Customer Reviews


23 Reviews
5 star:
 (10)
4 star:
 (10)
3 star:
 (1)
2 star:
 (1)
1 star:
 (1)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The start of a long journey
When you've finished A Question of Upbringing, you've hardly started A Dance to the Music of Time, which is good news - there's a lot more literary nourishment ahead.

A Dance to the Music of Time is an account of the life of the fictional Nicholas Jenkins, written by Jenkins himself, in the first person. A Question of Upbringing describes Eton, which Jenkins...
Published on 18 Sep 2005 by Martin

versus
0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A rather mundane account
The writing isn't the problem with this book, it is the plot, or lack of any discernible plot that lets it down. That said it is the first of a series of 12 books. Sufficient to say that I am not encouraged to read the other eleven
Published 8 months ago by Geoffrey Gale


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The start of a long journey, 18 Sep 2005
This review is from: A Question Of Upbringing (Dance to the Music of Time 01) (Paperback)
When you've finished A Question of Upbringing, you've hardly started A Dance to the Music of Time, which is good news - there's a lot more literary nourishment ahead.

A Dance to the Music of Time is an account of the life of the fictional Nicholas Jenkins, written by Jenkins himself, in the first person. A Question of Upbringing describes Eton, which Jenkins attends, and introduces his schoolfellows Templar, Stringham and Widmerpool. Le Bas, a schoolmaster, makes several comic appearances. The story moves on to Oxford, where Jenkins completes his formal education and encounters Sillery, a don, who is also a comic figure.

A Dance to the Music of Time is a literary masterpiece which contains much comedy, although mild sadness and unhappiness run through the story. Nicholas has a profound appreciation of the arts, especially painting, and he often thinks about particular works of art. He tends to describe his life, and analyse it, in a highly artistic and literary way. Anthony Powell is able to convey the essence of paintings using words only, something he achieves again and again throughout A Dance to the Music of Time, in a great display of literary genius. The story also contains a certain amount of superstition, a few of the characters being highly superstitious (although sometimes this theme is not returned to for hundreds of pages). A long, long way after A Question of Upbringing, when Jenkins is in his thirties and the Second World War is raging, a wild night in the London Blitz is described, and Mrs Erdleigh analyses what is happening in highly superstitious terms, calling it a "demonic night." In Jenkins' young boyhood (not described in A Question of Upbringing, which covers somewhat later years), in a happy, innocent, now unreachable, pre-First World War existence in the English countryside, a cult leader is described, he and his followers running through the fields dressed in robes, behaving eccentrically but harmlessly. Right at the end of A Dance to the Music of Time, in the final book Hearing Secret Harmonies, when we seem to have reached the 1970s, another, younger, cult leader is described, but this man is much more sinister and disturbing, twisting his followers' minds.

Throughout his life, Jenkins observes other people with interest, not interfering with them much, and not apparently saying much to them, but being interesting enough to stimulate them into speaking to him, often at length. Jenkins' profession is literary writing, although we learn little about this work. Jenkins gets married and has children, but we do not hear much about his family. A Dance to the Music of Time concentrates on Jenkins' friends and acquaintances, who are often not encountered for years, then reappear, still the same souls but older and in different circumstances, with different things to talk about and an older Jenkins to talk to. The finest character description is of Stringham, likeable and effervescent, but on a downward path.

When you finish A Dance to the Music of Time, you have a huge amount of literary material to think about. For some reason, the first thing that comes into my head is a description of the extremely dimmed lighting in a wartime railway carriage at night; the light bulbs are described as being like "phosphorescent molluscs."

If you love literature, then A Dance to the Music of Time is compulsory.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent First Volume, 3 Dec 2009
This is the first volume of the 12-volume series *A Dance to the Music of Time*. In some respects it is a relatively low-key beginning focusing, as it does, on schooldays and the immediate aftermath of them. We get introduced to our narrator, Jenkins, and a few of the characters we will meet in various guises in subsequent volumes. One of the most memorable early scenes is the arrival of Uncle Giles in the school where his smoking causes something of a commotion. Powell's novels are often described as an English version of Proust and there is something to this comparison. Like in Proust the narrator is some sense a kind of absorbent centre who, whilst giving us cues to everything, doesn't emerge that clearly himself. By contrast to Proust, the centre of action is here focused directly on the end period of boyhood, the emergence of early manhood. There is no immersion in young childhood, little presence of girls and no homo-eroticism. There is, however, more than a touch of Jamesian introspection and a writing style that conveys detail in a way that manages to awake interest without generally being absorbed in action. As an opening to the series it is intriguing and whets the appetite for more!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Persevere, enter its world, the rewards are great, 5 Nov 2007
This review is from: A Question Of Upbringing (Dance to the Music of Time 01) (Paperback)
A Question of Upbringing by Anthony Powell

