Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A Question of Upbringing (A Dance to the Music of Time, #1)” as Want to Read:
A Question of Upbringing (A Dance to the Music of Time, #1)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

A Question of Upbringing (A Dance to the Music of Time #1)

3.7  ·  Rating Details ·  2,786 Ratings  ·  211 Reviews
Anthony Powell's universally acclaimed epic A Dance to the Music of Time offers a matchless panorama of twentieth-century London. Now, for the first time in decades, readers in the United States can read the books of Dance as they were originally published--as twelve individual novels--but with a twenty-first-century twist: they're available only as e-books.

A Question of U
ebook, 214 pages
Published December 1st 2010 by University of Chicago Press (first published 1951)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about A Question of Upbringing, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about A Question of Upbringing

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details


I am not sure why I am writing a review of this, for I feel only one hour or time period has passed out of the twelve of this Dance. It is too early to say how I will feel as I am dragged along and try to keep my steps in measure. The Dance cannot be evaluated yet and this first walk has not had enough time to developed into a courante either.

Nothing much has happened. We are at the infancy of the Dance. Or may be not quite so. It is youth really: Public school, p
What did I expect when I start reading Anthony Powell’s A Question of Upbringing? I might have expected a historical fiction, a memoir or even the beginning of an epic story that would capture my attention mercilessly. What I did find was a coming of age story with a beautiful and flowing narration that concentrates on relationships and personalities but with no marked plot. There is no tension, nothing to be solved and therefore no resolution.

Was the lack of a plot that failed to attract me? N
Paul Bryant
Aug 31, 2015 Paul Bryant rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
Viewed from afar, Anthony Powell’s 167-volume A Dance to the Music of Time appears as one of the Alps of 20th century fiction. You are daunted by its crags. My goodness, a 167-novel sequence stretching over 89 years! It’s some achievement. But when you find yourself in possession of the first volume, a fun-sized 230 pages, disconcerted and relieved, you realise that this is nothing more than a leisurely afternoon stroll through the early years of a young toff and his posh mates, firstly in the l ...more
... well of course not everyone is going to get it the point is very subtle and grows on you slowly as you progress through it needless to say nothing much happens until book three or maybe four but you realize after a while that the very absence of action is what makes it so interesting and incidents which at the time seem unimaginably dull turn out later on to have their precisely measured place in the story the sequence when Widmerpool gets the sugar poured on his head which is later referred ...more
Edward Waverley
Apr 15, 2009 Edward Waverley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first sentence of your Goodreads review must not ever pretend to be a newsflash. The book that you pretend to be illuminating will usually be either 1) too old to require your late-blooming insights or else 2) too new to be obscure, because the atmosphere of publicity which surrounds all new books these days will have beaten you to the punch by a mile or more. When we click on a book link on this website, or when we look up a title in a search, our main purpose is never to find out the plot ...more
Aug 13, 2012 Algernon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016

What is this thing in my hands? fiction? memoir? history? romance?
It is a little of all of these, and something more : a thing of beauty and a joy to discover.
The Dance is an ambitious project to capture the essence of an epoch through a detailed character study and a mapping out of the relationships between actors. The Dance is also a project that uses the conventions of classical music in order to tell its story: there is a prelude, recurring themes, movements and changes of tempo and of soloi

Description: Who is Widmerpool? The question that is to dog Nicholas Jenkins crystallizes as he sees the gawky figure of his schoolmate huffing through the mists on a solitary cross-country run. So unexceptional, unsmart -- even unpopular -- Widmerpool continues to drop in and out of Jenkins life through school, university and London in the 1920's.

Opening: THE MEN AT WORK at the corner of the street had made a kind of camp for themselves, where, marked out by tripods hung with red hurricane-lam
In this book one of Anthony Powell's 12 volume sketch of English life in the 20th century (A Dance to the Music of Time: 1st Movement), we are introduced to the characters Nick Jenkins, Charles Stringham, Peter Templer, and Kenneth Widmerpool. And if I understand correctly, the lives of these four young men will unfold for us over the course of this vast work. Their introduction, their start on this journey is inviting for the reader because they are an interesting group, varied in intellect and ...more
May 04, 2014 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 Harmoni
K.D. Absolutely
Mar 24, 2011 K.D. Absolutely rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: TIME 100, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010), Guardian 48th
Imagine yourself in an art shop. You see a nice painting or a sculpture or a photograph. You like it so much that you can’t help describing it to your spouse when you come home. Or maybe, you like it so much that it reminds you of a song and you keep on humming or singing lines from that song. Or maybe, you like it so much that you are inspired to write poems or stories that the painting, sculpture or photograph reminded you of.

