A Dance to the Music of Time is a delicious book: I am loving every minute of reading it. Originally comprising 12 separate novels published from 1951 to 1975 it now comes in four volumes and I’ve only read the first volume so far, but I am hooked.
Sometimes compared to Proust’s A La Recherche du Temps Perdu (Remembrance of Lost Time), Anthony Powell’s masterpiece might also be called a comedy of manners. It is much easier to read than Proust, and not just because the sentences are shorter: it’s more amusing, less angst-ridden, and the ‘Britishness’ of its subtle ironies is part of its charm.
A clumsy summary might make this work seem like a soap-opera, so I shan’t try except to say that the novels follow the fortunes of a group of young men through their adolescence and adulthood, from the immediate post WW1 period to the early 1970s. It begins when Jenkins, Templer, Stringham and Widmerpool are in the same house at Eton, and it moves on as they muddle their desultory way through and out of university and then into careers of one sort or another. They muddle into and out of relationships too: love, business, artistic and so on. Along the way there is a veritable cavalcade of eccentric and sometimes dubious characters from all walks of life.
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