Anthony Powell's "A Question of Upbringing" is the first part of his mammoth twelve novel epic "A Dance to the Music of Time". He writes with wit, humour and not a little sarcasm, describing a quintessential Englishness that perhaps was never representative of the society and has, arguably, disappeared. He wrote this first volume in 1951 and, though the book starts with a London scene from that era, the majority of the book deals with the characters' school and university experiences and recalls a time passed.

The main character is Jenkins. I will follow the author's lead and use surnames only for males, surnames plus titles for married, older or otherwise unavailable women, and Christian names for eligible women, whether they be of a certain class or prone to wear flowery dresses while standing next to post boxes in the street. As his friend, Stringham, discovered, even some of the surname plus title women at times can prove highly eligible.

The book's form is both simple and intriguing. It is so effective we almost miss the ingenuity of its construction. There are just four chapters, each in excess of fifty pages and each focused on one particular episode. We have school, a social gathering, a holiday in France and college undergraduate life. Powell's writing has such a lightness of touch that we forget how intensely we are invited to analyse the circumstances of each chapter and how penetratingly we discover the characters' lives. There is considerable innuendo, much gossip and usually piles of money, along with social status and influence wrapped up in every household.

The quintessence of their Englishness, like characters in the novels of Evelyn Waugh, arises out of their apparent inability to question - or perhaps even notice - their privilege. It's a state they inhabit without either reflection or gratitude, so much taken for granted that it lies beyond doubt, its achievement apparently assumed, not expected. School means one of the better "public" schools. Going "up to university" assumes Oxbridge as a right, though Powell tinges this with the perennial blight of the English upper classes, intellectual paucity, by having several of his keen entrants "decide" not to complete a degree. One assumes that many of the others will take thirds before assuming their company chairs or ministerial portfolios. The army figures large in family histories, always at officer class, of course, and so does the City, where one can always become "something". Even Americans, however, can be described as having "millionaire pedigree" on both sides, an economic status that presumably compensates for what is otherwise a palpable lack of breeding. When family members do not assume expected and assumed heights, they are referred to in hushed tones, the words "black sheep" perhaps not politically or at least socially correct even then.

But if this really was a quintessence of Englishness, it was a pretty rare ingredient. Maybe one or two per cent of the population went to the right school. Only about five or six per cent attended higher education of any sort, let alone a university one "went up to". Neither Sandhurst nor corporate board rooms were populated by the masses. (They still aren't!) And so this was a quintessence of separateness, of rarefied heights in an extended class system and, certainly by the 1950s, some of these peaks had been scaled by other aspirants, using new climbing techniques eschewed by the incumbents of years.

And so "A Question of Upbringing" reveals its duality. It's a tale that celebrates a time lost, a nostalgic peek into a remembered adolescence where a hand placed apparently carelessly and always momentarily upon that of a member of the opposite sex remained a daring highpoint of teenage years.

Nostalgia is always tinged with loss, however. Early in the book, Powell describes the school thus: "Silted-up residues of the years smouldered interruptedly - and not without melancholy - in the maroon brickwork of these medieval closes: beyond the cobbles and archways of which (in a more northerly direction) memory also brooded, no less enigmatic and inconsolable, among water-meadows and avenues of trees: the sombre demands of the past becoming at times almost suffocating in their insistence."

And how about this for a presumption of affluence: "It was a rather gloomy double-fronted façade in a small street near Berkeley Square: the pillars of the entrance flanked on either side with hollow cones for the linkmen to extinguish their torches." And we notice we are in a different age when Powell has his lads pick up two girls off the street to joy-ride in a new Vauxhall. Without a suggestion of tongue-in-cheek or indeed relish he can write that: "The girls could not have made more noise if they had been having their throats cut."

