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Hearing Secret Harmonies

(A Dance to the Music of Time #12)

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  582 ratings  ·  95 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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Average rating 4.16  · 
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Jun 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
When I read the concluding trilogy of the epochal writer Anthony Powell’s 12-volume masterpiece, A Dance to the Music of Time in the late seventies and early eighties, I was enthralled.

And I was so carried away I even had a (postal) correspondence with the great Master himself, over in England, for a while.

I was a star-struck recent English graduate, and (quite stupidly) queried Powell as to the factual origins of one of his characters. Each novel, after all, HAS been seen as a type of roman-à-c
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Dec 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016

Such a long journey! We first met Nick Jenkins in school, as a teenager with a keen interest in the affairs of others and a rather reclusive, shy temperament. Now he is in his late sixties, and hopefully he has some wisdom to impart from all the events he witnessed, from all the people he has met and from all the books he has read or written.

Two compensations for growing old are worth putting on record as the condition asserts itself. The first is a vantage point gained for acquiring embellishm
Vit Babenco
Mar 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Sooner or later all things come to the end… Even the most beautiful ones.
“We are often told we must establish with certainty the values of the society in which we live. That is a right and proper ambition, one to be laid down without reticence as to yea or nay. Let me say at once what I stand for myself. I stand for the dictatorship of free men, and the catalysis of social, physical and spiritual revolution. I claim the right to do so in the name of contemporary counterculture…”

The riotous sixti
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
Diane Barnes
Dec 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is with a great sense of accomplishment that I finish this twelfth volume in Powell ' s "A Dance to the Music of Time." I had wanted to read this for many years, but was daunted by the sheer scope of reading over 3000 pages. Last year I was invited to join a small group reading and discussing one volume per month, which seemed to be possible. It has been a wonderful experience; I have looked forward to each month's installment, the discussion of art, music, literature, and all the characters ...more
Dec 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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 keener perception for the authenticities of mythology, not only of the traditional sort, but ...more
Jul 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
Obviously I'm going to chew on this last book for a bit and try and roll the whole thing up. Powell reminds me of one of those extreme runners. Those masochists who seem to enjoy running 50, 100, or more miles. The amazing things about writing 12 novels that are together nearly 3000 pages and written over 24 years (1951 - 1971), is how uniform these books are. I'm not saying uniform in a boring way. I'm just saying there isn't a real weak link in them. They are beautifully constructed. I think o ...more
Connie G
May 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
The final volume of "A Dance to the Music of Time" series shows life as a circular dance with the younger generation repeating the same steps to the dance as the older generation moves out of the circle. In "Hearing Secret Harmonies" a 1970s hippie cult camps overnight at Nick and Isobel Jenkins' home in the English countryside. Isobel's niece has been mesmerized by the cult leader, Scorpio Murtlock. He leads the group in pagan rituals often tied to the seasons and the sites of ancient standing ...more
Katie Lumsden
Feb 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
A really moving and fascinating end to the series - a bit weird, very powerful, and all together fantastic.
Dec 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
"In my beginning is my end."

A brilliant final act in Powell's Dance. This last volume charts the decline and fall of Kenneth Widmerpool and brings this great work to a very satisfactory end. Wonderful stuff.
is the final novel in Anthony Powell's twelve-volume masterpiece, A Dance to the Music of Time. It was published in 1975 twenty-four years after the first book, A Question of Upbringing appeared in 1951.

Completing his meditation upon the themes of time and will, the author recounts the narrative in the voice of a convincingly middle-aged Jenkins. (In the television adaptation of the novels an older actor was chosen to play Nick in the final part.)

