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The fourth novel in Anthony Powell's brilliant twelve-novel sequence, A Dance to the Music of Time The fourth novel in Anthony Powell's brilliant twelve-novel sequence, A Dance to the Music of Time


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The fourth novel in Anthony Powell's brilliant twelve-novel sequence, A Dance to the Music of Time The fourth novel in Anthony Powell's brilliant twelve-novel sequence, A Dance to the Music of Time

30 review for At Lady Molly's

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kalliope

    4 -- AT LADY MOLLY'S The two year’s gap between the 3rd and 4th volume brings us to what seems a different ballroom, with different dancers, and at first I feel as if I had lost my footing. At Lady Molly’s is a different mansion. Eventually though, I realise the music is not really different. Same pace, same harmonies – just some variation in the melodies. Powell’s addictive writing and tune soon draws me into the whirls and swirls and then as some of the dancers from the previous volumes gra 4 -- AT LADY MOLLY'S The two year’s gap between the 3rd and 4th volume brings us to what seems a different ballroom, with different dancers, and at first I feel as if I had lost my footing. At Lady Molly’s is a different mansion. Eventually though, I realise the music is not really different. Same pace, same harmonies – just some variation in the melodies. Powell’s addictive writing and tune soon draws me into the whirls and swirls and then as some of the dancers from the previous volumes gradually stream into this new salon, I regain my balance. Along this fourth volume we can also fell that Jenkins, the narrator, is gradually aging. How Powell manages this--so subtly--baffles me. Because along all these ballrooms there does not seem to be a mirror hung anywhere. No self-reflections. Instead we can only see portraits. And indeed, how punctilious and exacting these portrayals are. Nothing seems to escape the sharp eye, almost surgical, of Jenkins. He is almost like our peek-hole. But he is not. He is part of the action, part of the plot and the memories and recollections are his. And yet, they never reveal much about him. All his attention is directed elsewhere, like that of a meticulous portraitist. But all along the long gallery of portraits there is one which consistently stands out. He was after all the first dancer of the Dance. And even though Widmerpool is so very creepy, and such a ‘gauche’ dancer, I am infinitely amused whenever he walks into the ballroom and steps onto the limelight. He is the where is Wally? of Powell’s dance. Where is Widmerpool? He certainly was At Lady Molly’s and left his uncanny mark.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ted

