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A Dance to the Music of Time: 3rd Movement

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Anthony Powell's universally acclaimed epic encompasses a four-volume panorama of twentieth century London. Hailed by Time as "brilliant literary comedy as well as a brilliant sketch of the times," A Dance to the Music of Time opens just after World War I. Amid the fever of the 1920s and the first chill of the 1930s, Nick Jenkins and his friends confront sex, society, busi Anthony Powell's universally acclaimed epic encompasses a four-volume panorama of twentieth century London. Hailed by Time as "brilliant literary comedy as well as a brilliant sketch of the times," A Dance to the Music of Time opens just after World War I. Amid the fever of the 1920s and the first chill of the 1930s, Nick Jenkins and his friends confront sex, society, business, and art. In the second volume they move to London in a whirl of marriage and adulteries, fashions and frivolities, personal triumphs and failures. These books "provide an unsurpassed picture, at once gay and melancholy, of social and artistic life in Britain between the wars" (Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.). The third volume follows Nick into army life and evokes London during the blitz. In the climactic final volume, England has won the war and must now count the losses. In this third volume of A Dance to the Music of Time, we again meet Widmerpool, doggedly rising in rank; Jenkins, shifted from one dismal army post to another; Stringham, heroically emerging from alcoholism; Templer, still on his eternal sexual quest. Here, too, we are introduced to Pamela Flitton, one of the most beautiful and dangerous women in modern fiction. Wickedly barbed in its wit, uncanny in its seismographic recording of human emotions and social currents, this saga stands as an unsurpassed rendering of England's finest yet most costly hour. Includes these novels: The Valley of Bones The Soldier's Art The Military Philosophers "Anthony Powell is the best living English novelist by far. His admirers are addicts, let us face it, held in thrall by a magician."—Chicago Tribune "A book which creates a world and explores it in depth, which ponders changing relationships and values, which creates brilliantly living and diverse characters and then watches them grow and change in their milieu. . . . Powell's world is as large and as complex as Proust's."—Elizabeth Janeway, New York Times "One of the most important works of fiction since the Second World War. . . . The novel looked, as it began, something like a comedy of manners; then, for a while, like a tragedy of manners; now like a vastly entertaining, deeply melancholy, yet somehow courageous statement about human experience."—Naomi Bliven, New Yorker


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Anthony Powell's universally acclaimed epic encompasses a four-volume panorama of twentieth century London. Hailed by Time as "brilliant literary comedy as well as a brilliant sketch of the times," A Dance to the Music of Time opens just after World War I. Amid the fever of the 1920s and the first chill of the 1930s, Nick Jenkins and his friends confront sex, society, busi Anthony Powell's universally acclaimed epic encompasses a four-volume panorama of twentieth century London. Hailed by Time as "brilliant literary comedy as well as a brilliant sketch of the times," A Dance to the Music of Time opens just after World War I. Amid the fever of the 1920s and the first chill of the 1930s, Nick Jenkins and his friends confront sex, society, business, and art. In the second volume they move to London in a whirl of marriage and adulteries, fashions and frivolities, personal triumphs and failures. These books "provide an unsurpassed picture, at once gay and melancholy, of social and artistic life in Britain between the wars" (Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.). The third volume follows Nick into army life and evokes London during the blitz. In the climactic final volume, England has won the war and must now count the losses. In this third volume of A Dance to the Music of Time, we again meet Widmerpool, doggedly rising in rank; Jenkins, shifted from one dismal army post to another; Stringham, heroically emerging from alcoholism; Templer, still on his eternal sexual quest. Here, too, we are introduced to Pamela Flitton, one of the most beautiful and dangerous women in modern fiction. Wickedly barbed in its wit, uncanny in its seismographic recording of human emotions and social currents, this saga stands as an unsurpassed rendering of England's finest yet most costly hour. Includes these novels: The Valley of Bones The Soldier's Art The Military Philosophers "Anthony Powell is the best living English novelist by far. His admirers are addicts, let us face it, held in thrall by a magician."—Chicago Tribune "A book which creates a world and explores it in depth, which ponders changing relationships and values, which creates brilliantly living and diverse characters and then watches them grow and change in their milieu. . . . Powell's world is as large and as complex as Proust's."—Elizabeth Janeway, New York Times "One of the most important works of fiction since the Second World War. . . . The novel looked, as it began, something like a comedy of manners; then, for a while, like a tragedy of manners; now like a vastly entertaining, deeply melancholy, yet somehow courageous statement about human experience."—Naomi Bliven, New Yorker

30 review for A Dance to the Music of Time: 3rd Movement

  1. 5 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    “War is long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror.” -- old combat adage The Third Movement (**FALL**) contains the following three novels: 1. The Valley of Bones (A Dance to the Music of Time, #7) -- read June 19, 2016 2. The Soldier's Art (A Dance to the Music of Time, #8) -- read August 16, 2016 3. The Military Philosophers (A Dance to the Music of Time, #9) -- read August 22, 2016 I read these three novels starting in mid June 2016 and ending August 22, 2016. I've hyperlinke “War is long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror.” -- old combat adage The Third Movement (**FALL**) contains the following three novels: 1. The Valley of Bones (A Dance to the Music of Time, #7) -- read June 19, 2016 2. The Soldier's Art (A Dance to the Music of Time, #8) -- read August 16, 2016 3. The Military Philosophers (A Dance to the Music of Time, #9) -- read August 22, 2016 I read these three novels starting in mid June 2016 and ending August 22, 2016. I've hyperlinked to my original review for each book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Vit Babenco

    It seems summer will last… But autumn is already at the doorstep. “Think first, fight afterwards – the soldier’s art…” Robert Browning – Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came They think… Tsars, dictators, despots, tyrants always think that they will win and they start fighting… Widmerpool, earlier defined as a frog footman, came to power – frog footmen always do – and now he sets the rules… But his brains remain those of a frog. “And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The w It seems summer will last… But autumn is already at the doorstep. “Think first, fight afterwards – the soldier’s art…” Robert Browning – Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came They think… Tsars, dictators, despots, tyrants always think that they will win and they start fighting… Widmerpool, earlier defined as a frog footman, came to power – frog footmen always do – and now he sets the rules… But his brains remain those of a frog. “And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein…” Isaiah 35:8 Taking the war period, limiting the field to the army, one had met quite a few wayfaring men. Not all holy wayfaring men could make it though… Sadness… Sorrow…

  3. 4 out of 5

    Teresa

    4.5 stars While the dullness of administrative army life is inevitable, here it is not written as such, at least not lengthily, and through much of this installment I was speeding along with everything that happens. Irony abounds: the worst happens to these characters while the narrator, Nick, is on leave; he hears of other deaths quite a while after they happen and his informants are surprised to find that he did not know already. When Nick first meets Pennistone (one of several new characters i 4.5 stars While the dullness of administrative army life is inevitable, here it is not written as such, at least not lengthily, and through much of this installment I was speeding along with everything that happens. Irony abounds: the worst happens to these characters while the narrator, Nick, is on leave; he hears of other deaths quite a while after they happen and his informants are surprised to find that he did not know already. When Nick first meets Pennistone (one of several new characters in this movement), Pennistone predicting their meeting up again being a matter of "will" seems to be Powell mocking Nick’s numerous re-encounters with other acquaintances. In the last volume, Powell seems to address head-on the comparison of his work to À la recherche du temps perdu. In a lengthy pastiche containing a couple of ridiculously long Proustian sentences, Powell seems to purposely contrast his own style with Proust’s. Read on a bit more, though, and you will find him paying obvious and direct homage to Proust. Our narrator remains distant, never revealing much of himself, but by the end both more of a narratorial distance and less of a one has occurred: near the end Powell employs a number of times phrases such as "one feels", etc. in places where any other writer would use "I feel", etc. Perhaps the need for one to assert his distance had become imperative, due to an earlier paragraph detailing how and why Nick dislikes one of the re-encountered characters so immensely: the vitriol was particularly uncharacteristic, though completely justified.