When I first read Anthony Powell, I could not get past my ingrained hatred of this class and its power-assuming, wealth-inheriting inhabitants. It was a country that was not mine. I come to it now a little wiser and a little richer myself, richer in experience at least, and now I can appreciate the irony that my previous naivety ignored. I now look forward with some relish to the next eleven episodes. "A Dance to the Music of Time" is certainly a masterpiece to be revisited.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Question of Upbringing, 7 May 2014
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 10 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
A Question of Upbringing is the first volume in the twelve novel, “A Dance to the Music of Time.” 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)

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 Tempar’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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful writing captures the era and milieu, 4 May 2014
By 
This review is from: A Question Of Upbringing (Dance to the Music of Time 01) (Paperback)
"A Dance to the Music of Time" is a twelve-volume cycle of novels by Anthony Powell, and "A Question of Upbringing" is the first of the twelve volumes.

I've wanted to read "A Dance to the Music of Time" since discovering that Julian Maclaren-Ross features somewhere in the series as a character called X. Trapnel. Such is my interest in Julian Maclaren-Ross (I am, of course, assuming you have already read "Fear and Loathing in Fitzrovia: The Bizarre Life of Writer, Actor, Soho Raconteur Julian Maclaren-Ross" by Paul Willetts) that this is sufficient to inspire me to tackle one of the longest works of fiction in English literature. You probably feel exactly the same.

Published in 1951, "A Question of Upbringing" is the reminiscences of Nick Jenkins (presumably based on Powell himself) who recounts his last few years at public school around 1921, a summer spent in France, and then onto university. It's a familiar world of gilded privilege, akin to the early sections of "Brideshead Revisited", though with very little by way of drama or narrative. Instead the reader is introduced to a variety of disparate characters and some prescient anecdotes. I say prescient as Jenkins hints at the ways in which their lives will turn out.

What makes this book a delight is the beautiful writing, which really captures the era and milieu, aligned to regular doses of humour. Powell captures the transition of adolescence into adulthood perfectly: the insecurities, the naivety, the fast changes, the gaucheness, the way friendships may evolve and fracture, and how life choices made at this stage can shape whole lives.

I suspect this series will get better and better and "A Question of Upbringing" lays the groundwork for what it is to follow. I cannot wait to find out.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent. I really enjoyed this book., 21 Jan 2014
By 
Sally Walker (Eastbourne, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A Question Of Upbringing (Dance to the Music of Time 01) (Paperback)
This book, first published in 1951 is the first in Anthony Powell's twelve part series of novels, collectively forming A Dance to the Music of Time. Why is more not made of Powell? I feel he should be more well known than he is.

I found this book a delight to read, not least because of its writing which conjures up the time in which the narrative is set. Powell's writing is distinct and to a degree intense. I refer here to his sentence construction: many are long and rambling, to the extent that I often found myself having to re-read them to understand them! But I did not find this a chore at all.

This first novel of the series is set in circa 1920, the war has recently ended and the upper middle classes are picking up the threads of their lives again. The narrative is told in the first person, as observed more so than actively taken part in, by Nicholas Jenkins, a late adolescent and therefore young enough to have missed the horrors of the trenches.

The narrative itself is not remarkable or particularly gripping; events unfold at a fairly slow pace. The book opens with Jenkins, (as was, and possibly still is the case, in this strata of society, most boys and men are referred to by their surnames) in the final year or so of his public schooling, just before going up to university, (boys went up to university and down to life in the city or similar employment). In between school and university are lunches and dinners at his friends' parents' houses and a summer in France with the objective of improving his French.

Reading his story is like following him and listening to his account of events, and more particularly the people involved, as he travels through a series of `rooms', with the `rooms' described in chronological order and occupying different locations. It is his observations, speculations as to the motivations of the `actors', his telling of how their actions make him feel and his judgement of their characters that is the essence and the joy of this book. It is a running commentary on what it is to be human.

I was propelled through this book in addition because I so much enjoyed being transported to this other world, a now far distant world that Powell so vividly recreates. It is lost world in which pranks are fairly innocent and social interaction is mannered and polite. A world long prior to the trappings of our modern age: rampant consumerism, emails, Skype, blogs, television - let alone reality TV, celebrity idolatry, facebook, twitter and xbox games, for example.

