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Hearing Secret Harmonies (A Dance to the Music of Time #12)

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  242 ratings  ·  32 reviews

A Dance to the Music of Time – his brilliant 12-novel sequence, which chronicles the lives of over three hundred characters, is a unique evocation of life in twentieth-century England.

The novels follow Nicholas Jenkins, Kenneth Widmerpool and others, as they negotiate the intellectual, cultural and social hurdles that stand between them and the “Acceptance World.”

Paperback, 256 pages
Published December 9th 1983 by Flamingo (first published 1975)
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Certain books are age specific: not in a "Suitable for ages 7 and up" way; they just have to be read at the right time in life to truly resonate. Catcher in the Rye has, I think, to be read in one's adolesence; any older and the angst would just grate. On the other hand, I would say that Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time can't be read any younger than one's middle years. I don't think the way it captures so perfectly the unexpectedness of life's trajectories would make any sense to anyone yo ...more
It's curious to consider that when Anthony Powell wrote Hearing Secret Harmonies the final novel in the twelve-novel series “A Dance to the Music of Time”, and despite the series starting in the early twentieth century, that it was almost contemporaneous, being published in 1975, and taking place in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and makes references to hippies, the permissive society, Vietnam, and Enoch Powell.

The final two volumes, Temporary Kings and Hearing Secret Harmonies, each moving th
This is the final novel in Anthony Powell’s twelve novel series, “A Dance to the Music of Time,” all narrated by the writer Nick Jenkins, now in his fifties and sixties, the novel opening with a chapter devoted to Nick and his wife Isobel hosting their niece Fiona and her three companions who are part of an apparent religious cult or commune, by the second chapter moving into Nick’s reflections about writing and narrative, considering specifically Poussin’s famous painting that lends its own tit ...more
This concludes Powell's 12-novel cycle, 'A Dance to the Music of Time.' In short, it is one of the towering achievements in literature, an astonishing admixture of history and memoir in fictional form. And, Kenneth Widmerpool, the cycle's antagonist, is one of the greatest creations in fiction.
Also I must give a shout-out to Hilary Spurling's 'Invitation to the Dance: A Handbook to A Dance to the Music of Time,' an indispensable guide. My thanks for my friend Tess Parker for steering me to it.
Glen Engel-Cox
Dec 01, 2014 Glen Engel-Cox rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Glen by: Rich
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This may be my least favourite episode of the twelve parts of A Dance to The Music Of Time, but I'm not entirely sure why. It might be that I am not a fan of the 1970s pagan hippy ritual that involves everyone to some extent. It might be that the age of the ever-present characters and their disassociation with young people strikes too close to home for comfort. It might be that I found no pleasure in the final demise of the monstrous Widmerpool. More likely than all these though, is the fact tha ...more
And so the 12 novel cycle, named after Poussin's painting "A Dance To The Music of Time" and written and published over a 24 year period (1951-75), comes to an end. The Empire has fallen, Britain is somewhere around the time of the 3 Day Week in 1973, values seem to have been trampled on and debased. Widmerpool is unsurprisingly the main focus of this last novel, although in a rather gaudy, unconvincing way, seeing as he gets mixed up in a rather cartoonish cult. While this can serve to resonate ...more
And so it ends; the final volume in Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time is complete exactly 365 days after I started it. Was it worth it. Yes, I’d say so. Did I love it. No, not really.

The book ends with some quite esoteric encounters with what can only be described as a cult. A collection of vagabond hippies have found inspiration in a collection of pagan rituals based on the life and work of the long deceased Dr Trelawney. Somewhat surprisingly, this cult enfolds one of the key characters an
“Two compensations for growing old are worth putting on record as the condition asserts itself. The first is a vantage point gained for acquiring embellishments to narratives that have been unfolding for years beside one’s own, trimmings that can even appear to supply the conclusion of a given story, though finality is never certain, a dimension always possible to add. The other mild advantage endorses a keener perception for the authenticities of mythology, not only of the traditional sort, but ...more
Webster Bull
I have just completed Powell's 12-volume cycle, "A Dance to the Music of Time." While my attention flagged many times during more than 3,000 pages, I had so much enjoyment along the way that a voice in my head is now whispering, Start over from the beginning. I have never read anything quite like this "Dance," and I don't want the music to stop.

Starting at an English boarding school and focusing initially on three of his friends there, narrator Nicholas Jenkins introduces us to 300 characters i
David Mcangus
In keeping with Powell's style, this isn't the typical end to a long series. He has maintained a diligent, dreamlike tone throughout the run of his twelve novels and that doesn't cease here. Indeed, man appears forever the wanderer in this final instalment. Some fall of the cliff in this search and others manage to find a suitable place to set up camp. What I liked about how Powell handled his characters is that he doesn't seem to be making strict moral judgements of their choices. Rather, he ac ...more
Simon Mcleish
Originally published on my blog here in May 2000.