Nicholas Poussin (1594-1665), a French painter in a classical style
Nov 21, 2015 Connie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Connie by: Renato
"A Question of Upbringing" is the first book in a series of twelve volumes of "A Dance to the Music of Time". The book is narrated by Nicholas Jenkins, Anthony Powell's alter ego, who acts as an observer of the world of Great Britain's upper class and upper middle class. Nick has a dry satirical way of looking at everything going around him. He includes references to art and literature in his descriptions. The book revolves around Nick's attendance at schools similar to Eton and Oxford (where Po ...more
Jul 22, 2013 Greg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british-authors
The pages just kept turning. The establishing of characters and some brilliant lines and passages throughout. And some very funny incidents made me burst out laughing. This is the first book of twelve. Eleven more of this, almost too good to be true. I know they will all be brilliant, as I've already read A Buyer's Market before I read 'A Question of Upbringing'.
Jan 26, 2016 Darwin8u rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
This seems like a serial book which I'll enjoy in the whole, more than each part. Any way, 1/3 done with the 1st Movement and 1/12 done with 'A Dance to the Music of Time'.

I'm not sure if I'll read one book per month, or just dash through them. Probably, I'll chop the baby, and read it in a season.

I'll review more later, once the kids are in bed, or at least off the computer.
This is the first book of a series of twelve books.

The story begins around 1921 and the narrator, Nick Jenkins, describes his last years at a public school, his summer spent in France and finally his going to the university.

Nick also describes his friendship with Stringham and Templer. Some other characters are also introduced in the narrative: Uncle Giles, Sillery, Buster, Sunny Farebrother and Widmerpool.

Even if some readers eventually compare with “Remembrance of the Lost Time” by Marcel Prou
Jun 29, 2012 Nigeyb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"A Question of Upbringing" by Anthony Powell

A Question of Upbringing by Anthony Powell

"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 o
Jun 29, 2009 Bruce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How delightful has been my return to this charming and fascinating series of twelve novels. I am reminded of how leisurely and flowing is Powell’s writing, how he concentrates on personalities and relationships, and how little there is of any marked plot - no particular tension, no “problem” to be solved, no crisis or denouement, no resolution. Life in his works just moves on and on, and reading them is relaxing yet both intriguing and even engrossing. What lovely writing, above all; I like his ...more
Just the beginning of the 12 part saga describing England in the first half of the century just gone, and I am already enjoying it. This first book sets the scene, capturing the life of the protagonist from the final school years to his university experience. Taken on its own, I liked it, although especially the Oxford years were a tad over the top – in particular I found the stereotypical Oxford don (Sillery) not very credible, nor his influence in steering the decisions of a powerful family. S ...more
Justin Evans
May 13, 2013 Justin Evans rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Powell's prose is, of course, a marvel, but what most surprised me on re-reading the first volume to DMT is how much of it I remember. I'm usually not very good at retaining the details of books for much more than a month or two, unless I've been writing about them; with QU, I remember pretty much everything, so adept is Powell at creating memorable and charming characters with just a few sentences. Nothing much 'happens' here, of course, which is hardly surprising, since not much happens in the ...more
Diane Barnes
Jan 09, 2016 Diane Barnes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm happy to report that Book 1 is an excellent start to this series, which bodes well for the next 11 books.
Feb 18, 2014 Carlo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The ending of this book seemed to me like a metaphor for the complete work and possibly the series as far as it can be guessed. As with the best works in literature, I can't possibly be spoiling it for you by telling you about it, so please do read on.

Jenkins goes to see Stringham in London but the latter disappoints him when he says that he has to go to a party which "can hardly fail to be rather fun." Jenkins tells him not to worry though he gets annoyed at this treatment. He decides to go to
Marius van Blerck
This is the first book in Anthony Powell's extraordinary 12-volume series, A Dance to the Music of Time.

If you enjoy Marcel Proust, Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene, you'll take to this like a Duke to Porter. But if you aren't really into them, but simply like a long drawn out yarn, beautifully written, spanning a large part of the 20th century, this series will entrance you.

The parallels with Evelyn Waugh's work (a mixture of Brideshead Revisited and the Sword of Honour series) are striking, in s
Oct 12, 2014 Eleanor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book very much and have now moved on to the second volume of A Dance to the Music of Time.

