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Dance , in contrast, is basically a comic novel; it's amusing most of the time, in a very dry, understated English way that definitely grows on you as the story progresses and the author builds up more and more possibilities for complex irony based on the past histories of the characters. If you're still thinking of it as basically like Proust, you may have trouble believing me, but I assure you that Powell can cheer you up when you are unhappy.

It's that different.


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Moving on to content, another major difference is that Powell characters inhabit a world that recognizably has some connection to the one most of us inhabit. In Proust, no one has anything as mundane as a job, and people spent most of their time attending fancy parties, agonizing about whether they can arrange to be presented to members of the French nobility, appreciating immortal works of art, and getting laid at houses of ill repute.

I really liked Jessica's comment that SHE wanted to have that kind of life. If only! A lot of Powell's characters are from the English upper classes, but they do mostly end up working for a living, getting married, having children, and doing other things readers will find familiar.

ISBN 13: 9780241143834

You aren't constantly having to apply your internal cultural translator, and figuring out what the thing Proust is talking about might correspond to in your own dull, bourgeois existence. I'm sorry if this review has so far has a defensive tone, but I've been saving the really good stuff for the end. The thing that makes Dance brilliant rather than just very good is the character development, which is simply unequaled in any other novel I have come across. Usually, when the novelist wants the reader to significantly change the way they see a character over the course of the book, he has technical problems because he needs to fit it all into the three to five hundred pages he has at his disposal.

Hence all the tiresome foreshadowing that so often spoils the book, and makes it seem so unlike real life.

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Because Powell is working on such a huge canvas, he can do without all that crap. The first time you meet Stringham, he is so funny, charming and witty that, just like the narrator, you are completely bowled over. He does perhaps seem a bit impulsive and irresponsible, but that is all part of the charm.


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Similarly, Widmerpool first comes over as a complete idiot. In retrospect, one does wonder whether it really was so funny for Stringham to make a prank call that got his teacher arrested, and you also see that the absurdly over-earnest way in which Widmerpool sorts out the quarrel over the tennis match at the French pension pointed towards something. But Powell's touch is so light that I never suspected anything at the time.

The next time you see them, you are just a little surprised that Stringham seems to have become rather thoughtless, but you ascribe that to the exhalted social circles he moves in; and when you see that Widmerpool has landed himself a better job than you expected, you don't really pay much attention to it, particularly after he, once again, manages to cover himself in ridicule by knocking over his employer's flower pots while reversing his car. It's only when you've got many hundreds of pages into the series that it starts coming together.

Stringham is drinking far too much; it's not funny any more, at least not most of the time. Widmerpool, on the other hand, suddenly has acquired some real power, without you quite being able to see how it happened. This is exactly how you experience it in real life. Some of the people you worshiped when you were a teenager have turned out to be hopeless failures; others, whom you laughed at, have somehow become very successful. You can't quite reconcile the two views: some of the time, you accept them at their new value, and some of the time they still seem like morons.

Powell succeeds perfectly in presenting all these contradictions, without ever seeming even to work up a sweat.


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It just flows naturally from the narrative. I probably still haven't managed to convince you to read Dance. But think about it View all 71 comments. Dec 07, Steve rated it really liked it. It finally dawned on me that they must have meant manners in a broader sense — prevailing customs, ways of living — that sort of thing. The setting is England between the wars where stylized manners abound. Plenty is happening, of course. Mutation both within and between classes is de rigueur. The narrator, Nick, is somewhat upper-crusty in a semi-Bohemian way. They all went to the same top school Powell himself was an Eton chap where the patterns were set early.

A whole host of other characters played supporting roles. Each one was described with care and sometimes with a bit of fun. The people come in all varieties: twits, ditzes, toffs and cads among them.

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The writing is lush; teeming with commas and semicolons. Once you tune your ear to it, though, it sounds pretty good. Strike that. Evolution is inevitable, if not revolution. It started with a cross-sectional profile of 7-year-old kids from all different backgrounds called 7 Up. Was their future foretold? How had they changed? View all 41 comments. The twelve volumes of Powell's Dance was really one of the reading highlights of my life. I've written a few words to review Powell's first season of the dance, Spring , more than once.

The earliest version had a personal note in it, something like the reconstruction of it as I now recall, which occa see comment explanation below Have now re-read the first of these three novels A Question of Upbringing , A Buyer's Market , The Acceptance World , on the way hopefully to re-reading the whole series. The earliest version had a personal note in it, something like the reconstruction of it as I now recall, which occasioned Comment 1 below: About ten years ago I was in the process of reorganizing the books in my library.

I ran across the four seasons of Powell's Dance, didn't really know what they were, but just put them in the place they should be and continued on. I think I figured they were just more novels I'd acquired at some point and never read, like many others. After joining Goodreads a few years later, I happened to see Manny's review of Powell's masterpiece.

Not too long after I read "Spring". What impressed me immensely about those first three novels was Powell's idea of bringing out the way in which, as we dance our way through time, we only gradually come to know more and more about friends and acquaintances, often in very curious circumstances - a flash of insight caused by someone's casual remark.

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This struck me as such a beautiful comment on the way people go through life. A bit later, I got curious about how I had got the books. I offhandedly said something about them to my wife, and she said that they were her books , and that she'd read them.

Nicholas Poussin Dance to the Music of Time

I was stunned. Right now, relating this late at night, with her asleep upstairs, I can't ask - and I can't imagine when she would have read twelve novels by Powell. It seemed utterly out of character for her. She was a scientist, hardly ever read books novels for pleasure, read newspapers, scientific journals, but novels???

Twelve by one author? And, I should point out, at that time we'd been married at least forty years, and I'd known her since we were five years old. That was the experience that occasioned comment 1 below. View all 5 comments. Mar 03, Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing. But, in a sense, nothing in life is planned — or everything is — because in the dance every step is ultimately the corollary of the step before; the consequence of being the kind of person one chances to be.

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A Question of Upbringing by Anthony Powell

The summer is ahead and the summertime is a season of ripening fruits… Dec 31, notgettingenough rated it did not like it Shelves: modern-lit , will-be-regretted-on-my-deathbed. And I have only myself to blame. Throats cut, Lebanese men with big knives, Penelope what's her name. I realise this review is in danger of becoming interesting.

Might I calm things down with the information that it is 44C here where I live just now. Too hot to cut throats, wave knives about, or care what nationality your neighbour is. Too hot to sleep. Too hot to do anything but be exceedingly dull on goodreads.