  4. 5 out of 5

    David

    I am still working on the best way to describe A Dance to the Music of Time in a sentence or two and how to persuade someone that they should read a twelve-volume epic about a posh English guy's really rather unremarkable life. Nick Jenkins, our stalwart protagonist, is now in his thirties as World War II breaks out, and rest assured, he will not be storming the beaches at Normandy, interned in a POW camp, or even working in secret outfits, though many of his associates and even childhood friend I am still working on the best way to describe A Dance to the Music of Time in a sentence or two and how to persuade someone that they should read a twelve-volume epic about a posh English guy's really rather unremarkable life. Nick Jenkins, our stalwart protagonist, is now in his thirties as World War II breaks out, and rest assured, he will not be storming the beaches at Normandy, interned in a POW camp, or even working in secret outfits, though many of his associates and even childhood friends will be doing all those things. Instead, he will do what he has been doing throughout this series: quietly observing events around him with his own presence subtly understated. He has a marvelous gift for being the hero of his own story in his own mind just like anyone else, without appearing to be for the reader. The Third Movement contains the books The Valley of Bones, The Soldier's Art, and The Military Philosophers, and together they cover the entire span of World War II. I wouldn't recommend starting the series here; seriously, you should start from the beginning because you can't possibly absorb the immaculate, immersive detail of Powell's writing unless you've been following along with Nick Jenkins and his huge and growing dance card of secondary characters since his public school days. All the same, although the soldier might abnegate thought and action, it has never been suggested that he should abnegate grumbling. There seemed no reason why I alone, throughout the armies of the world, should not be allowed to feel that military life owed me more stimulating duties, higher rank, increased pay, simply because the means to such ends was by no means clear. At the beginning of this volume, Nick has just managed to obtain a second lieutenant's billet. He's kind of old for a subaltern, so he's stuck with a bunch of other older civilian retreads in a unit that gets shipped off to garrison duty in Ireland to do not much of anything. That is the dominant tone of The Valley of Bones; Nick is bored and unfulfilled, far from home but not actually anywhere near anything interesting. Everyone is waiting for the war to start. Yet the Third Movement packs more drama than any of the previous ones, because war does break out and things do happen. Big things. Maybe not in Nick's immediate proximity; he describes the Blitz, even as V2 rockets are literally falling around him, in the same wry, unhurried voice he used to describe the debutante balls he attended as a young bachelor. But as with all the previous books, you have to sit back and really think about what you've just been told. Epic fantasy authors get cheap accolades for killing off important characters over the course of their long, rambling series. In The Soldier's Art and The Military Philosophers, Anthony Powell kills off several characters who've been moving in and out of Nick Jenkins' life since volume one, characters that I fully expected to last to the end of the series. And it all happens offstage, coming to Nick as news from abroad, delivered with mechanical indifference in the middle of a war. As with his love affairs and his marriage and his wife's miscarriage and the marriages, divorces, deaths, even suicides of friends in the first two volumes, Jenkins does not reveal any great depth of emotion as he narrates his life story. We are left to infer, by his words alone, by the course his thoughts take, that he really is as flesh and blood as the characters he comments on (in Powell's authorial voice) so eloquently. When people really hate one another, the tension within them can sometimes make itself felt throughout a room, like atmospheric waves, first hot, then cold, wafted backwards and forwards as if in an invisible process of air conditioning, creating a pervasive physical disturbance. Buster Foxe and Dicky Umfraville, between them, brought about that state. Their really overpowering mutual detestation dominated for a moment all other local agitations. I am really starting to love this saga, even though I've been reading it veeeeeery sloooowly because there are pages and pages and chapters where nothing happens, and yet you don't want to skip any of those pages because the writing is so good. It is Powell's prose that draws you in, slowly, gradually. It is the rich tapestry of lives and events that he weaves, telling dozens of little stories on every page. Oh, here's Sunny Farebrother again, whom we haven't seen since the second book and whom Nick hasn't seen in twenty years, popping up as a commanding officer. And here's Nick's childhood friend, being shipped off to the Far East with spectacularly poor timing. Many old friends resurface, not least of which is Kenneth Widmerpool, whose rise to power seems unstoppable. Widmerpool is the closest thing this series has to a "villain," yet even when Jenkins has had entirely too much of him, he still seems to view his old school chum with a mixture of fascination, distaste, nostalgic fondness, and disgusted awe. Nick spends most of The Soldier's Art slaving away as Widmerpool's flunky, only to be discarded, thrown under a bus, without a second thought because of Widmerpool's almost psychopathic indifference to anyone who isn't immediately of service to him. Yet Nick is still cordial with Widmerpool when they meet again toward the end of the war. I said this series doesn't really have a villain, but Powell introduces one hell of a femme fatale at the end of the Third Movement: Pamela Flitton. Flitton is a tempestuous, voracious succubus who works her way through most of the British army and half the foreign troops with the anger of an avenging Lilith. That her wrath for the male species and her delight in bringing ruin is never really explained just makes her that much more of a scary, beautiful enigma. She is the niece of Nick's old friend Charles Stringham, which makes him uninterested in her charms, which makes him about the only man she approaches with even a modicum of sociability, and so as with all the other dangerous and formidable characters he meets, he is able to observe this sexual force of nature at work without quite being directly involved. Although a minor scene, one of my favorites was the return of the card and tea leaf-reading Mrs Erdleigh from The Acceptance World, who has the steel ovaries to insist on reading Pamela Flitton's palm. The meeting of these two dames is nothing more than a quiet conversation in a darkened building during a Blitz raid, but it has the feel of two samurai staring each other down across a bridge, like in those stories where one turns aside without either ever drawing his sword. Pamela held out her palm. She was perhaps, in fact, more satisfied than the reverse at finding opposition to her objections overruled. It was likely she would derive at least some gratification in the anodyne process. However farouche, she could scarcely be so entirely indifferent from the rest of the world. On the other hand, some instinct may have warned her against Mrs Erdleigh, capable of operating at as disturbing a level as herself. Mrs Erdleigh examined the lines. So, how else could the Third Movement end but with Nick mustering out of the army at war's end, reflecting on all the old friends who are gone, and (view spoiler)[Pamela marrying Kenneth Widmerpool (hide spoiler)] ? I'm going to take a break and read a few other books, then finish up this series with the Fourth Movement.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    This is a very strong 4 rating, with episodes that were higher. Some of the war minutiae occasionally seemed excessive but then Powell again would steer me to a place I hadn't expected, an insight well earned. full review to come...

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    The more I listen to these books the more I admire Powell's wonderful prose and the control he exerts over his ever-increasing cast of characters. They come together, they part, they come together again in the dance that gives its name to the series. The Third Movement - novels seven to nine of the series - covers WWII. It commences with the narrator Nick Jenkins' enlistment in the army and ends six years later with his demobilisation. However, although the war forms the background to the narrati The more I listen to these books the more I admire Powell's wonderful prose and the control he exerts over his ever-increasing cast of characters. They come together, they part, they come together again in the dance that gives its name to the series. The Third Movement - novels seven to nine of the series - covers WWII. It commences with the narrator Nick Jenkins' enlistment in the army and ends six years later with his demobilisation. However, although the war forms the background to the narrative, these are not typical war novels. There are scenes set during the Blitz but, generally speaking, the fighting happens off stage. Much of the emphasis is, as in the other novels, on the navigation of relationships between friends and family, between colleagues, between those who operate in political and social institutions. My favourite scene is the detailed and evocative description of the Thanksgiving service at St Paul's Cathedral at the end of the war, in which Nick Jenkins plays a part. Some footage of the Royal family's arrival at that event can be seen here. I'm saving up the Fourth Movement for a little while. But not for too long. I really want to get back to seeing the world through Nick's eyes.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Manny

    Greatest novel in the English language, part 3. This is perhaps the movemement I most often think about, but they are all so good.

