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Casanova's Chinese Restaurant

(A Dance to the Music of Time #5)

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  765 ratings  ·  117 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, 228 pages
Published March 3rd 2005 by Arrow (first published 1960)
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Ben You'd be missing out on a lot by not reading them in sequence, they're not really designed as standalone books (although you could just about read the…moreYou'd be missing out on a lot by not reading them in sequence, they're not really designed as standalone books (although you could just about read them in this way).(less)
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Mar 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing


This fifth period is a bit different. So far, all the volumes were consecutive in time, sometimes with a few years gap between one and the next. While at the beginning of Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant we jump back in time a few years and the Narrator introduces a different set of dancers. After the initial flashback however, the story continues and we find ourselves in the second half of 1936, when the Civil War in Spain has begun (and where I encounter the
Vit Babenco
Jul 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The Spanish Civil War and the Abdication Crisis, music and fine arts, bohemians and socialites: all is interwoven into a complicated and admirable ornament. Casanova's Chinese Restaurant is as exotic and spicy as Chinese cuisine.
In Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant Anthony Powell occupies himself by comparing the ways and styles of married life of the different personages.
…in the end you discover that all this ill humour is nothing to do with yourself at all. In fact your wife is hardly aware that s
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
May 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016

Anthony Powell is not the first writer to compare marriage to a state of war. He is nevertheless in a class of his own as he goes about pleading his case. Book five of his Dance sequence is centered around the study of several couples in the years leading to the World War Two. As he did in the previous novels, Powell starts with a reminiscence, a memory trigger for Nick Jenkins to take a look back at the defining events of his younger, pre-war years. In the present case we have a double exposure
Apr 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing

It is doubtful whether an existing marriage can ever be described in the first person and convey a sense of reality … To think at all objectively about one’s own marriage is impossible.

Well. I read the trilogy Spring in 2012.

Then I read the first book of Summer in February of 2015.

Now, over a year later, I’ve read the fifth of Powell’s 12 novels.

And I’m aiming to read the rest of them before the year is out.

or, if you prefer,

Takes place: first chapter, 1933 (reminiscences of 1928-9); rest
Connie G
Feb 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Writer Nick Jenkins and his artist friend Barnby spend an evening at the Mortimer pub and Casanova's Chinese Restaurant. Nick is introduced to a group of musicians, and becomes close friends with composer Hugh Moreland (based on Powell's friend Constant Lambert). This book revolves around the musicians and their marriages. Nick also marries, but still plays the role of the observer and does not reveal details of his own marriage. His leftist brother-in-law goes to Spain during the Spanish Civil ...more
Diane Barnes
Apr 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Marriage, fidelity, infidelity, relationships, friendships, death and all things having to do with life as our hero grows older and deals with new information and family ties. Part 5 is excellent, and whets my enthusiasm for the rest of the series.
Jun 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
"Even the worst marriage is better than no marriage at all"

I can only reiterate some of the praise I have previously lavished on this series - it's pure pleasure. The writing is some of the best I have ever read.

In "Casanova's Chinese Restaurant" (Vol 5) we've reached the mid-1930s, the backdrop includes the Abdication crisis and the Spanish Civil War. These seismic events, and the storm clouds gathering over Europe, are of only tangential concern to our narrator Nick Jenkins and his companion
Sep 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
The detachment of the narrator really comes out in this volume of "A Dance to the Music of Time". Early on, in a reported conversation there is reference to Nick's wife being in a nursing home, and eventually it turns out she has had a miscarriage. For all the concern he has, you would think she had lost a pencil, or something equally unimportant. Another character and his wife have a child who lives for only a few hours. Again, it creates barely a ripple.

It's brilliantly done but curiously bloo
Apr 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
There is probably something wrong about thinking you've realized your ideal -- in art or anywhere else. It is a conception that should remain in the mind."
― Anthony Powell, Casanova's Chinese Restaurant


Powell's fifth book opens with a flashback to the late 20s, and a discussion about love, marriage, and suicide. The book processes through the challenging marriages of Hugh Moreland (composer friend) and Maclintick (music critic friend) and their two difficult marriages. St John Clarke dies Erridg
Jul 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Maturity starts setting in - and perhaps symbolically, historical events now come more forcefully to the fore - we are in the days of the Spanish Civil War, which however still manifests as almost academic discussions of a war between different ideologies which is actually being played out in what still feels like a distant land. And even when one of their own gets involved, it is still mostly an extravagance which after all is to be expected of such a character. Yes there is political debate, b ...more
This is the fifth book of the series "A Dance to the Music of Time and was originally published in 1960.

Exploration of themes of time and memory are developed here. As with several of the earlier volumes, there is a substantial time-overlap with previous books, the first part returning to the period before the death of Mr. Deacon. However, Casanova's Chinese Restaurant concentrates on a new set of characters, principally the composer Hugh Moreland, (based on Powell's close friend Constant Lamber
Jun 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Something tells me this isn't the last we'll hear of Audrey Maclintick.
It was going to be 4 stars until something clicked on the last page, so I re-read some passages and yes, it is 5 stars. I've learnt not to read a number of other books while reading the Dance books.
This book focuses on Moreland, the composer. There's a great discussion on marriage on pages 156-158.
Widmerpool is a no-show in this outing.

Some gems of lines throughout:
'professionally nauseous'
'carefully hedged praise'
'One alway
Oct 17, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
More of the same ... but maybe a little bit more maudlin, ever-so-slightly sadder ... than its predecessors.