    The first volume of Summer, the second of four trilogies of Anthony Powell’s Dance to the Music of Time. Synopsis followed by What I Thought. In this synopsis, I've used Hilary Spurling's brief overview of the chapters to remind me of the narrative threads in each of them; see Invitation to the Dance. This segment of the Dance takes place in 1934. The first chapter commences on the New Year. The series’ first person narrator, Nicholas Jenkins, is now in his late twenties, working in the low-grade The first volume of Summer, the second of four trilogies of Anthony Powell’s Dance to the Music of Time. Synopsis followed by What I Thought. In this synopsis, I've used Hilary Spurling's brief overview of the chapters to remind me of the narrative threads in each of them; see Invitation to the Dance. This segment of the Dance takes place in 1934. The first chapter commences on the New Year. The series’ first person narrator, Nicholas Jenkins, is now in his late twenties, working in the low-grade film industry as a scriptwriter. He’s taken to a party by Chips Lovell at Lovell’s aunt’s place. The aunt is Lady Molly Jeavens, who has graciously bestowed her name (via the handiwork of Powell) to the book. The typical party banter of Powell’s novels here produces among other new revelations of time’s passing the unexpected news that Jenkin’s long-time acquaintance Widmerpool (from school and college) is engaged to be married. The second chapter involves lunch with Widmerpool, a tea attended by Jenkins at which he is quizzed about Widmerpool by the latter’s soon to be in-laws, and a chance encounter with J.C. Quiggin.Since we had been undergraduates together my friendship with Quiggin, moving up and down at different seasons, could have been plotted like a temperature chart. Sometimes we seemed on fairly good terms, sometimes on fairly bad terms; never with any very concrete reason for these improvements and deteriorations. However, if Quiggin thought it convenient to meet during a ‘bad’ period, he would always take steps to do so, having no false pride in this or any other aspect of his dealings with the world.In this instance, Quiggin indeed does have a reason for meeting with Jenkins, and invites him out to Quiggin’s cottage for a weekend. Chapter three finds Jenkins having accepted such an invitation and taking a train out from London, where a taxi meets him at the station and conveys him to the “cottage”. Jenkins was hesitant about the get-together, knowing that Quiggin was now living with, perhaps even married to, Mona, the former wife of one of Jenkins best friends from school, whom he had ‘run away’ with. As Jenkins had reflected before accepting the invite, I was unwilling to seem to condone too easily the appropriation of an old friend’s wife; although it had to be admitted that Templar [the old friend] himself had never been over-squeamish about accepting, within his own circle, such changes of partnership. Apart from such scruples, I knew enough of Quiggin to be sure that his cottage would be more than ordinarily uncomfortable. Nothing I had seen of Mona gave cause to reconsider this want of confidence in their combined domestic economy. During the visit, Quiggin’s patron and landlord, “Erridge”, stops by unannounced. It is decided that the next evening they will have dinner at Erridge’s estate Thrubworth Park, a couple miles through the woods. (Erridge is the Viscount Erridge, also the Earl of Warminster, the eldest of the Tolland clan, an “erratic and high-minded social revolutionary”.) At the dinner two of Erridge’s sisters drop by. The first sight of one of these, Isobel, occasions our narrator to remark, Would it be too explicit, too exaggerated, to say that when I set eyes on Isobel Tolland, I knew at once that I should marry her? Something like that is the truth, certainly nearer the truth than merely to record those vague, inchoate sentiments of interest of which I was so immediately conscious. It was as if I had known her for many years already; enjoyed happiness with her and suffered sadness. I was conscious of that, as of another life, nostalgically remembered. Then, at that moment, to be compelled to go through the paraphernalia of introduction, of ‘getting to know’ one another by means of the normal formalities of social life, seemed hardly worth while. We knew one another already, the future was determinate. The fourth chapter takes place as Widmerpool’s wedding is approaching, a month or two after the previous. The location, after some initial moving about of the pieces on the playing field, is a pub in Soho. Jenkins finds himself, against many odds, drinking with Jeavons, Lady Molly’s husband, who happened to be in the pub when Jenkins entered by himself. Jeavons supplies Jenkins with several surprising stories of times gone by, involving both Jeavons and others of the characters involved in the Dance. The final chapter takes places in the fall of 1934, once again at Lady Molly’s. The party has been arranged subsequent to the engagement announcement by Jenkins and Isobel. Fate has twisted for Widmerpool, and during much of the party Jenkins is closeted with General Conyers, who reveals to him his knowledge and psychological analysis of the Widmerpool episode. Widmerpool himself has the last word. You know, Nicholas, it is wise to take good advice about such a thing as marriage. I hope you have done so yourself. I have thought about the subject a good deal, and you are always welcome to my views. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - What I Thought about ... 1. Powell's writing style If this is the first review you have read of Powell’s Dance, you should take particular care to note the quotes above and below. All of these illustrate one of the two things about these novels that appeals so inordinately to me. That is the superb phrasing and word choice he uses, particularly in the internal narration by Jenkins. The dialogue (of which there is a fair amount) is not so much in this style, which is probably just as well. But for the narrative passages, Powell never uses the same important noun (or verb) twice in the same sentence, and generally not even in the same paragraph. This leads to writing which sparkles with unpredictability, and frequently with a delightfully humorous glow as well. Here’s one final extended quote, from the party in the last chapter, that illustrates the comedy that occasionally emanates from Powell’s meticulous prose: The guests seemed, in fact, to have been chosen even more at random than usual. Certainly there had been no question either of asking people because they were already friends of Isobel or myself; still less, because Molly wanted either of us specifically to meet them. All that was most nondescript in the Jeavons entourage predominated, together with a few exceptional and reckless examples of individual oddity. I noticed Alfred Tolland… was standing in the corner of the room, wedged behind a table, talking to – of all people – Mark Members, whom I had never before seen at the Jeavonses’, and might be supposed, in principle, beyond Molly’s normal perimeter, wide as that might stretch; or at least essentially alien to most of what it enclosed. To describe the two of them as standing looking at one another, rather than talking, would have been nearer the truth, as each apparently found equal difficulty in contributing anything to a mutual conversation. At the same time the table cut them off from contact with other guests. 2. Time The other appeal of the Dance is, of course, the magnificent theme of time’s passage, or put another way, of the characters’ (and our own) passage through time. Over and again Jenkins tells us how through a conversation or simply though observing another of the characters playing his role in a given scene, he suddenly becomes aware of something which he never suspected before: either about that character, that character’s relationship to another character, about his own relationship to this or some other character; or even a more general truth about himself (and most of us along with him). The Dance. That great dance of life, in which we swirl our way across the years, observing and discovering the changing relationships between ourselves, our loved ones, our friends and acquaintances, the ever-changing judgments we make of the fortunes, driving forces, and characters of these people as they approach, recede, disappear, and reappear as they dance - to the music of time.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Vit Babenco