4* A Question of Upbringing (A Dance to the Musi
How does one go about writing a Goodreads review for a book one has read 61 times? The whole sequence: A Dance to the Music of Time, all 12 volumes, 61 times. Obviously, I enjoy the novel. Recently I read a fellow Goodreads reviewer suggesting that one really needs to be middle-aged before turning to Powell in order to enjoy the book. That was not my experience. I was introduced to Powell's novel sequence at 20 and I have read it at least once a year every year since. In the beginning, I found m ...more
Hearing Secrets Harmonies by Anthony Powell
Sublime…you can almost Hear the Secret Harmonies…

Alas, this is the last of twelve volumes in the magnificent series A Dance to the Music of Time by the divine Anthony Powell

- The English Proust- this is how he was regarded by critics

Indeed, his chef d’oeuvre compares well with Remembrance of Things Past, probably the best novel ever written.
We have said goodbye to a number of main characters in the eleven previous volumes, starting with Charles Stringha
Dec 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Shaun Heenan
Jan 09, 2019 rated it liked it
One could look back at my history of giving mostly 3s and 3.5s to each individual volume and come to the conclusion that I wasn't particularly impressed with A Dance to the Music of Time. One could then dig a little deeper and notice that I read all twelve of these books over the course of just three months, which gives a clearer picture of my feelings. (Proust, definitely the nearest comparison, took me nearly a full year.)

While no volume by itself (with perhaps the exception of The Soldier's A
Matthew Hunter
Whew! 12 novels, approximately 3,000 pages worth of reading behind me. I want to spend more time in Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time universe. I will miss Hugh Moreland, Uncle Giles, X. Trapnel, Charles Stringham, Peter Templer, even asshat Kenneth Widmerpool. (I’ll miss neither Pamela Flitton nor Scorpio Murtlock, though I don’t expect I’ll forget them.) Only one hour removed from turning the last page, and I’m already making plans for a reread.

Not surprisingly, Narrator Nick Jenkins’ own
Dec 26, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-books
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
Nov 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
And thus, it's over. It took me quite some time to work may way through Dance, as I read other books between it, but the commitment was worth it. I started it with no realization of what I was getting into, it was a mystery book that sprang up on the nook account I shared with my mom. It was a whim, really. I just needed something new to read and it was there. At the first chapter I thought there was no way I would male it through the first book, let alone the last one, but how wrong I was. It s ...more
Aug 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
May 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A dazzling series and a close to perfect ending.
Mar 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
There must be a review tucked away somewhere in here of another edition. I have, at last, realized an ambition of about 15 years’ duration—to have read A Dance to the Music Time once for every year I’ve been alive. It has been, without serious challenge from any other quarter, the most influential novel of my life, for reasons I’ve pontificated about in other reviews, here and elsewhere, endlessly. In year 60, I have just finished reading it for the 60th time. There are still new aspects about w ...more
Nov 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a book that felt very far away when I started the Dance project. But it came faster than I expected despite the series taking a year to complete. Proust is the best comparison for lack of options; but Powell is funnier, less romantic than his French counterpart. Proust's ability to turn out deep and baroque insights every dozen pages are missing. Proust's phenomenological explorations are replaced in Powell with a steadfast focus on the vagaries of quotidian life, the rise and fall of on ...more
Jul 07, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. The final book in the ‘A Dance to the Music of Time’ 12 book series. This book is set in England in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This novel is not as humorous as a number of the other books in the series, dealing with a ‘hippy’ type cult and providing details of how a number of characters from earlier periods in the series have ended up.
Oct 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-original
The circle is completed, and what a saga! Other than that, I wouldn't say this entry was my favourite.
Powell's milieu is the upper middle class between the wars. He doesn't get the post-war world. Here the hippies are a cult imagined as Jacobean alchemy.
Aug 20, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
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
Dec 28, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-books
3 1/2 stars (for the whole series)

The grand finale to the rather epic 12 book series and it's suitably peculiar. I'm not particularly up with the subtle changes between the years but even I can pick out the bohemianish feel of the times now, mostly personified in the character of Scorpio Murtlock, a sexually charismatic individual who sets up his own cult and dominates his followers in very creepy ways. Almost inevitably his path crosses with Widmerpool and, drama. Of the Anthony Powell variety
Alexander Van Leadam
Mar 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
I was unable to find how to add a review for the whole series of A Dance to the Music of Time, so I attached it to the first volume and repeat it here because of the reference to this volume:
It's quite hard to summarize a reader's experience with a twelve-volume novel, even though I have to admit that I love such gigantic, epic attempts. Powell's world isn't one that fascinates me -upper class and bohemia- and most situations and actions are either insignificant or limited in scope (even with r
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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)
  • 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)

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