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I am slowly working my way through the entire sequence of twelve novels which make up A Dance To The Music of Time. They comprise an epic project in which Powell looks at upper class British society in the first half of the Twentieth Century from the point of view of his main character, Nicholas Jenkins. The first three books, which make up the Spring trilogy I found fairly hard work. There were lots of characters to get to grips with and orienting myself in the complex social rituals that make up the world Powell depicts was hard. In this second volume things are much easier. The writing picks up, the characters become more interesting and the story fairly zips along. The novels are in a kind of rough chronological sequence overall but Powell uses Jenkins' memoirs to zip backwards and forwards in time, so we move from Jenkins' childhood pre WWI and his impressions of the impact of that war, to the dawn of WWII, ending just as Jenkins is attempting to get called up. Engaging, wittily written and absorbing. I am looking forward to reading the Autumn years.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 1 February 2015
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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on 16 December 2016
I have to agree with fellow Amazon commentator MJ about poor printing in this edition - it's atrocious, and customers deserve better for their money. But, oh, the writing, the writing, you cannot fault it, prose of beauty and precision, like an expensive Swiss watch, which most, though not all, of the characters here could well afford. Reading one hilarious scene in At Lady Molly's, the first volume in this Summer trilogy, I pencilled 'Jane Austen' next to a conversation between a trio of lesbians, a peeved sister on the brink of another (probably disastrous) marriage, and narrator Nick - an interchange as accomplished as the early verbal skirmishes between Lizzie Bennett and Mr Darcy in P&P, and it doesn't get better than that. Here, though, we can enjoy a supremely sarcastic butler (Smith, which would never have occurred to JA), giving an upper class booby short shrift as he asks a typically dimwitted question about where he can find the lady of the house. One of the great 20th century critics Clive James (though he's still with us in the 21st, thankfully) rates 'Dance' as one of the great 20th century English novels. Too much greatness there maybe? No, he's spot on, and it is. Buy now while stocks last.
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on 8 August 2014
I'm afraid I'm a bit of AP fan and this is the 3rd or 4th time I've read the whole sequence - this time on Kindle.
His prose can be a little dense, even opaque, at times and I often feel I have to re-read sections to understand the full meaning, but as a portrait of a certain kind of upper-middle class life through the 20th century it is fascinating. However one should not be put off by the ambience as the characterisation transcends class and circumstances. Widmerpool must be one of the greatest comic (?) creations of all time. Everyone knows someone like Widmerpool, although perhaps not such an extreme example; he is a consolation to anyone who is frustrated by the prospect of someone advancing inexorably up the greasy pole, despite their manifest inadequacies and faults. Hard work and determination can get one a long way.
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on 19 January 2009
I agree with the above - how anyone could read this and be left with the impression that the characters are cardboard cutouts is beyond me - the sequence is one protracted and complex procession of deft characterisation! I picked up these for one holiday and was mesmerised. Powell's writing is of a quite extraordinary standard - his evocation of people in time is quite astonishing. I too feel that I'm a better doctor for having read these novels. Anyone who is interested in people, thought and exquisite language will relish these.
I particularly loved his reconstruction of Aleister Crowley - I think he did too, so much so he reincarnated him in the last book!
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on 31 May 2013
Powell was a slowly-acquired taste for me – the current seems slow-moving at the beginning (i.e vol 1 of the 12) of this most riverine of romans fleuves. But patience is rewarded as the pace picks up – or one's own enjoyment of Powell's uniquely waspish asperities and humour. This volume leads up to the outbreak of war in 1939, and to Volume 3 in this omnibus edition – London during the Blitz – which is one of the finest pieces of sustained writing on the war I've read (superior even to Waugh's Sword of Honour trilogy - and funnier).
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on 14 July 2015
This is a wonderful novel sequence, but I would advise readers to steer well clear of this edition as it is very poorly printed. The paper is cheap and thin and the cover floppy. At Lady Molly's, the first book in the sequence, is almost illegible, with poorly scanned text full of broken and wobbly characters. Given what the publishers are charging for the book I think they could have exercised some quality control when it came to its production. A second-hand copy of a different edition would be better quality as well as cheaper.
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on 26 March 2015
This extraordinary saga, a semi-autobiographical account of a group of contemporaries at school (sounds like Eton) in the 1920s whose lives criss-cross each other during the history of the 20th century, is entertaining and easy to read. You can look up on the web for 'best guesses' as to who the characters are based upon, and I suspect that it is remarkably accurate portrayal of upper-middle and upper class England over the period. Highly recommended
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on 6 March 2008
Anthony Powell's reputation has suffered as his snobbery and elitism emerged from his memoirs; his work stands up to Evely Waugh's (another author who was not a nice person) and the Roman a clef element is still fascinating- the Moreland/ Constant Lambert character is wonderfully drawn. I devoured the series while revising for finals in the 1970's and I think the books made me a beter doctor than my reading of Gray's anatomy (the anatomy textbook, not the TV series). As many of the characters are versions of real people I am amazed that one reviewer found them cardboard!!!
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on 18 August 2015
Simply magnificent. This is one of the most astonishing English language novels of the twentieth century.
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