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A Question of Upbringing

(A Dance to the Music of Time #1)

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  4,034 ratings  ·  326 reviews
The opening novel in Anthony Powell's brilliant twelve-novel sequence, A Dance to the Music of Time.

Discover the extraordinary life of Anthony Powell – captured by acclaimed biographer Hilary Spurling in Anthony Powell: Dancing to the Music of Time
Mass Market Paperback, 224 pages
Published April 2nd 1985 by Warner Books (first published 1951)
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Paul Bryant
Aug 31, 2015 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
Jan 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing


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,
Jun 11, 2016 rated it liked it
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
Violet wells
Jul 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Fabulously old school is how I'd describe this. It's sprinkled with classical allusions and is a stickler for rigorously correct punctuation. Commas abound. Powell reminds me of a kind of clerical Proust. How Proust might have written had he gone to an English public school (and not been such a genius at distilling human sensibility).

This is the first part of the epic The Dance of the Music of Time. It's largely a very humorous account of the (public) school life of the narrator. I wasn't sure
... 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
Vit Babenco
Feb 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A Question of Upbringing is unobtrusively and agreeably grotesque. Grotesque as a style is a winning weapon. And Anthony Powell’s profound knowledge of human psychological subtleties does the rest.
The characters make their first timid steps and we get acquainted with them. The school days are over and the close school friends depart on the different walks of life. And their peculiar attitude towards life is already established.
In everyday life, the participants act their parts without considera
Edward Waverley
Apr 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Aug 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 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 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
Connie G
Nov 21, 2015 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
Katie Lumsden
Mar 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-stars
I just love this series, and the first book is wonderful. I love the nostalgic meandering tone and the episodic nature of the plot. Powell is such a genius with characterisation.
Jul 22, 2013 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'. ...more
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
Jan 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
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.
Jun 29, 2012 rated it really liked it

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 Lif
Apr 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a strange, yet pleasant distraction....

I recently found this on a literary reading list - frankly, I'd never heard of it before. I guess that's not surprising, since the series was not, apparently (until the e-book/Kindle era), previously marketed to American (U.S.) readers. The University of Chicago - not the most mainstream of literary publishing houses - rolled it out on e-book/Kindle for folks on our side of the pond - and, well, I'm glad they did.

Powell writes beautifully (so, at least
Jun 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Diane Barnes
Jan 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'm happy to report that Book 1 is an excellent start to this series, which bodes well for the next 11 books.
Justin Evans
May 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
May 24, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I thought there can be nothing more boring than Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks. I was wrong. Even Downtown Abbey (which I personally consider a very boring series) is a thrill compared to this book. Long phrases and 257 pages of nothing.
Nothing out of the ordinary, nothing meaningful that worth reading about. Some people descriptions, some descriptions of nature, some small events (school director mistaken for a thief)...
And this book (along with the other 11 which I will not read, of course) is on
Dec 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
Mar 25, 2012 rated it liked it
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.
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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 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)

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