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

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  1,932 ratings  ·  147 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)
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Edward Waverley
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
K.D. Absolutely
Mar 27, 2011 K.D. Absolutely rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
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'.
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
A Dance to the Music of Time, volume 1 by Anthony Powell

A Question of Upbringing is the first of 12 (Twelve!!) Volumes, which constitute the Masterpiece – A Dance to the Music of Time.
I would be not only discouraged, but plain determined to “Forget about it” (Donnie Brasco), if it weren’t for the pleasure of reading this first volume.

I am a fan of the British; I would have loved living in the Empire, which I admire greatly.

Even if A dance to the Music of Time, will get me close to the demise of
This is the mother lode. For years, I've had Anthony Powell's _A Dance to the Music of Time_ on my suffering bookshelf (it's around 3,000 pages). For some reason having to do with my ongoing desire to be British in 1951, I picked it up after John Le Carre didn't quite perform that trick for me.

_A Question of Upbringing_ is the first of 12 novels in the series (written from '51 to 1975), and I enjoyed it pretty quickly. It has more underlineables than it has ridiculously overwrought descriptions
This book surprised me. I liked it far more than I expected to. I’ve been putting off reading the whole Dance To The Music Of Time for almost 20 years, and now I’m sorry I didn’t start sooner. A light and pleasurable read, describing several episodes in the late schooling of a British lad in the post WWI time period, it depicts without strain or apparent effort, a background and a sense of the society of the time. His ability to explore in depth a simple set of events in order to elucidate chara ...more
We should all have taken Anthony Powell at his word when he said he didn't know anything about plots. We should have also extrapolated from that that he knew nothing about characterization, and that his writing is a little less than luminescent.

Some books are timeless and thus worthy of placing them on the Classics shelf.

This one is not.

No sense wasting any more ink on this one, when other reviewers have commented so well.

Courtney Johnston
Two hundred and thirty pages in which minutiae are minutely observed. While I understand this is a beloved and admired 12-book series, give me Evelyn Waugh any day.
Vit Babenco
The school days are over and the close school friends depart on the different walks of life. And the characters’ attitude towards life is already established.
“In everyday life, the participants act their parts without consideration either for suitability of scene or for the words spoken by the rest of the cast: the result is a general tendency for things to be brought to the level of farce even when the theme is serious enough.”
Everyone is a bit strange but some individuals are just weirder tha
And so we’re up and running with volume 1 of the 12-volume novel A Dance to the Music of Time. Once I discovered Powell’s prose to be very accessible, in a style similar to Evelyn Waugh, the idea of working my way through 12 volumes lost its capacity to make me run and hide. In fact, I very much enjoyed not only the style but also the era that we find ourselves in as the epic novel opens.

It’s just after World War I and Jenkins, the protagonist, is at boarding school in England with various other
Low key and fun to read, especially if you are a bit of an anglophile, which I think you have to be to really have a fun time reading Powell, Waugh, and the like. (This book about 4 chaps going to school at Oxford reminds me very much of Evelyn Waugh. It turns out they were buddies.) The over all effect is a bit like having a conversation over English tea : refined, dignified, enjoyable, and tasteful. But certainly not profound or earth shaking. It's not a shot of espresso or whisky in other wor ...more
Powell, Anthony. A QUESTION OF UPBRINGING. (1951). ****.
The Folio Society brought together three of Powell’s novels, including this one as the first in the series, and published them as “A Dance to the Music of Time.” These three novels represent the heart of the author’s twelve-volume series that properly went by the “Music” title, but are certainly adequate to indicate the quality of the writing and the imagination of his pen. They are all novels of manners, including this one, where nothing
Subtle, witty and immensely entertaining. I started to affix post-it notes to mark favourite passages, but there were so many I finally gave this up.

A few turns of phrase or passages that particularly took my fancy at the beginning were:

"The house looked on to other tenement-like structures, experiments in architectural insignificance..."

"His mastery of the hard-luck story was of a kind never achieved by persons not wholly concentrated on themselves."

"...The elder of this couple, a wiry, grim l
Simon Mcleish
Originally published on my blog here in May 1999.

The first volume of Dance to the Music of Time sets a fairly comfortable tone. After all, narrator Nicholas Jenkins and his set have many advantages in the England of the thirties, going from minor public school to Cambridge (with a summer in France in between to improve their French). The book is correspondingly uneventful, as they grow up in an environment where little effort is demanded from them and where, indeed, great effort would be conside
Nostalgia is the name of the game here, as the narrator, seemingly far into the future, looks back on the way his life used to be and how things changed. It's told from anecdote to anecdote, without even a transition at times. It ends up that it's basically a bunch of trust fund kids in England in the early 1920s who are hitting their majority - and much of it is the narrator relating his friendship with two other fellows and how they drifted apart in even a short period of time.

Sometimes you ju
Now and then, throughout my life, I've heard and read comments, out of the corner of my ear, so to speak, to the effect that British sensibilities are weird. Their tastes are weird. Their humor is weird. And by "weird," what is apparently meant is incomprehensible. Not to be understood. Myself, I always found it hard to believe that another nationality on this earth is quite so far away as to merit such comments. Whoever, I thought, really believes in such weirdness simply hasn't tried. Hasn't p ...more
With A QUESTION OF UPBRINGING, published in 1950, the English novelist Anthony Powell began his ambitious 12-volume series "A Dance to the Music of Time", which follows the narrator and his social circle from the early 1920s until the early 1970s. As the novel opens an old man named Nicholas Jenkins reflects on Poussin's famous painting where four figures representing the Seasons dance to a lyre played by the personification of Time. A human life, muses Jenkins, is such a dance, with partners di ...more
Decided to venture down this glorious path. Powell's epic starts off with this tale of a group of boys in late adolescence. Brilliant prose - especially the distinct voice of the dialogue. I'm reading Edwin's paperback copies and what he has marked along the way is indicative of some definite mental note taking.
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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 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)
A Dance to the Music of Time: 1st Movement 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 A Buyer's Market (A Dance to the Music of Time #2)

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“The latter's boast that he had never read a book for pleasure in his life did not predispose me in his favour.” 8 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.” 7 likes
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