  8. 5 out of 5

    David M

    After a good 2,000 pages our hero Nick Jenkins shows himself capable of human emotion and actually cries. Reading Proust during the blitz, it seems to occur to him the soul has unspeakable depths one might even try and plumb. One might, but as for himself, no thanks, not so much. Personally found the war more interesting as anticipated in volume 2 than as lived through in volume 3. Given the enormity of historical events and Nick's extremely modest role, this probably can't be helped. Nick's rel After a good 2,000 pages our hero Nick Jenkins shows himself capable of human emotion and actually cries. Reading Proust during the blitz, it seems to occur to him the soul has unspeakable depths one might even try and plumb. One might, but as for himself, no thanks, not so much. Personally found the war more interesting as anticipated in volume 2 than as lived through in volume 3. Given the enormity of historical events and Nick's extremely modest role, this probably can't be helped. Nick's relationship with Widmerpool really is pretty extraordinary. Nick is just the type of person to remain lifelong "friends" with someone he never particularly liked in the first place. Out of good manners or just inertia. Now that he's lost two genuine friends from boyhood, this obnoxious, slightly sinister buffoon also takes on a poignant aspect.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Alisa

    This one was a struggle. War from beginning to end...which I guess isn't supposed to be a whole lot of fun. I don't know if it was a deliberate manifestation or the effect of advancing history (Powell wrote the sequence from 1951-1975), but I detected definite shades of Yossarian in these pages. Different dialect, different arena, same outlook. The most affecting character in this section is Charles Stringham, former schoolfriend, former drunk cured of alcoholism by "Tuffy" his former governess ( This one was a struggle. War from beginning to end...which I guess isn't supposed to be a whole lot of fun. I don't know if it was a deliberate manifestation or the effect of advancing history (Powell wrote the sequence from 1951-1975), but I detected definite shades of Yossarian in these pages. Different dialect, different arena, same outlook. The most affecting character in this section is Charles Stringham, former schoolfriend, former drunk cured of alcoholism by "Tuffy" his former governess (& current marrier of generals & MI5 headmistress), who winds up an enlisted man waiting tables in F Mess in Northern Ireland, before being sent to Singapore with the Mobile Laundry to die in a Japanese camp. Stringham is sober, but Stringham is a ghost. Childe Stringham to the Dark Tower Came, indeed. I was really looking forward in this volume to meeting Pamela Flitton, which the back copy announced as "one of the most beautiful and dangerous women in modern fiction." Goody! --But I almost missed her halfway through the third book when she appears as a pale and sulky driver outside Nick's liaison headquarters. The best thing about having read approximately 2350 pages of the same characters is the remarkable economy with which events can be accomplished. When Nick goes to the opera and notes that both Pamela Flitton and Widmerpool are in the audience (separate and unacquainted), you are not at all surprised that when next you meet them, they are engaged. You know the characters so well that the briefest mention of them in proximity leads you to believe that their conjunction is inevitable. Likewise, when the handsome South American major who arrives at the end of the war tells Nick that he has been in London before and stayed at the Ritz with his family, "a whole tribe of us," it's immediately clear that he was in the dark crowded group of South Americans dining at the Ritz in the 2nd book. Never named then, never met until now, they were one paragraph of scene setting, and how here they are in book 9, alive and speaking, and married to Nick's first love. But of course, of course! That said, I am definitely taking a break before Volume 4.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Brenda Cregor

    60 pages into the "3rd Movement", and I am c-r-a-w-l-i-n-g along. Perhaps, this book will drag along, as did WAR AND PEACE, until the 200th page. Who knew the beginnings of World War II would be less intriguing than the vapid vacuous social lives of the protagonist's friends and relations, in the first two movements?! The character of soldiers is typically quite fascinating. Ugh. But, I am committed! Halfway through the series, I am not quitting. And this...THIS...is the reason I do not like to read 60 pages into the "3rd Movement", and I am c-r-a-w-l-i-n-g along. Perhaps, this book will drag along, as did WAR AND PEACE, until the 200th page. Who knew the beginnings of World War II would be less intriguing than the vapid vacuous social lives of the protagonist's friends and relations, in the first two movements?! The character of soldiers is typically quite fascinating. Ugh. But, I am committed! Halfway through the series, I am not quitting. And this...THIS...is the reason I do not like to read a series. You get hooked in, and then can ultimately be dragged on, bored and unfulfilled, literarily speaking, until the bitter end, for some bizarre inexplicable fidelity to the characters. Or is it just the need of many book lovers to "finish" for finishing's sake? ******************************************************************** May 25, 1012 Take heart, dear self, Stringham, the lovable insightful, paradoxically misguided, alcoholic is back! He's the best thing that has happened in 260 pages! Maybe there is hope for this 3rd installation, yet. ...Right? ******************************************************************** And now, Moreland, the morose musician is back! ******************************************************************** Our eldest son had an expression for life experiences and situations which were just so-so: "Meh." Meh. Anthony Powell will always receive kudos from my heart and soul for his sound prose, but this movement was less than enthralling. One critic compared Powell's Pamela Flitton with Cathy from Steinbeck's EAST OF EDEN. Wrong. Though Flitton is whorish and boorish, she does not have the intellect to be compared to Cathy. Cathy was sexually perverse and devious. There was a clear brilliance in her sadistic choices and schemes. Flitton is merely twisted, rather "flat" as a character, in my mind: a whore does not a Cathy make. What lesson can one take from this book? War is instigated and sustained by individual egos. Clearly, Powell was not only an ardent student of books, music, art, and architecture; he was fascinated and well-versed in psychology and human behavior. This is evident as he authenticates his suppositions, regarding character actions, by citing behavioral and social patterns of human beings and making plausible psychological conclusions. Kenneth Widmerpool, a major character, since the beginning of this series, is turning out to be an intriguing study of how a nobody, loser, heartless human being can rise in power and social stature, merely through utilizing average intelligence, supernatural will power, acute social-ladder-climbing, and extreme work ethic. That is quite disturbing, and I see evidence of this same type of personality all over the media, today. One thing I must give Powell praise for, he does not write fairytales. He killed off major characters without care. Or...the war did. Another lesson from this book, the senselessness of war and the random strikes of death it imposes, answering individuals' questions for Fate, before they can even be uttered.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rick

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The Third Movement of A Dance to the Music of Time is the strongest and most engaging and accomplished movement of the four, covering the years of the Second World War. I know this because I’ve also finished the Fourth Movement, the least of the four, before I managed to write this review. Of the four youths we meet at the start of this twelve novel cycle, only two are alive at the end of this movement. Widmerpool continues to rise through his mastery of logistics, bureaucratic logic, and his do The Third Movement of A Dance to the Music of Time is the strongest and most engaging and accomplished movement of the four, covering the years of the Second World War. I know this because I’ve also finished the Fourth Movement, the least of the four, before I managed to write this review. Of the four youths we meet at the start of this twelve novel cycle, only two are alive at the end of this movement. Widmerpool continues to rise through his mastery of logistics, bureaucratic logic, and his dogged pursuit of service to power—his gift is to make himself useful to those who would otherwise scorn him, and Nicholas continues to sit mainly outside much of what is narrated here, though his engagement in the war as a political officer working with émigré forces in London is the least passive we will see him. Pamela Flitton, Charles Stringham’s niece, makes her appearance here and will dominate plot strands for much of the third and fourth movements. What makes the Third Movement so successful is that the balance between the social satire and the seriousness of war is maintained. Nicholas has more gravitas, Stringham and Templer are touched and their fates shaped by forces more profound than selfishness. The three novels herein (The Valley of Bones, The Soldier’s Art, and The Military Philosophers) are each very satisfying entertainments and effective and more shadowed social satire than their counterparts in the other movements. The satire is never as harshly funny and bitter as Catch-22 and certain actions of characters that have devastating consequences are not fully developed but I suspect that is because war claims her myriad victims regardless and there is only vanity in thinking that your friend should have survived through different decisions when it just means someone else would have died in their stead. Nicholas, as noted, remains aloof, watching, and his wife a character more off-stage than on, a source of comfort but not reflection for her husband. You wonder why things don’t touch Nicholas more but you are well aware they don’t and won’t. He insists on doing his bit and can’t bring himself to continue to write his novels while the war is on but neither response is explored. It doesn’t seem to be as much about personal motivation as simply the product of manners. He continues to be an attentive observer but something of a cipher. The pleasure and reward comes from the behaviors, ambitions, frustrations, tragedy and losses endured by the myriad characters, noble and ignoble, in this well-populated cycle. Larger forces of class, wealth, and privilege are nicked and bent but remain very recognizable. Some bad things happen to individuals; others benefit, and generational shifts in roles occur with new players emerging based on circumstance (film creates opportunities; war creates many more). You come away from this third movement feeling like you have read an epic version of one of those random There Will Always Be an England notices that periodically appear at the bottom of columns in The New Yorker. It’s baffling but impressive; ridiculous but heroic.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Gary Lee