    Summer arrives: Life jogs along, apparently in the same old way, and then suddenly your attention is drawn to some terrific change that has taken place. Life hardly ever turns out to be what it was expected to become… And the narrator looks around and keeps wondering: So often one thinks that individuals and situations cannot be so extraordinary as they seem from outside: only to find that the truth is a thousand times odder. The novel At Lady Molly's mostly concerns matrimonial prospects of a social Summer arrives: Life jogs along, apparently in the same old way, and then suddenly your attention is drawn to some terrific change that has taken place. Life hardly ever turns out to be what it was expected to become… And the narrator looks around and keeps wondering: So often one thinks that individuals and situations cannot be so extraordinary as they seem from outside: only to find that the truth is a thousand times odder. The novel At Lady Molly's mostly concerns matrimonial prospects of a social climber Kenneth Widmerpool, who was earlier defined as a ‘frog footman’, which description suits him perfectly, I guess. And one character commented on his chosen one: “Women may show some discrimination about whom they sleep with, but they’ll marry anybody.” And what about the other female personages? “A lot of social butterflies, that’s all they are.” Summer is a season of butterflies and men are catchers…

  4. 5 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    "Woman may show some discrimination about whom they sleep with, but they will marry anybody." ― Anthony Powell, At Lady Molly's "Marriage, as I have said, is a form of action, of violence almost; an assertion of the will. Its orbit is not to be chartered with precision, if misrepresentation and contrivance are to be avoided. Its facts can perhaps only be known by implication. It is a state from which all objectivity has been removed." ― Anthony Powell, At Lady Molly's 'At Lady Molly's' is the fourt "Woman may show some discrimination about whom they sleep with, but they will marry anybody." ― Anthony Powell, At Lady Molly's "Marriage, as I have said, is a form of action, of violence almost; an assertion of the will. Its orbit is not to be chartered with precision, if misrepresentation and contrivance are to be avoided. Its facts can perhaps only be known by implication. It is a state from which all objectivity has been removed." ― Anthony Powell, At Lady Molly's 'At Lady Molly's' is the fourth book of 12, or the first book in A Dance to the Music of Time: 2nd Movement. If you prefer to think of Anthony Powell's (rhymes with pole's, not towel's) masterpiece cycle in terms of months, 'At Lady Molly's' is April. This novel, like most all of Powell's novels so far, brings in new characters, allows old characters to flow through, and generally pushes time forward a few years. I've heard many descriptions of Anthony Powell's narrative. Some describe it as a dance (obviously) that Powell choreographs. Some describe it as a symphony where themes and instruments appear, play their part, and remain silent for a couple minutes only to reappear in slightly different circumstances and dress. I am reminded a bit of Degas' experimentations with monotypes. He loved to play with the process of printmaking. How the printmaking process could smudge and press his ideas with either dark fields or light fields. His images of people and landscapes would emerge out of darkness, smudged reflections would arrive from the plates. He would create multiple images from the same plate that would allow him to create ghost images. He would let the press express, through colored smudges, the idea of movement. I think Powell is playing with some of the same ideas. Through time and memory, faces blur, but the dance continues. People spin into focus, briefly, and then spin away. That is the cycle of life and relationships. I also like the appearance early in this novel of Lord Alfred Warminster (or Erry, short for Erridge, or Alf). This character is largely based on George Orwell, a contemporary of Anthony Powell and classmate and friend from Eton, who operated in many of the same circles. Orwell and Powell were actually very close for several years, and Alf, seems to be Powell both celebrating Orwell and poking gentle fun at