The final part of A Dance to the Music of Time concentrates on what has been an occasional theme until now, esoteric religion, as several characters become involved in what would probably today be described as a New Age cult. Most of the remaining long running characters (including the narrator, Nick Jenkins) are now in their sixties or seventies, and the title refers to both these elements - it is part of a quotation about being affected by mysti
Lars Guthrie
Powell comes on with full force in 'Hearing Secret Harmonies,' letting the reader run into nearly all the characters from the twelve novels of 'Dance' who are still alive, while introducing strong new ones representing the youth movement of the 70s. The nefarious Scorpio Murtlock, leader of a wiccan and satanic cult stands out. Just as 'A Dance to the Music of Time' opens with the indelible image of Widmerpool, clumsy, overbearing, yet a force of life that can't be stopped, trudging up a road, i ...more
With HEARING SECRET HARMONIES we reach the end of Anthony Powell's 12-novel series "A Dance to the Music of Time", which has followed narrator Nicholas Jenkins and his social circle for over five decades. As the novel opens, we are in 1968 after a gap of several years since the previous book. Jenkins and his wife host a caravan of hippies on their rural property. Widmerpool, whom Jenkins hasn't seen for a long while, returns and is caught up in the counterculture. Ultimately this leads to Widmer ...more
What a marvellous trip this has been! Powell's 12-novel A Dance to the Music of Time series has been one of the most interesting reading experiences I've encountered.

The books take the reader from the early years of the 20th Century through the 1970's. Through the narrator's eyes, we are part of a world morphing from debutante dinners and country house weekends through the Second World War and on to the hippy cults of the 70's.

Many of the characters are introduced in Book 1 and float in and out
Kim Stallwood
Anthony Powell is among my favourite novelists. Everyone in the twelve volume series, A Dance to the Music of Time, has been an enjoyable read. This is not only for the interesting characters Powell conjures up for the reader but also for the way in which he describes them and their lives. Powell is a remarkably consistent writer of witty and compelling narratives. It is important to understand that the first in the series, A Question of Upbringing, was published in 1951 and the last, Hearing Se ...more
Twelfth (of twelve) volume of "one of the longest works of fiction in literature," (Wikipedia) in which an upper-crust brit out-Prousts Proust. Published between 1951 and 1975 we get -- not the story of one man's life -- but the lives of everyone he knows. This is some extremely sophisticated writing, but it's really easy to read, and become immersed in an imaginary world where you always seem to know everyone at every party. Months of pleasure.
June Louise
Yes!!!!! After just short of 3,600 pages, I have completed all 12 volumes of Dance To The Music Of Time. I'm proud and feel I have achieved something in doing this, but yet I am sad that there are no more.

Hearing Secret Harmonies has to be my least favourite of all the novels though; for Widmerpool to be a Peer one moment, to a University Chancellor the next (apparently happy for students to express themselves violently), to being a mad cult member, just seems a little too strange an ending. In
The final book in the epic Dance to the Music of time sequence.

Full review:
Fred R
It was a mistake to deprive the narrator of a personality.
This is the twelfth and final novel in a sequence that I've been reading gradually over the last two years, and although I have loved the earlier ones and the way each successive novel builds on what's gone before, I was quite disappointed in this final installment. The grotesqueries and degradations of some of the characters' fates just seemed unnecessary and not consonant with their trajectories so far (though, when I think about it, I imagine that's how the sixties and seventies seemed to Pow ...more
old people going bonkers
Brendan Hodge
This last novel of Anthony Powell's 12 novel _Dance to the Music of Time_ series brings Nick Jenkins, whom we first met in the 1920s when he was at school, through the '60s and early '70s. The ever present Widmerpoole, a second rate power seeker in every age, has retired from public life after a disgrace resulting for spying for the Stalinists in the 50s and now becomes mixed up in a neo-pagan/hippie youth cult.
Elise R
It was a lovely bookend to the whole series. Everything wrapped up nicely and confirmed my feeling that somehow the whole story was about Widmerpool. I really don't know how else Powell could have ended the series.
Judi Moore
I have now read and enjoyed all 12 volumes of A Dance to the Music of Time. Volume 12 has been one of the strongest. This was a relief as volume 11 was the weakest and I feared it was going to end with a whimper. It doesn't. I promise you the journey is worth it: arrival is pretty damned good. I can't say more (as River Song would say 'spoilers darlings')
Michael Pryor
Dry, detached, magisterial.
The last in the brilliant series. I felt so sad as the pages counted down and I came to the end of this glorious trip through time. Loved every minute of it and at some time in my life I will read the whole thing again.

Finally finished this enormous series and feel that it ended on a high note, interesting to find out what happened to the characters who I've come to know and either love, or hate.
The final act of Widmerpool was not up to the more layered portrayal of him in the earlier volumes. But five stars for the series as a whole!
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Goodreads Librari...: Missing book cover 3 9 Jul 12, 2014 04:10AM  
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Anthony Dymoke Powel CH, CBE was an English novelist best known for his twelve-volume work A Dance to the Music of Time, published between 1951 and 1975.
Powell's major work has remained in print continuously and has been the subject of TV and radio dramatisations. In 2008, The Times newspaper named Powell among their list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945".
More about Anthony Powell...

Other Books in the Series

A Dance to the Music of Time (1 - 10 of 12 books)
  • A Question of Upbringing (A Dance to the Music of Time, #1)
  • A Buyer's Market (A Dance to the Music of Time #2)
  • The Acceptance World (A Dance to the Music of Time, #3)
  • At Lady Molly's (A Dance to the Music of Time, #4)
  • Casanova's Chinese Restaurant (A Dance to the Music of Time, #5)
  • The Kindly Ones (A Dance to the Music of Time, #6)
  • The Valley of Bones (A Dance to the Music of Time, #7)
  • The Soldier's Art (A Dance to the Music of Time, #8)
  • The Military Philosophers (A Dance to the Music of Time, #9)
  • Books Do Furnish a Room (A Dance to the Music of Time, #10)
A Dance to the Music of Time: 1st Movement A Question of Upbringing (A Dance to the Music of Time, #1) A Dance to the Music of Time: 3rd Movement A Dance to the Music of Time: 2nd Movement A Dance to the Music of Time: 4th Movement

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