    Novels 7-9 of Powell's overall twelve The Valley of Bones -- 3/5 It took me some time to get into reading this one. Partly due to it being a war novel, and my dislike of/disinterest in war novels. And partly due to a near-complete reboot of characters. After six novels of getting to know all of the characters of Jenkins' aristocratic world, Powell replaces all of them with the new characters of Jenkins' military career. As I said, it took some time to get used to these new characters and to care abo Novels 7-9 of Powell's overall twelve The Valley of Bones -- 3/5 It took me some time to get into reading this one. Partly due to it being a war novel, and my dislike of/disinterest in war novels. And partly due to a near-complete reboot of characters. After six novels of getting to know all of the characters of Jenkins' aristocratic world, Powell replaces all of them with the new characters of Jenkins' military career. As I said, it took some time to get used to these new characters and to care about them in any way; but in true Powell fashion, nearly every character is memorable and by the end of the novel, the reader is left wanting to know more about them all. The Soldier's Art -- 3/5 Good. God. Damn. I finally made it through this one. Much like the last novel, this one was a chore for me to get through. I don't care about military history, and as such I really don't care about British military history. I don't know what 'DAAG's and 'DAPM's are, I don't know what 'A & Q' is, I don't know exactly what the Mobile Laundry is or why it's the spot to send all the rejects -- and I don't fucking care that I don't know it. But, in order to move through the story, I had to drag myself along through 150pgs of it all. It's part of the overall narrative, and part of the development of Jenkins as a character, but it's nowhere near as engaging as the first six novels. However, the middle 80pgs (roughly) of the novel are. When Jenkins returns to London, on leave, some of the old characters are seen again, and it's like welcoming back old friends. Friends who are far more lively than the military lot. But, that's all over soon enough, and we're plunged back into the Divisions. Oh well... The Military Philosophers -- 3/5 Yet another war novel, but thankfully Jenkins has been removed from the cavalry and placed (slightly) behind the scenes. Instead of infantry training and field maneuvers, he's now serving as go-between to the Polish army, and later to the Belgians. Stringham and Templer don't make it through this one, but Stringham's niece -- Pamela -- pops up to take one of the empty spaces. As with the other two novels in this 'trilogy', the parts dealing with the war were a struggle; while the sections where Jenkins was back in London, amongst the life he left behind when he joined the military, were the definite highpoints.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mikela

    A Dance to the Music of Time: 3rd Movement includes these three novels: The Valley of Bones The Soldier's Art The Military Philosophers   The Valley of Bones heralds the beginning of the war and Jenkins' life in the military. We find Jenkins, a thirty something year old second-lieutenant in an infantry regiment trying to now adapt to the new rules and regulations  which now constitute his life in the military. We are also given more information about the life of Widmerpool who has managed to get p A Dance to the Music of Time: 3rd Movement includes these three novels: The Valley of Bones The Soldier's Art The Military Philosophers   The Valley of Bones heralds the beginning of the war and Jenkins' life in the military. We find Jenkins, a thirty something year old second-lieutenant in an infantry regiment trying to now adapt to the new rules and regulations  which now constitute his life in the military. We are also given more information about the life of Widmerpool who has managed to get promoted to the Divisional Headquarters. Brief appearances of some of the earlier characters make their way into this book but it is the introduction of a host of new characters who give a glimpse of the people caught up in the struggle for preparation for war. The Soldier's Art. Jenkins is now firmly entrenched in the military life with Widmerpool as his direct superior. The characteristics shown previously are now fully on display and making life interesting to say the least. A brief appearance by one of my favorite characters, Charles Stringham, is made in a very unexpected role. A few of Jenkins' old friends, such as Moreland, also make appearances but mostly we are introduced to a new cast of characters to get to know. The Military Philosophers introduced still more characters and takes us through to the end of the war. We have seen many of the people we were introduced to in earlier books killed, forge new alliances, romances and even a few marriages. The last novel in this book just didn't appeal to me as much as the others did. I really missed the earlier friends, wanted to know how they were getting on and what was new in their lives but sadly barely got a mention of their names during this time period. Conversely, I saw way too much of Widmerpool, my least favorite character. He is that person we all know, the self-centered, arrogant yet competent and extremely ambitious guy that will gladly step on you to get further ahead.  Overall, I am really impressed with the sequence so far. Powell's ability to keep track of the numerous characters each with their own comings and goings is amazing.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I left too long a gap between reading the Second Movement and the Third. I was distracted by other things and then found myself floundering a bit: I'd forgotten who some of the characters from the Second Movement were, and then there was a wealth of new characters as well. That in itself is significant. In tracing the decline of the British Upper Class, Powell in this novel of their war years shows how a rather incestuous collection of people whose social group was entirely predictable is confro I left too long a gap between reading the Second Movement and the Third. I was distracted by other things and then found myself floundering a bit: I'd forgotten who some of the characters from the Second Movement were, and then there was a wealth of new characters as well. That in itself is significant. In tracing the decline of the British Upper Class, Powell in this novel of their war years shows how a rather incestuous collection of people whose social group was entirely predictable is confronted by change. Whereas in the first two movements characters seemed to be recycled, divorcing and marrying each other and cropping up in different contexts, in this movement the war forces them all into contact with a much wider social circle and class mobility shifts. One of the things that struck me as I read was the casual, almost indifferent way in which death is reported by the characters.My parents speak like this of the war: death in the Blitz or on active service was so commonplace and so everyday that everyone had friends and family who had died in the war. It just wasn't possible to sustain an intense grief over and over again. At some point they had to inure themselves to it or else go mad. 'It's chic to be killed', says one of the characters, and while this offhand comment seems distasteful, it's also true: the dead, whether civilian or military, did acquire a kind of heroism that was different to deaths from other causes. We, as readers of a different generation, however, are shocked to read about servicemen committing suicide; about the ghastly deaths of Chips Lovell, Priscilla and Lady Molly in the Blitz; and the deaths of Stringer and Templer. The moment when Pamela shrieks at Widmerpool in rage is cathartic. Every wartime death deserves that kind of unrestrained anger and emotion. The Fourth Movement will show Nick adjusting to civilian life again, I suppose... (And Widmerpool too. What a disagreeable man he has become.)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Yungsheng Wang

    Ah, the vicissitudes of life. In the third movement of A Dance to the Music of Time, Nick Jenkins, a bit too old to fight in World War II, jumps from army post to army post, where he struggles with bureaucracy, politics, and personalities in the sometimes bewildering hierarchy of the British Army. As the main characters as they are, come in and out of interacting with Jenkins: Charles Stringham, emerging from alcoholism to fight in the way he can in the War; Peter Templer, who involves himself w Ah, the vicissitudes of life. In the third movement of A Dance to the Music of Time, Nick Jenkins, a bit too old to fight in World War II, jumps from army post to army post, where he struggles with bureaucracy, politics, and personalities in the sometimes bewildering hierarchy of the British Army. As the main characters as they are, come in and out of interacting with Jenkins: Charles Stringham, emerging from alcoholism to fight in the way he can in the War; Peter Templer, who involves himself with the clandestine operations of internal intrigue; and Widmerpool, everyone's favorite Tracy-Flick-like power-hungry-know-it-all-dork, staunchly rises up the ranks, no matter what the personal costs to his associates and acquaintances. We are also introduced to Pamela Flitton, a great, snarling personality of sarcastic disdain. She is the worst daughter ever, but very entertaining to read. World War II flashes by as the narrative focuses on the personal interactions of the upper class, as chance and circumstance take away lives, while others are introduced. In the end, time progresses, and we are left with only impressions and brief interactions with the people we know and are closest to, with whom, however we try, inevitably slip away from us on the stage of life, where we remain alone, in a absurdly comic world.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ronald Wise

    A well-written story which follows a group of school boys through the two great wars of the 20th century and, for those who survived World War II, their integration into British society following that war. One of their classmates, Widmerpool, seems to pop up everywhere during the narrator's life, and to serve as a topic of humor. Widmerpool, despite his untiring efforts to be a respected member of British society, usually ends up being a type of schmurz. Unfortunately the library did not have a A well-written story which follows a group of school boys through the two great wars of the 20th century and, for those who survived World War II, their integration into British society following that war. One of their classmates, Widmerpool, seems to pop up everywhere during the narrator's life, and to serve as a topic of humor. Widmerpool, despite his untiring efforts to be a respected member of British society, usually ends up being a type of schmurz. Unfortunately the library did not have a complete collection of all four volumes of this series, so I had to read the Little, Brown publication for the first two movements, listen to the first two thirds of the third movement on tape, miss the last third of the third movement, and read the fourth movement from the University of Chicago edition. Actually hearing the third movement on tapes strengthened my visualization of the characters, especially Widmerpool. Of particular interest to me, from a historical perspective, was how effectively the two world wars and technology chipped away at British aristocratic bullshit. I learned of this collection through a tribute to Powell's birthday (12/21/1905) on Writer's Almanac and its inclusion on the Seattle Public Library's reading list "British Classics".

  17. 4 out of 5

    David

    Dance was originally published as 12 novels over a span of about 20 years, but they should properly be viewed as one long novel. Nowadays you often see it published in four volumes, each with three of the original novels. The novels are narrated by Nicholas Jenkins, but Jenkins never reveals much about himself, at least not directly. Instead he focuses on his friends and acquaintances from roughly 1920 to 1970. I'm now pretty close to the age Jenkins was at the end of these novels, and more than e Dance was originally published as 12 novels over a span of about 20 years, but they should properly be viewed as one long novel. Nowadays you often see it published in four volumes, each with three of the original novels. The novels are narrated by Nicholas Jenkins, but Jenkins never reveals much about himself, at least not directly. Instead he focuses on his friends and acquaintances from roughly 1920 to 1970. I'm now pretty close to the age Jenkins was at the end of these novels, and more than ever I'm impressed with how realistic these novels treat a 50-year span. People come and go from Jenkins' life, often with no explanation (except of course that his generation did fight a world war). Close friends grow distant, new friends are made. Some people rise to prominence, others waste their lives in one way or another. It's hard to overstate how strongly these novels gripped me. The people in it, no matter how eccentric or far removed from my own world (and many are very far removed), just seem palpably real, with one exception -- the central character Kenneth Widmerpool -- who's just a little too "novelistic" for me to credit fully. I read these novels about 30 years ago. I intend to reread them in the next few months.

  18. 4 out of 5

    June Louise

    Out of the four "movements", this one was my favourite. Vols 7-9 deal with the war years where Nick (the narrator) is serving with the land forces. Nick meets Gwatkin, Kedward and the strange Bithel during his early army days, before being posted to Northern Ireland. Widmerpool is still in evidence - he seems to almost "stalk" Nick about, and each book is like a "where's Widmerpool" game. The trilogy in the Third Movement follow the antics of Nick and his division - some comic, some strategic. T Out of the four "movements", this one was my favourite. Vols 7-9 deal with the war years where Nick (the narrator) is serving with the land forces. Nick meets Gwatkin, Kedward and the strange Bithel during his early army days, before being posted to Northern Ireland. Widmerpool is still in evidence - he seems to almost "stalk" Nick about, and each book is like a "where's Widmerpool" game. The trilogy in the Third Movement follow the antics of Nick and his division - some comic, some strategic. The nice thing about this book is that, unlike other novels written amid the war years, it doesn't focus on vivid descriptions of army tactics (such as those described in another war novel "War and Peace" by Tolstoy, which made it very boring at times) but actually focusses on the characters themselves. This makes it much more readable and enjoyable. Some characters mentioned in previous "movements" pop up again: Farebrother, Stringham, Templer and his previous love-interest Jean. Before reading this Movement, I would recommend reading the previous two first (there are three novels per Movement - all equally readable).

  19. 4 out of 5

    carl theaker

    Life in the army, as opposed to the war, is the focus. The everydayness of of it all makes it difficult to feel one is doing their part. Much like the Depression the war is subtly in the background. 'The Soldier's Art' examines the politics of 'upper management' as we watch the scheming, workaholic, Widermerpool, Jenkins sometimes friend and sometimes nemesis, manipulate his way through the Army ranks. The effects of war hits closer to home as a few of our friends are killed in bombing raids on London. Life in the army, as opposed to the war, is the focus. The everydayness of of it all makes it difficult to feel one is doing their part. Much like the Depression the war is subtly in the background. 'The Soldier's Art' examines the politics of 'upper management' as we watch the scheming, workaholic, Widermerpool, Jenkins sometimes friend and sometimes nemesis, manipulate his way through the Army ranks. The effects of war hits closer to home as a few of our friends are killed in bombing raids on London. Much like stories about Jenkins wife, deaths are not reported with much emotion or sentimentality. 'The Military Philosphers' covers to the end of the war. Jenkins hasn't done too badly in rank and Widmerpool has achieved a prestigious position. Though we find out he may have indirectly sent one of the crew to his doom in the Far East and more maliciously had another abandoned behind enemy lines in the Mid East. Pamela Flitton makes quite an appearance, distant relative of Jenkins', A beauty, heartbreaker, slut and perhaps the female version of Widmerpool, to whom she marries, much to the shock of everyone.

  20. 4 out of 5

    BiblioPhil

    War deepens the story, perhaps at its best when it touches, sometimes tragically, the lives of those we've come to love. The style's so beautiful it can spoil others by comparison. Enter Pamela.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Carey Combe

    My favourite three books of the series. Widmerpool at his finest bullying best, Jenkins getting more and more boring and the only interesting female character in the book, Pamela Flitton.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Michael Battaglia

    There's an interesting moment in the third novel of this particular segment of Powell's series where our fearless narrator, Nick Jenkins, not only extensively quotes from Proust but winds up visiting the seaside villa where Proust's narrator experiences quite a few knotted clauses. Given how often the series is compared to Proust's magnum opus, it's either a sign of Powell having some fun with all the people who saw it as Proust clone, or his way of differentiating it from that other massive nov There's an interesting moment in the third novel of this particular segment of Powell's series where our fearless narrator, Nick Jenkins, not only extensively quotes from Proust but winds up visiting the seaside villa where Proust's narrator experiences quite a few knotted clauses. Given how often the series is compared to Proust's magnum opus, it's either a sign of Powell having some fun with all the people who saw it as Proust clone, or his way of differentiating it from that other massive novel, putting the two prose styles against each other as if to say, "See, we're nothing alike." It's an odd meta moment in a series that has been more or less realistic, if not a bit comically so. Jenkins may have this odd knack of running into random friends in the most random places ("Here I am in some obscure French villa but . . . hey, I think I met that guy at a party one time!") but this series is grounded more in a darkly sardonic sense of the absurd. It's gentle mockery of a thing that I've probably never experienced, but fairly constant all the same. This book pretty much comprises a mini-series of sorts within the series itself, as Jenkins finds himself embroiled in the war effort, much like every other British citizen over the age of two. To end that he winds up not on the front lines, which would probably have made this series at least four books shorter given the casualty rates in Europe, but basically on the homefront navigating the bizarre bureaucratic nightmare known as the military, where people seem to spend all their time scrambling around to get a whole lot of nothing done while convincing themselves everything is totally vital, once in a while reminding each other that people are off getting shot at somewhere. People who complained that the first six books in the series weren't so heavy on plot aren't going to be much more thrilled here, as all semblance of anything resembling a plot becomes almost jettisoned entirely, instead focusing on a variety of scenes from within the war effort, as Jenkins observes what changes war does to a person, dealing with both superiors and junior officers. However, to me at least the first two books here are some of the best in the series thus far, as the war seems to be focus Powell's eye for observation to new degrees of sharpness, as well as allowing him to find a new balance between the comic and the tragic. Rest assured, this isn't the despairingly black humor of "Catch-22" but more of a sense that everyone is trapped inside this big machine called The War and everyone is doing their tiny, tiny part that they're told is supposed to add up to victory even though all the news coming from the continent is telling them the exact opposite. So they just shrug and plod on because what else can you do, really? The fact that Powell makes this at all amusing is probably a testament to his skill at constructing characters and placing them in scenes that are comic without being overwhelmingly slapstick. This is probably best illustrated by maybe the best moment in the entire series: Blackhead. An obscure civil servant who somehow manages to control the flow of pretty much everything with his stamp and a book of regulations, Jenkins gets exactly one scene with him that nails everything you need to know about the British military circa-1942, coming across as both terrifying realistic in its mundanity and hilarious in how true to life it rings. We've all experienced a guy like this, mostly at the DMV, and the fact this guy who is in the book for probably less than twenty pages and I can only imagine as a surprising Philip Seymour Hoffman cameo in the movie version of this (in some alternate universe where he was still alive) is probably the most memorable thing about all three books shows how well Powell can sketch his scenes so meticulously. Consider that I'm rating Blackhead this against such things as surprise suicides and at least two buildings being blown up with characters we know and it's high praise indeed. Fortunately, he's in the last book here ("The Military Philosophers") so things don't peak too early. Unfortunately, he's in the beginning of that book so the rest of that novel winds up being all downhill from there, especially as Powell's careful precision starts to overwhelm him with a parade of characters and scenes that don't stick as well as the characters we met in the books before this. If anyone was to complain about the war books not being as good as the previous six, this would the one I'd agree with them on, as even the presence of the awe-inspiring tower of willpower that is Widmerpool can only do so much. He elevates every scene he's in, to the point where you don't even care that the rest of the Core Four characters we started out with barely appear anymore. A lot of this culminates in the book's second most memorable scene, as various characters come and go while everyone waits outside during a German rocket raid, showcasing the absurdity of life going on as normal even as death is raining down from the skies and could hit you at any moment. But by the time Jenkins gets out of the military and into regular clothes, we're about ready to leave the war as well. It's also gives Pamela Flitton more time to shine but while critics seem to praise her as a "beautiful and dangerous" presence, for the most part she's memorable because she's unrelentingly mean to everyone. Still, it's telling that the first book in this set "Valley of Bones", is so strong that it can hold off on the obligatory Widmerpool appearance until almost the very end and you don't even especially notice. The characters are stronger this time out, as Jenkins has to deal with an entire unit of bankers who have suddenly become soldiers, and navigate the internal politics where the best he can say about the people around him is that one is incompetent and the other is a drunk. This one definitely feels more episodic than the previous novels and as a result comes across as more even . . . there's a lot here going on that's entertaining as all heck but it lacks the undercurrent of dramatic heft that would underscore the best moments of the next two books (the best scene is probably someone falling in love with a barmaid, which just like in real life, ends poorly) and it's mostly a series of very dry, very witty observations on what it's like to be in the sanest part of a madhouse and realize these are the people who are going to save you from tyranny. Stiff upper lip, indeed. "The Soldier's Art" pretty much takes what was decent about the previous novel and ups the ante by adding the two things it was missing: more Widmerpool and a massive body count. It continues the plotless trend already started but gives us more frustrated bureaucracy to chew on, as Widmerpool pretty much heaves himself through the military ranks based on sheer naked ambition (with Jenkins forced to work under him) and winds up sparring with the men in other departments, most of whom don't like him but have to admire the singleminded of his trajectory. Meanwhile Powell starts to whittle down the supporting cast, almost mocking the series' tendency toward bald coincidence by having people Jenkins knows get caught in a rocket blast, not once but twice and fairly close together to boot. It's still a startling moment and a good depiction of what the war was like for people on the homefront. Sure, you didn't have to worry about a tank rolling over you but at any moment you could be minding your own business and then discover you had a front row seat to a bomb explosion. It adds an edge to the series that was lacking previously, an air of menace that all the genteel hanging out at parties or offices couldn't quite manage. Suddenly life isn't just a thing you drift through, gradually getting older and meeting all the people you knew in high school over and over again, but something you have to actively work to keep going, and even then the whims of fate could make it all for naught. Add into all this an appearance by one of the increasingly rare Core Four (the idea that the series was going to follow these four young men throughout the century seems to be abandoned once and for all in this volume, if that was ever really a plan) and you can understand why people feel the series is all downhill from here. That's not completely true but it doesn't seem to ever achieve these peaks again. Much like the rest of England, the war forces the books into a kind of hyper-focus, automatically elevating the mundane into something fascinating and making the quest to file the right paperwork every day a struggle for survival, where every stamp you put down on a requisition for underwear means you made through another day and if God and Queen prevail, and as long as people complain that they don't have enough crummy towels, you can exult in the majesty of life and lay your head down on the pillow each night satisfied that you have done your part. It's war through the eyes of the office clerk and as its a perspective we so rarely see, it's worth it just for that glimpse.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    I read this volume over such an extended period of time I actually don't recall much of what came in books 7 and 8, but I did enjoy them and continued to appreciate Powell's characters and humor. The 9th book, however, was difficult to get through and a big reason why it took me so long to get through this Movement. I did not have much issue with the army adventures in the first two books, but in this one it seems like Powell really dives into the nuts and bolts of the administrative end of the I read this volume over such an extended period of time I actually don't recall much of what came in books 7 and 8, but I did enjoy them and continued to appreciate Powell's characters and humor. The 9th book, however, was difficult to get through and a big reason why it took me so long to get through this Movement. I did not have much issue with the army adventures in the first two books, but in this one it seems like Powell really dives into the nuts and bolts of the administrative end of the British military, and what I'm sure is some very witty deconstruction of the insanity of desk work and rank interaction, it just gets a bit lost on me, since I know and care very little of the specifics of the military of that era. Still a great series and I'm hoping to have time in my life to read it again. On to Movement Four!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Glen Engel-Cox

    The third season into Powell's "A Dance to the Music of Time" series, and I finally feel that I'm understanding what's going on. Powell's series is very British, and early on I missed a lot of action because it was hidden amongst the understatements and other polite forms of communication. I read this group of three much more closely, and I feel that I got much more out of it. "Autumn" (as my three in one volume calls this group of three) is the World War II years for Jenkins and his life comrad The third season into Powell's "A Dance to the Music of Time" series, and I finally feel that I'm understanding what's going on. Powell's series is very British, and early on I missed a lot of action because it was hidden amongst the understatements and other polite forms of communication. I read this group of three much more closely, and I feel that I got much more out of it. "Autumn" (as my three in one volume calls this group of three) is the World War II years for Jenkins and his life comrades, although in the first volume, The Valley of Bones, we don't get to see too many of his schoolmates until the very end. Jenkins, who waited too long to join the British army and slightly too old for the rank and file, is assigned to a Welsh regiment made up mostly of the men of one small town. The lieutenant is an ex-bank clerk with delusions of grandeur, who is frustrated by the abilities of the men assigned to him as well as his own ambition. In some ways, this lieutenant resembles Widmerpool; both men are driven by their desire for acceptance by society. Jenkins, the bobbing buoy in the storm of all this ambition, seems almost goal-less. Even his previous occupation as a writer seems worthless in the light of war, and he flounders, searching for a place to fit in and make something of himself. The Welsh regiment is not it, and at the end of The Valley of Bones, Jenkins finds himself becoming an aide de camp of Widmerpool, who has become the Q&A (roughly, the military police) of a division. At the end of the book, this prospect seems quite despairing to Jenkins, although he is resigned to his fate, which could be worse, he surmises, but not much. We learn much more about Widmerpool and his ambition in The Soldier's Art. Jenkins, acting as his lackey, gets first hand knowledge of both Widmerpool's strengths (hard-working, detailed, thorough) as well as his weaknesses (vain, petty, unscrupulous). One of the strongest scenes yet in the series is a segment herein where Jenkins attempts to help Stringham, who has recovered from his alcoholism, but only managed to achieve a position as a waiter in the Army. Jenkins wants Widmerpool to find Stringham a better position, but Widmerpool at first will have none of it. Widmerpool feels that a man must achieve his own positions, without any string-pulling from his friends. Of course, this is totally hypocritical--he is quite willing to let people pull strings to help his fortunes, and is willing to manipulate the course of actions if they are beneficial to himself (such as having Jenkins assigned to him). Jenkins goes on R&R, and when he returns, he finds that Stringham's been reassigned to the laundry on Widmerpool's suggestion. Thinking Widmerpool has turned a new leaf, he thanks him, then learns that the laundry is due to be shipped out to a nasty portion of the war. The strength of this series by Powell is that all the action above takes place in amongst three of four other developing storylines, including a rivalry between Widmerpool and a office at the same rank, a chance for Jenkins to get out from under Widmerpool's office, and the ongoing blitz of London. Keeping it all straight is difficult at times. Of the books in the series, this is probably my favorite or next favorite so far. The "Autumn" trilogy ends with The Military Philosophers. Jenkins and Widmerpool separate, each into different parts of the military governance--Widmerpool into intelligence, Jenkins into foreign liaisons. Now that he's back in the city, Jenkins is reunited with his wife and many of the parts of society that being assigned to a country regiment had denied him. Even though the war goes on, and some of Jenkins' in-laws are killed by German bombing raids, the book is concerned as much with the love affairs of the characters as the affairs of the war. Most prominently, Templar's sister, Pamela Flitton, is introduced herein, and the information regarding her dealings with characters that we have met in the preceding eight volumes provides much of the plot. In fact, at one point, where Jenkins is grilling another character regarding Pamela, the character says, "Why do I need to tell you this? Are you from MI5?" because Jenkins, and the reader, has already tied much of what has happened together through the grapevine of other friends and relatives. I don't think of "The Dance" as a gossip novel, but in many ways, that is how it seems. Action often takes a back seat to the machinations of talk, and the most interesting bits are the surprises that spring from how characters do not relate to one another as seen through Jenkins' eyes. Things do happen--bombs burst, sugar gets poured over heads, intercourse happens--but they become stronger by how they are perceived by the characters than their actual effect. I'm looking forward to the next few books, anticipating Widmerpool's fall from grace and some truth and reconciliation that ties up a lot of what has gone before.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Abigail

    Spiffingly delightful, from start to finish.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    This third "movement" of Anthony Powell's long sequence A Dance to the Music of Time covers narrator Nicholas Jenkins' service in World War II, going from early 1940 at the beginning of THE VALLEY OF BONES to late summer 1945 in THE MILITARY PHILOSOPHERS. Soon after the war begins, Nicholas Jenkins is assigned as a subaltern in a Welsh infantry unit, which is immediately posted to Northern Ireland. The Dance perennially exhibits to the reader comical and grotesque personalities, and anyone who ha This third "movement" of Anthony Powell's long sequence A Dance to the Music of Time covers narrator Nicholas Jenkins' service in World War II, going from early 1940 at the beginning of THE VALLEY OF BONES to late summer 1945 in THE MILITARY PHILOSOPHERS. Soon after the war begins, Nicholas Jenkins is assigned as a subaltern in a Welsh infantry unit, which is immediately posted to Northern Ireland. The Dance perennially exhibits to the reader comical and grotesque personalities, and anyone who has ever done military service knows that nowhere else do you meet such a variety of odd people in such a short time. Thus we meet Gwatkin, a banker who sees being called up as a path to glory; Bithel the officer and Sayce the private who someone persist in the army in spite of poor turnout and criminal incompetency; Gittins who mans the company store as if it were the world's most valuable treasure, and many more. Indeed, so absorbing are these new figures that the usual cast of characters sit out most of the novel, visited only in one portion where Jenkins is on leave. Widmerpool appears at the close of the novel, again performing his role as the antagonist of the series. In spite of some tragedies -- many characters we have followed to date are to perish in the War -- this is one of the most uproariously funny volumes so far. The mysterious commander of their division is ultimately revealed to be a eccentric old man obsessed with eating a proper breakfast. Incidental matters of military routine descend into farce. And then there is an apocryphal quotation from Lord Byron that, like the earlier parody of Pepys, shows Powell's keen familiarity with the English canon. THE SOLDIER'S ART opens several months later, as Jenkins is now working in Division headquarters. No longer, however, is the war a distant rumour. The narrator's companions are sent off to battlefields across Europe and Asia, English civilians are suffering daily bombings, and Jenkins himself is tasked with overseeing anti-aircraft batteries. Indeed, characters start dying in earnest. Powell is at his most effective in conveying the tragedy of these deaths when they are mentioned in passing. After a vivid sketch of some character's colourful personality, Powell concludes with the aside like "But then he was killed by a landmine a week before the German surrender." When Powell does depict deaths right "on screen" as it were, he does so in a flat and unconvincing fashion. THE SOLDIER'S ART became for me the least satisfying volume of the Dance because of the middle section where Jenkins sees several people dear to him die on one London night. Things look up again, though, with THE MILITARY PHILOSOPHERS. It opens early 1942 with Nicholas Jenkins working in Whitehall, having left his provincial regiment behind and now acting as liaison with other Allied forces. The social comedy and grotesque personalities that Powell excels at now take place among a motley assortment of Polish, Belgian and Czech officers, as well as some British high-ups. Perhaps the most shocking of these new characters is the sex-crazed Pamela Flitton, more force of nature than human woman, who brings disaster on half of the men in the novel. Though better than the novel immediately before it, THE MILITARY PHILOSOPHERS is somewhat weaker than the best novels of the series in that Powell is too obviously writing from his own wartime experience, but just changing the names, instead of making the necessary abstraction that Art requires. Also, the amount of literary references here is gratuitous. Powell quotes over a full page of Proust, fills up one scene with hymn texts, and has Jenkins make obscure jokes to characters we shouldn't expect to understand them. But even with its weaknesses, the novel turns very memorable in the latter half, once the end of war is on the horizon. There is a poignant reunion with figures we haven't seen since the 1930s, and Jenkins' own emotions make a rare appearance from behind his stoic narrator's mask. Some characters don't survive World War II, but of those who make it through the war, we feel something of a gigantic summing up before the last three books of the series. I like this series very much and look forward to moving on to the final movement.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Marjorie Hakala

    (Review of the full series here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...) This is the volume about World War II, and war exerts a strong influence on the narrative. The humor is a little broader, by the standards of this series--fewer subtle verbal jabs at social gatherings, and more caricatures of superior officers (such as the two colonels named Eric and Derrick). And, as you would expect, the bad things that happen are far more serious. The Soldier's Art brought home to me the reality of the (Review of the full series here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...) This is the volume about World War II, and war exerts a strong influence on the narrative. The humor is a little broader, by the standards of this series--fewer subtle verbal jabs at social gatherings, and more caricatures of superior officers (such as the two colonels named Eric and Derrick). And, as you would expect, the bad things that happen are far more serious. The Soldier's Art brought home to me the reality of the London Blitz in a way nothing had really done before, and just when I had kind of comprehended that, thinking "that was awful," reality came crashing in and said "that is awful, and we're at war now" and I was staggered to realize, even in analogous-historical-fictional terms, the enormity of what I go about ignoring every day. Nick Jenkins, our narrator, being who and what he is, gives us these things--the party hit by a bomb, the character deaths of which we learn in the last sentences of chapters unrelated to those characters--without very much comment from himself. There's a section in The Military Philosophers where he says "I was briefly in tears," and I found it the most poignant bit of fiction I've read for a very long time. Mostly, though, he continues to portray his life by way of the people with whom he surrounds himself, and in this book in particular I get the sense of a personality coping with uncertainty and discomfort and death by finding comfort in the literary and intellectual. That's my reading, anyway, of the title The Military Philosophers. Nick's school friends Stringham and Templer (neither of whom was ever very interesting to me, despite the cover copy's insistence that they are two of the four people this series is about) have largely been pushed aside in favor of composer Hugh Moreland, who grasps with both hands at any chance to talk aesthetics in wartime, and military bureaucrat/amateur philosopher Pennistone: "Pennistone, capable, even brilliant, at explaining philosophic niceties or the minutiae of official dialectic, was entirely unable to present a clear narrative of his own daily life, past or present, so that it was never discoverable how he and Finn had met in Paris in the first instance." Nick himself keeps bunging literature in to conversations that have nothing to do with literature, and it keeps not working: "I was impressed for the ten thousandth time by the fact that literature illuminates life only for those to whom books are a necessity. Books are unconvertible assets, to be passed on only to those who possess them already." Nick's wife says approximately three things over the course of this volume. She seems a rather perceptive sort, though. Scenes of social gatherings at which she is present tend to leave her out, but I like to think that's because the narrative is actually a version of events agreed on jointly by Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins as discussed in the car on the way home. The last scene of The Military Philosophers is an end-of-war service at St. Paul's Cathedral. Nick spends the whole time thinking about the poetry and song lyrics used in the service. I have seldom felt so close to a literary character. He'll be middle-aged or old in the fourth and final volume, so we'll see if that holds.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Derek Davis