I heartily recommend this book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The spirit of an age now gone, 15 Sep 2013
By 
Mr. Derek Denton (South Lakeland, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Widmerpool is no ordinary man. He is the central character of the piece and it is clear from the start that he is an unattractive nobody. But, as the narrative proceeds, we see this nobody advancing his career and influence at an impressive pace. Each stage of the way we see, through the eyes of the narrator, how Widmerpool is leaving behind all those who mocked him in the past. However, throughout his progress, certain people appear again and again as he forges his way up the power ladder. So, Time is a sort of dance in this work, and the characters involved turn and turn again, some advancing, others receding. The end is a sort of ironic comment on what can happen to an overly ambitious person, and the end can in fact be a cruel farce if events turn against one.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Written in Proper English..., 7 Sep 2013
By 
W. J. Laidlaw (West Lothian, Scotland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
... It's a pleasure to read a book where the English Language is used well, both grammatically and descriptively. I was a wee bit put off by the way Powell opens the narrative, as the content didn't seem to fit the expectation; but the power of the description made me read on, and I'm glad I did. I now have the other eleven books to enjoy.

Word of Warning: I read the first book in the Kindle edition and, like so many Kindle transcriptions, this was full of errors. Letters are often incorrect (where the error is obvious); strange signs appear where letters should be; sentences and paragraphs are split where no splits should be, and often run together where they should be apart, as when a new paragraph with a difffering theme butts directly on to it's predecessor. I'm getting to be less than amused with Kindle because of the numerous faults in so many of the books I've read with it. My next eleven Powells are in Paperback.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An engaging opening, 24 Feb 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: A Question Of Upbringing (Dance to the Music of Time 01) (Paperback)
This is the opening volume in Anthony Powell's celebrated twelve novel, largely autobiographical sequence "A Dance to the Music of Time", recounted by Nicholas Jenkins, a barely disguised cipher for Powell himself.

Let me first declare an interest. I have read this sequence many times before, and have been writing (for what seems like several years) a detailed analysis of it and other "romans fleuves" (including Proust's "A la recherche du temps perdu", C. P. Snow's "Strangers and Brothers" and Simon Raven's "Alms for Oblivion"), so I am rather biased.

The first thing to say is that this is not a novel in which much actually happens, though the portrayals of characters and the observations of their interactions are acute and highly entertaining. "A Question of Upbringing" introduces us to Jenkins himself (though one of the most striking aspects of the whole sequence is how relatively little we ever seem to learn about Jenkins/Powell) along with several characters who will feature throughout the rest of the canon.

It opens in the early 1920s with Jenkins attending a school (clearly Eton, though never formally identified as such) where his closest confreres are Charles Stringham and Peter Templer, with whom Jenkins strikes up close bonds. Stringham, who comes from a wealthy but broken home, leaves the school early on in the book, going off to East Africa to spend some time with his estranged father. Jenkins and Templer remain at the school a bit longer until Templer also departs. Other notable characters to whom we are introduced in this section include Le Bas, a querulous yet also long-suffering schoolmaster with aesthetic aspirations, and Widmerpool, a slightly older pupil than Jenkins and his friends, who is notable principally for his lack of conformity.

As the story moves on we join Jenkins on a visit to Templer's home where he is introduced to Jean, Templer's sister, with whom he promptly falls in (unrequited) love and Sunny Farebrother, a seemingly down-at-heel ex-soldier who is trying to carve out a career in The City. After leaving Templer's home Jenkins spends a few weeks in France, ostensibly to learn the language, and re-encounters Widmerpool with whom he develops a stronger acquaintance than had been possible at school. Finally he moves on to Oxford where he studies history. Here we meet Sillery, a politically active don, Mark Members, a self-appointed aesthete, and Quiggin, a "professional" northerner with highy radical views. Stringham reappears, back from his Kenyan sojourn.

The summary above completely fails to do justice to the beauty of the writing (the first four pages are among the most marvellous excerpts of prose I have encountered), the acute observation of the interaction of people of different classes, and the muted humour. This novel also sets the slightly melancholic tone that underpins much of the sequence, though Powell never allows this to become oppressive. A beautiful opening to an engrossing sequence.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An understated masterpiece, 11 Feb 2012
By 
A. Mackintosh (Heptonstall UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I reached the end of the first book a little baffled but intrigued - and then read the rest in fairly short order! (And have read then all again..twice!) Not a lot seems to happen but that's not the point - life happens in this series portrayed via exceptional, if at times complex, writing - and no-one, except perhaps Dickens, is as good at character vignettes and detailed description. My Only criticism is that it all too often seems to ape Waugh, both in styles and content.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

A Question Of Upbringing (Dance to the Music of Time 01)
A Question Of Upbringing (Dance to the Music of Time 01) by Anthony Powell (Paperback - 6 Jan 2005)
£7.00
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews