France to improve his language skills. Although Widmerpool is identified as a figure of fun, Jenkins later reappraises his attitude slightly and it is demonstrated that he has both ambition and a strong will to succeed.

Obviously, this first novel – the first in a three book sequence linked to the seasons as ‘Spring’ – is very much an introduction. We meet several characters, including Jenkins Uncle Giles, housemaster Le Bas, members of Stringham’s and Templar’s family and are introduced to Professor Sillery – a don who likes to plot and influence events way beyond the scope suggested by his university tea parties.

The four young men who are the focus of this book are all very different, but the author weaves their stories effortlessly – telling a tale of class, friendship and the stirrings of romance. Critically acclaimed – the novel was included in Time Magazine’s Top 100 English language novels from 1925-2005, while the editors of Modern Library ranked the work as 43rd greatest English-language novel of the twentieth century – this twelve volume cycle of novels is one of the longest works of fiction in literature. However, I feel it is almost impossible to read this first book and not want to read on and that is the true test of a great story.

A Buyer’s Market

This is the second novel in the Dance to the Music of Time series, following on from A Question of Upbringing. It is set in 1928, when our narrator, Nick Jenkins, is twenty one or two. However, it begins with a flashback to Paris just after WWI, when Nick has a chance meeting with an artist, Mr Deacon, an acquaintance of his parents. This introduction serves the reader to understand the various relationships in Nick’s life, as he meets up with Mr Deacon again after a dinner party at the Walpole-Wilsons.

We are very aware of the time period in which this is written. This is very much the London of the Bright Young Things, when Nick – now working in publishing – seems to spend most of his time at dinner parties, ‘low’ parties and house parties. During this constant gaiety – at one point, people are veering between two parties held in the same square – you sense a certain desperate sense of looking to be entertained and entertaining.

The book is full of chance encounters. Through Mr Deacon, Nick is introduced to Barnby and Gypsy Jones. Other characters, from A Question of Upbringing, also appear – including Charles Stringham, Sillery, Uncle Giles and Widmerpool. Although a figure of fun at school, Widmerpool is certainly becoming a man of ambition and, throughout this book, we are aware that Nick has a slight dissatisfaction with his career, his romantic life and the way his lifestyle compares unfavourably with his contemporaries. These novels are very much a series and, although they do work as stand-alone books, it is much better – and makes more sense – to read them in the order they are intended to be read in.

The Acceptance World

This is the third volume in the twelve novel, “Dance to the Music of Time.” The books are organised in terms of the seasons and so the first three novels are the Spring of our narrator’s life, consisting of A Question of Upbringing, A Buyer’s Market and The Acceptance World. This novel is set in 1931 and follows many of the characters we have already become fond of, as well as some new introductions.

At the end of A Buyer’s Market, we found Nick Jenkins feeling slightly dissatisfied with his life and career. When we meet him again, he is still working at a publisher and involved with art books. In the first of five chapters he meets Myra Erdleigh through his Uncle Giles and has his fortune read. There is, indeed, much in this volume which touches on fate and love.

Many familiar characters appear in this book – Charles Stringham, Widmerpool, Quiggins, Peter Templer and his sister Jean, Sillery, Le Bas and others all feature. Nick stays with Peter Templer and his new wife, Mona, has a love affair, visits an art exhibition, sees a demonstration with some unlikely participants and attends an Old Boys dinner.

From the start, you are very much aware that this is set in the 1930’s. The entire feel is different from the party atmosphere of the 1920’s. Rather than wild parties, people are discussing politics and poetry. The London of the Bright Young Things has entered a period of depression, finance and business. We are aware that Nick is certainly entering his summer years and his youth is passing. Friends are not only getting married, but divorced, and perhaps Nick is also moving on and wanting more stability in his romantic life and career path. This is a stunning series and I look forward to reading on. The next book in the series is At Lady Molly’s, which begins Summer for Nick Jenkins.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The start of a long journey......., 31 Dec. 2013
This review is from: A Dance to the Music of Time: vol.1: Spring (Paperback)
Just finished this, and I really like it.
Its the start of a long journey (first 3 novels, in a 12 novel cycle). It's about the life of an upper class protagonist who goes to private school, university and starts making a career for himself in London. Powell could certainly write, and I'm genuinely intrigued to see how the plots, themes and characters develop. I think Powell is a snob, in fact I have little doubt whatsoever he's a snob; the first 3 novels are essentially about class, and specifically the upper class, I think my problem with it is that it assumes that this experience is shared by its readers (privileged childhood/education), and obviously that isn't true, nor was it true at the time, there's nothing wrong with assuming a position/perspective to write from, but it does so in a fashion that I find condescending to anyone who hasn't had that experience. I'm getting more than vague whiffs that anyone not rich isn't worth to much in Powell's estimation. That said, Powell has a lovely observational style - almost reminiscent of 19th century novels where the novel is very self-consciously a novel, he breaks from the plot to make little asides about what it's like to be young, or what it's like to be in a certain situation, and for the most part, I find myself agreeing with him (putting to one side the concentration on upper classes only).

I'm interested in Nicholas as the protagonist - despite the fact he's heavily involved in plots, he seems almost a side-lined character. It's definitely something Powell did on purpose, perhaps to give perspective on his (and by proxy our own) life - but I'm not sure, I'm still too early on to decide

I certainly don't think this is on Proust scale (since it's so frequently compared) I'm not convinced the writing, or the depth is there to allow it to be, but it's not trying to be.

I'm looking forward to reading the cycle, and the numbers of books in no way imposing - they are for the most part, straightforward reads. It's not a 5 star start in my opinion, it's very good, and it scratched the surface of the human experience, however it doesn't (or hasn't at this point) gone beyond that.