    I entered this third of fourth parts of Dance hoping that Powell might pry open the hinge to his narrator, Nick Jenkins', outlook on life. War, after all, brings misery but most of all change. It was disappointing that nothing of the sort unfolds here. The writing is excellent, incisive as always, but the content, especially considering the upheaval of the time, is peculiarly insular and abstracted. The coincidences on which the "dance" must necessarily depend seem more forced, less a natural in I entered this third of fourth parts of Dance hoping that Powell might pry open the hinge to his narrator, Nick Jenkins', outlook on life. War, after all, brings misery but most of all change. It was disappointing that nothing of the sort unfolds here. The writing is excellent, incisive as always, but the content, especially considering the upheaval of the time, is peculiarly insular and abstracted. The coincidences on which the "dance" must necessarily depend seem more forced, less a natural interactive swirl. Jenkins experiences the deaths of his friends and acquaintances, but if they have lasting emotional effect on him, he doesn't (won't?) express it. Much of the time he serves in a military backwater that deals with nothing that impacts directly on the progress of the war itself. We seldom know exactly where he's stationed (on the home grounds of England and (I think) Northern Ireland), what his job entails in practical terms behind a scattershot of unexplained acronyms, and how he feels toward most of it. Hitler and Germany get one or two tangential mentions, but the enemy remains a nebulous something and the outcome of the war hardly a matter for thought. Jenkins' personal life goes on as unexplored as ever. He is married but seems unconcerned with his wife and child, whom he visits on many weekends but almost never discusses. His relations to his former friends drift in and out, his removed observations of his military superiors suggest a vast indifference to most human interaction. What did Powell have in mind here? His presentation of both the war and Jenkins, enveloped in massive indifference, is obviously deliberate, but why? Does it reflect an empty society? Does Jenkins, a published author whose books he never discusses, care about the people he's lost? In the military, by his rise in grade, he shows competence, so something of importance must reside somewhere inside him. I'm likely being too negative and personal in my reactions. Powell constructs superb delineations of character – he must have known not just the types they represent, but the individuals whose quirks he defines, especially in the military. I do miss his sense of humor, far more subdued here. Widmerpool, the bizarre cement of the first two movements, takes on a larger role in his aggressive climb up the military ladder but, to my mind, a lesser presence – he seems less pivotal. But the addition of Pamela Flitton, a vicious, vituperative vamp who sleeps with almost anyone of importance (and many of none), brings in one of Powell's most interesting female characters and leads to a startling development near the end. I look forward to the final "movement," which I hope will allow Jenkins to erupt – or at least squirm – out of his viscous shell.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Tim Cawkwell

    The TLS review of Michael Schmidt’s ‘The Novel: a biography’ (Harvard UP 2014) tells me that in it Schmidt ‘damns’ Evelyn Waugh and Anthony Powell. As it happened, I was in the middle of a ‘compare and contrast’ exercise between volumes 7,8 and 9 of Powell’s ‘Dance to the Music of Time’ (Valley of Bones, The Soldier’s Art, The Military Philosophers) and Waugh’s ‘Sword of Honour’ trilogy (Officers and Gentlemen, Men at Arms, Unconditional Surrender), both trilogies about the British Army in the S The TLS review of Michael Schmidt’s ‘The Novel: a biography’ (Harvard UP 2014) tells me that in it Schmidt ‘damns’ Evelyn Waugh and Anthony Powell. As it happened, I was in the middle of a ‘compare and contrast’ exercise between volumes 7,8 and 9 of Powell’s ‘Dance to the Music of Time’ (Valley of Bones, The Soldier’s Art, The Military Philosophers) and Waugh’s ‘Sword of Honour’ trilogy (Officers and Gentlemen, Men at Arms, Unconditional Surrender), both trilogies about the British Army in the Second World War, both with an autobiographical tone to them, although far from being slavishly so. The Waugh has its moments: the débâcle in Crete, Crouchback as liaison officer with the partisans in Croatia, but when he switches the narrative away from Crouchback the novel loses focus, and while there is nothing false about Crouchback’s Catholicism, there is something false about Waugh making the story of his war service an ‘obituary of the Roman Catholic Church in England as it had existed for many centuries’ (from his Preface) underlying as I think it does his lament for the condition of Britain, an unconditional surrender to secular, egalitarian forces, the end of Britain. No such strictures relate to Powell’s trilogy which captures so well the despair induced by the phoney war of 1939/early 1940, but also the comedy of the army (Waugh does this as well, but I didn’t laugh) and victory achieved on the quiet as it were, by muddle but still victory. And striding through it all is Powell’s magnificent portrait of villainy in the person of Widmerpool, more unlikeable as each volume of the 12-volume sequence unfolds, and more unlikeable still on re-reading of the whole. Amidst the manners, amidst the comedy, amidst the comedy of manners, a dark story unfolds of how Widmerpool sends Stringham and Templer, who at school (along with the narrator, Nick Jenkins) had tormented him, to their deaths in the Far East and the Balkans. A TV adaptation of the books has been made, but I’d like to see a much narrower focussed drama involving these four characters. If I was cleverer I’d write it myself. So – Powell be praised, Waugh be half-praised, and Schmidt be damned. I hope to goodness that he doesn’t represent a commonplace 21st-century view of Powell. If so it would be a gross injustice.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    There were times when, reading this book, I thought I might take off a star from my rating: the world of men at war, in particular men at war far from the field of battle, seemed at first so much less enthralling and scintillating than that of men (and boys) in school, at work, in society, in love. And then I realized that was the point: that the cataclysm of World War II, which basically wrecked the world that was England (and Europe) before 1939, WAS less scintillating, grimmer, more randomly There were times when, reading this book, I thought I might take off a star from my rating: the world of men at war, in particular men at war far from the field of battle, seemed at first so much less enthralling and scintillating than that of men (and boys) in school, at work, in society, in love. And then I realized that was the point: that the cataclysm of World War II, which basically wrecked the world that was England (and Europe) before 1939, WAS less scintillating, grimmer, more randomly and suddenly (but not always dramatically) dangerous. There's a subtler comedy, and tragedy, at work here; the comradeship of Jenkins's fellow soldiers is on a different level than that he's had with the men (and women) he has known socially or through the affinity of shared tastes, but it's no less affecting. And there are wickedly funny little bits. I loved the two stuffed-shirt colonels, one with the first name of Eric, the other with the first name of Derrick, who hate each other, and have a querulous conversation in which they sound like Terrence and Philip wrangling with each other: "You're wide of the mark, Eric. Completely out of the picture." "I am, Derrick?" "Yes, Eric, you certainly are." Finally, there is real sadness at the end, when Jenkins goes to the Thanksgiving Service at St. Paul's and, observing the wrecked and shabby and dirty streets, the battered building itself, says that after six years of war no one feels particularly victorious, just tired. Tallying the losses that have accumulated in the preceding pages, you can only agree. And you realize that in the preceding three volumes Powell has been at work on more than just a complex and absorbing group portrait. With this Third Movement -- a scherzo -- you understand he's telling the story of a whole society and what happens to it as the wheels of the twentieth century grind on.

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