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Book Notes 1: A Dance to the Music of Time vol 1, by Anthony Powell

This year I’m going to try to record all the books I read, and write mini-reviews of them. I’m not quite going for the thing, because I doubt that I can actually manage one a week, what with one thing and another. But I ought to be able to get through a few more than last year, since I’m not doing an OU course.  And in fact it’s nearly the end of January, and I have already read three books and started a fourth: so, not too bad, then.  I’m just a bit behind on posting about them.

For Christmas I got volume 1 of A Dance to the Music of Time: A Question of Upbringing.  I started reading it on Christmas day, so we’ll have to allow the year to start and end there.

I have been hearing quite a lot about Anthony Powell’s twelve-volume masterpiece recently: there was a whole Radio 4 programme about it, which I heard bits of twice. And I notice John Peel’s Desert Island Discs listing on Wikipedia, recently, and Dance was the book he chose.

So I was keen to read it, despite having seen the TV adaptation a few years ago, and thought it seem very shallow and superficial.

Having read the first volume I find that it’s not at all surprising that a few hours of TV that purported to convert the whole twelve volumes seemed shallow. This thing is dense. The first volume isn’t that long, but it only covers a couple of years of the narrator’s life: the end of school, some time in France, and the start of his university career.

Despite it being set in the years between the first and second World Wars — a time that is almost a century away from us, now — and the fact that the characters are almost exclusively privileged, public-school and Oxbridge types, their concerns aren’t so far from those of my own student days.  Which isn’t so surprising. I suppose: we’re all people, and the state of being a student has always been a rarefied step away from real life.

Anyway, I look forward to working my way through the other eleven volumes.  Perhaps I’ll do them all this year.

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