I am really enjoying it, it's well written and draws me in, and I was sad to finish. Certainly worth the read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Eventually an enjoyable read., 13 April 2014
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As so often with ebooks, the numerous typographical errors interrupted the flow of reading this detailed and engaging tale. Why do the publishers not have these ebooks proof read before allowing them to be sold online?
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rewarding read, 5 April 2009
By 
Friend of Dorothy (Hampshire, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Dance to the Music of Time: vol.1: Spring (Paperback)
The comparison with Waugh in the 'one-star' review on this page is misleading. Although contemporaries (Oxford in the early 1920s), Powell and Waugh were totally different writers. Ignore the superficial similarities (country houses, people with titles etc.), because they were aiming for wholly contrasting effects, and in my view both achived them brilliantly.

Dance is bound to disappoint anyone coming from Waugh expecting more of the same. The comedy is never as broad - although always present - and the 'serious' themes never as explicit. Powell was a more patient writer than Waugh (who always strove for an immediate impact both in his writing and, by all acounts, in life), and the rewards for the patient reader are immense. To get the most out of Dance, you need the kind of patience required to read and enjoy Proust (probably the main inspiration for the 12 volumes - at one point he pays tribute to Proust by having Jenkins briefly visit the Grand Hotel at Cabourg, the model for the hotel in 'Balbec').

It is entirely possible to enjoy Dance purely as an elegant meander through upper class life from 1914 to about 1970. There are plenty of memorable characters, some tremendous descriptive passages ('...Mr Lloyd Geroge, fancifully conceived as extending from his mouth an enormous scarlet tongue, on the liquescent surface of which a female domestic servant...was portrayed vigorously moistening the gum of a Health Insurance stamp...') and ample incident. However, none of this accounts for the intense devotion of his many fans. This, I believe, arises from the brilliant way in which Dance, through the narrator, Jenkins (Powell in all but name), demonstrates how it is possible to weave erudition and love of the arts into a life lived almost entirely outside the academic sphere. Jenkins does this, and Powell appears to have done it in his own life (see particularly his journals). Again, the inspiration appears to come from Proust, although I'd say Powell exceeds Proust in this respect because Jenkins comes over as a more substantial and likeable figure than the narrator of In Search of Lost Time.

If you love art and learning for their own sake there is a good chance you will love Dance - and by extension Powell himself. If the foregoing reads to you like pretentious tosh, then it is probably best to stick to Waugh.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb writing, 9 Feb. 2014
By 
Sally Walker (Eastbourne, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A Dance to the Music of Time: vol.1: Spring (Paperback)
Powell is completely new to me; I had missed the televisation of this twelve-part narrative of the life of Nicholas Jenkins. This Spring quarter begins shortly after WW1 with Jenkins at his public school and the antics he and his chums get up to and ends with him nudging thirty in the 1930’s and the Great Depression entangled with a married woman.

Powell is writing of the upper middle class and their doings. If you think Brideshead Revisited you will not be far of the mark. The majority of the narrative is a recount and reportage given by Jenkins in the first person of a number of social gatherings and the rising and fallings of a number of people who he comes into contact with.

On the whole the lives of the characters that he ‘dances to the music of time’ with seem fairly meaningless and empty, with little direction or focus, not surprising then that many seem unhappy. Jenkins, himself seems often listless. This all sounds rather depressing, but I did not feel at all depressed in reading this trio of books. Rather I regarded Jenkins’ story as both a social and a psychological commentary, which I found contained a lot of material to reflect upon in between readings.

I would say that the triumph of the books is Powell’s somewhat archaic writing style, which I love. I find it beautiful and totally befitting the period of which he is writing. His sentences are often long; I needed to re-read some of them to get their full meaning, but I did not find this a chore.

I heartily recommend this book and look forward to continuing my journey with Nicholas Jenkins.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cracking stuff, 12 Jun. 2014
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I've been reading the Powell 'Dance to the music of time' sequence for years, carrying the paperbacks and reading and re-reading them on the move. By now, those books are literally falling apart, so I am gradually buying the Kindle editions.
Powell's world remains compelling; the characters as real as people I know, the places vividly evoked. The style is always irritating. Too many words. Never use five words where ten will do. But the stories are superbly constructed, the allusions remain alive across the whole span of twelve novels. And the occasional lyrical passages, mostly sad or reflective, are genuinely affecting.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A period piece - not in good way - don't bother unless you like books about public schoolboys with risible attitudes to women, 7 Mar. 2015
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I really do not get why this is a modern classic. I waded through this first volume. Powell has a rather dense writing style which doesn't make this an easy read and I am not easily daunted. The story (?) if you can call it that is narrated by Jenkins - although it is a first person narrative it is not in any sense about Jenkins who is totally colourless. The only things we really learn about him is that he has a rather dodgy uncle and has ambitions to be a novelist which I found implausible given the number of times he says "I didn't grasp / didn't understand the situation at the time..." There is no discernible plot merely a fairly flat description of various people who wander in and out of the narrator's life at various times for no very obvious reason. None of the people involved are in any way attractive or interesting - in fact most are either dull or thoroughly unpleasant. There is virtually no sense of place although one deduces that the "university" must be meant for either Oxford or Cambridge. The characters are most upper middle class men who attended minor public schools. The period appears to be between the wars. The attitudes to women are tediously archaic and full of ridiculous generalisations and there is the obligatory display of 1930s anti-semitism and racism which for me has ruined many a better and more entertaining book. I shan't be wading my way through the rest of this saga.
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A Dance to the Music of Time: vol.1: Spring
A Dance to the Music of Time: vol.1: Spring by Anthony Powell (Paperback - 2 Oct. 1997)
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