The only important thing one needs to take away from this review is that it would be absurd to start the series here. If you plan to dip your toe into Powell's deep and highly nuanced waters, you'll need to read the books in order. The carousel of characters, the families, the players, the friends and lovers, professional colleagues, rivals, mentors, and antagonists, constantly rotate
May 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The fifth book in Powell’s epic sequence opens as several others have done, with some reminiscence. Presumably during the Second World War our narrator Nick Jenkins considers the bombed out remains of a pub he once frequented, with a group of friends. However Nick’s memories do not yet take us to the war years, as he so often does, Powell plays around a little with time here. Returning to the late 1920’s early 1930’s Jenkins remembers the time when he first knew some musician acquaintances who h ...more
Mar 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Reading "Dance" is pure pleasure - this one is no exception. I don't want to finish the series in a hurry so I space them out, reading one every few other books. That way I have the next one to look forward to, as they are a wonderful antidote to some of the difficulties one may encounter in life! The writing is superlative too, so expect to find many other writers rather clunky, when you have just finished one of Powell's books.
Nov 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gay-ish, classics
I loved this volume the 5th in the A Dance to the Music of Time, Complete Set: 1st Movement, 2nd Movement, 3rd Movement, 4th Movement series by Anthony Powell- my second go round and if possible loving it even more this time. Casanova's Chinese Restaurant starts a more somber note in the series taking place in the mid 1930s (with a notable flashback in the first chapter to the late 1920s). The news is all about the Abdication and the Spanish Civil War - but the news here is all about the continu ...more
Aug 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This fifth book in Powell’s twelve volume series apparently is narrated during or just after WWII, opening with reflections on locations destroyed in the Blitz, although the events took place a few years before, during the Spanish Civil War. As Hugh Moreland, a new character, is introduced, his history is intertwined with that of Mr. Deacon, who died several novels ago; this particular novel thus begins as a great leap backward in time, interrupting a chronology that has in general been rather l ...more
Lars Guthrie
May 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Closing in on the halfway mark in the twelve volume 'Dance to the Music of Time' opus with number five. It is so entertaining reading this episodic work in order--just as much fun as a TV mini-series, or for that matter, 'The Sopranos.' This novel paricularly stood out because of its very clever and effective fast-forward-then-flashback opening used to introduce Moreland and other characters new to the reader but not to Nick Jenkins, the narrator. That fast forward opening lets you know that Wor ...more
Feb 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: century-of-books
Simply amazing. At once profound, yet gossipy and laugh out loud funny. the characters are so richly drawn, I have recognized them by the description of the gait of the character before the name was mentioned.
Jun 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Touches on the Spanish Civil War, marriage, alcoholism, and despair.
Katie Lumsden
Aug 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-stars
I love this series - so moving, so engaging, so brilliant.
Simon Mcleish
May 14, 2012 rated it liked it
Originally published on my blog here in August 1999.

With the fifth volume of Dance to the Music of Time, Powell reaches the mid-thirties, when conversation in England was dominated by the abdication crisis and the Spanish Civil War. These events form the background to the novel, and yet these hardly concern the narrator Nick Jenkins. Casanova's Chinese Restaurant is about marriage.

Powell makes a change to the way that his characters interact for this novel. In the earlier volumes in the series,
Now we are married, and it isn't pretty.
Nov 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Is Anthony Powell really the “English Proust"? Reading "Casanova's Chinese Restaurant" (1960), the fourth installment of his 12-part epic "Dance to the Music of Time" (1951-75), it's clear that this extended "novel" is more a series of individual sprints that an unbroken marathon. Characters reappear and time moves forward at a deliberate pace, but Powell tends to repeat his approach volume-by-volume: A virtuoso overture sets a melancholy scene, followed by roughly four dialogue-driven social se ...more
David Mcangus
Feb 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Casanova's Chinese Restaurant begins in a slow and disorientating manner. It jumps between past present while introducing new characters and refuses (like the other novels) to ease the reader into the narrative in a conventional manner. Years have passed, and while plot threads from At Lady Molly's remain. Jenkins's life has changed once again and taken a turn towards the bohemian.

In the previous entry I noticed my enjoyment of each novel was largely decided by the company that Jenkins keeps. Th
Jul 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant by Anthony Powell

This is the fifth volume of A Dance to the Music of Time. There is a perceptible change of tune. First of all we have musicians in the center of the stage, the tone is different, and the atmosphere is heavier, darker. The mood is rather gloomy at times; we have dramas unfolding and less humor.

The name comes from a restaurant were protagonists talk about…Casanova, Don Juan and seduction: “seduction is to do and say the banal thing in the banal way…”
Mario Hinksman
Mar 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 30, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book reflecting on relationships between men and women, focusing primarily on marriage, and it adopts a realistic, if slightly pessimistic, viewpoint. The restaurant itself, with its imperfect blending of disparate elements, may reflect something of how marriage is viewed, and the question is raised early in the book of whether the worst of marriages is better than none at all. The narrator is Nicholas Jenkins, remembering the past, and taking on the role of observer: it is not his own ...more
Nov 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set amidst the heady 1930s of the abdication of Edward VIII, the Spanish Civil War, and the unsettling feeling of a war brewing across Europe, the fifth volume in Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time shifts away from the old in favour of the new. Jean and Peter are nowhere to be seen; Widmerpool makes but a cameo; Stringham has a single memorable appearance as his life continues its downward spiral. Instead, the recently-married Nick (he and his wife remaining ciphers, as is Powell's wont) is t ...more
May 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-classics
I liked this one! There was a very distinct tone running throughout: a kind of stiff melancholy (emotionally traumatic events are brushed off as nothing) mixed with British awkwardness (as in the moment where Nick talks to Matilda and she's skirting around the Moreland/Priscilla thing).

I should point out that there's an instance where Nick gets something wrong: I think up until now, he's been seen as omniscient. But now that he's got a wife (whom we barely see any of, by the way, and that's a c
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Anthony Dymoke Powell 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".

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)
  • 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)

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