I had to get used to Anthony Powell's style with its long and leisurely sentences. I did enjoy his descriptions of people, as in this instance when he had arrived for a holiday in France:

"... we climbed into a time-worn taxi, driven by an ancient whose moustache and peaked cap gave him the air of a Napoleonic grenadier, an elderly grognard, fallen on evil days during the Restoration, depicte
Renee M
Aug 29, 2015 Renee M rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I very much enjoyed the first book of this twelve book series. I am planning to read one per month over the course of 2016 (not my plan, am reading with a group, but it's a brilliant plan). The writing is delicious and although it is not plot driven, I found myself looking forward to stepping into the memories of Nick Jenkins each evening. In addition, it brings to mind so many other books I've enjoyed including Brideshead Revisited, The Forsyte Saga, Of Human Bondage, the Harry Potter series. S ...more
I think I enjoyed this re-read more than the first time, as I knew there wouldn't be much action and I just let it wash over me, enjoying Powell's prose and immersing myself in one experience of England in the 20s.
Dec 04, 2009 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Part one of a long series of totally awesome novels, where the same characters are traced as they grow up between the wars in London. I like short novels connected together into a longer read, which is why I consider this series to be utterly awesome. It approaches the outer limits of awesomeness.
Nov 10, 2012 Davidg rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012-books
After a gap of several years, I have given The Dance to the Music of Time a second chance. My first reading of this first book in the sequence was very disappointing; the very few characters that I most identified with seemed to be those most mocked by the author. I wasn't sure that I wanted to continue with snobbery for another 11 books and so the set of four volumes has languished on the shelves of several houses. After speeding through St Aubyn's Patrick Melrose novels and enjoying them, I th ...more
Josh Friedlander
Powell has his critics, and comparisons to Proust are merely unkind - though perhaps Fitzgerald could serve as a reference point for this coming of age tale set among the interbellum elite. The narrator is affable and literate, and, narrating in retrospect, hyper-aware of his own naïvete and social clumsiness. I loved the feeling that the seemingly simple interactions of everyday life are actually minefields of nuance and psychological games. The prose, smooth and mandarin, is a blast to read. B ...more
Travelling Sunny
Nov 15, 2013 Travelling Sunny rated it liked it
Shelves: sunny-was-here, nook
Four young men - schoolmates, of different ages and backgrounds - develop ties of friendship. Some of these ties are snapped, some are strengthened, but they all change.

If it weren't for my goodreads friends, I might be tempted to cease reading this series, as the introductory book has been quite... dull. But, I'm told the series gets better as you read it, and the dullness becomes meaningful - or something like that. We'll see...
Reading Powell's serie of 12 books over a year with a group here on GR. This is the first installment and sets up a mood and lets us get to know the narrator Jenkins.

I found it a bit slow at times but then got in a situation where I had an hour to myself and nothing else to do while in a waiting room so quickly finished up a large chunk of the novel. I am even excited to start book nr 2 now!
Feb 06, 2015 Stenwjohnson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's no specific name for the genre occupied by Anthony Powell's 12-part novel "A Dance to the Music of Time" (1951-1975), but anyone who's watched Public Television in the last 40 years will recognize it: Bittersweet reflections on between-the-wars British ease and privilege viewed through the lens of post-war austerity, middle class characters making entrees into dying aristocratic worlds, the twin sacred settings of school and country manor. The mode is often gauzy and autumnal, with socia ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Bright Young Things: June 2014 - "A Question of Upbringing" by Anthony Powell 55 30 Jun 28, 2014 03:34AM  
  • Mountolive (The Alexandria Quartet #3)
  • The Devil's Heart (The Devil, #2)
  • Written in Time
  • Without Prejudice
  • Terminal (Tweed & Co. #2)
  • Troublesome Creek (Troublesome Creek, #1)
  • Flirting with Temptation
  • The Homeplace (Singing River Series #1)
  • The Sweetgum Ladies Knit for Love (Sweetgum Knit #2)
  • Pinocchio in Venice
  • Within a Budding Grove, Part 2
  • Robin and Ruby
  • The Great Lover
  • Harriet
  • Petals From The Sky
  • The Highest Stakes
  • In the Shadow of the Cypress
  • Black Cathedral (Department 18, #1)
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 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)
  • Temporary Kings (A Dance to the Music of Time, #11)

Share This Book

“The latter's boast that he had never read a book for pleasure in his life did not predispose me in his favour.” 13 likes
“For some reason, the sight of snow descending on fire always makes me think of the ancient world – legionaries in sheepskin warming themselves at a brazier: mountain altars where offerings glow between wintry pillars; centaurs with torches cantering beside a frozen sea – scattered, unco-ordinated shapes from a fabulous past, infinitely removed from life; and yet bringing with them memories of things real and imagined. These classical projections, and something in the physical attitudes of the men themselves as they turned from the fire, suddenly suggested Poussin’s scene in which the Seasons, hand in hand and facing outward, tread in rhythm to the notes of the lyre that the winged and naked greybeard plays. The image of Time brought thoughts of mortality: of human beings, facing outwards like the Seasons, moving hand in hand in intricate measure: stepping slowly, methodically, sometimes a trifle awkwardly, in evolutions that take recognisable shape: or breaking into seeminly meaningless gyrations, while partners disappear only to reappear again, once more giving pattern to the spectacle: unable to control the melody, unable, perhaps, to control the steps of the dance.” 9 likes
More quotes…