his talented, leftist friend. In fact, Powell and Orwell were so close that at Orwell's funeral in 1950 Powell was the one who selected the hymns. Reflecting on this Powell wrote: "The Lesson was from Ecclesiastes, the grinders in the streets, the grasshopper a burden, the silver cord loosed, the wheel broken at the cistern. For some reason George Orwell's funeral service was one of the most harrowing I have ever attended." Anyway, like Proust, it is easy to get caught up in the talk, the movement. Whereas reading Proust always reminded me of participating in a lucid dream, reading Powell seems more like being fairly toasted at a beautiful party or -- well -- a dance.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    This is the fourth volume in the twelve novel, “Dance to the Music of Time.” The books are organised in terms of the seasons and so the first three novels are the Spring of our narrator’s life, consisting of A Question of Upbringing, A Buyer’s Market and The Acceptance World. This novel is the first in the Summer. This begins in 1934 and follows many of the characters we have already become fond of, as well as some new introductions. The last novel, The Acceptance World, saw Nick Jenkins just emb This is the fourth volume in the twelve novel, “Dance to the Music of Time.” The books are organised in terms of the seasons and so the first three novels are the Spring of our narrator’s life, consisting of A Question of Upbringing, A Buyer’s Market and The Acceptance World. This novel is the first in the Summer. This begins in 1934 and follows many of the characters we have already become fond of, as well as some new introductions. The last novel, The Acceptance World, saw Nick Jenkins just embarking on a career in publishing. The Bright Young Things of the 1920’s are now growing up and embarking on marriages – and divorces. You have a sense that Nick feels he is somehow being left behind. His affair with Peter Templer’s sister, Jean, is over and, later in the novel, he meets a woman that he feels he will marry. However, like much of the romantic affairs in this book, it all feels rather tired and inevitable, rather than romantic and wonderful. Central to this book is Kenneth Widmerpool who, to our narrator’s surprise, has become engaged. This engagement, and other characters reactions to it, continue as a thread throughout the novel. Widmerpool was, of course, at school with Jenkins and his childhood friends Templer and Stringham. Now Templer’s first marriage has broken down, while Stringham is drinking heavily. We also meet up with other familiar characters; including Quiggins and Mark Members. Jenkins is now a published author, but there is still a feeling of dissatisfaction and impermanence about both his life and career, while Widmerpool is on an upward trajectory – the unlikely success, forging ahead. As well as personal relationships, the novel also explores the era the books are set in. At one point in the novel, characters wonder whether there will be another war. Still, although dark clouds are on the horizon, nobody yet seems that concerned about any immediate danger. Life, for Nick and those around him, goes on, and I look forward to reading the next novel in the series – “Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant.”

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nigeyb

    At Lady Molly's is volume four of the A Dance to the Music of Time series and is Anthony Powell, yet again, at his best. Once again, I cannot praise the A Dance to the Music of Time series highly enough. It's deliciously addictive and an absolute pleasure to read. Imagine, if you will, the best of Evelyn Waugh when he's dealing with a large number of disparate characters (e.g. Sword of Honour and Brideshead Revisited), and following some of your favourite characters from these books throughout t At Lady Molly's is volume four of the A Dance to the Music of Time series and is Anthony Powell, yet again, at his best. Once again, I cannot praise the A Dance to the Music of Time series highly enough. It's deliciously addictive and an absolute pleasure to read. Imagine, if you will, the best of Evelyn Waugh when he's dealing with a large number of disparate characters (e.g. Sword of Honour and Brideshead Revisited), and following some of your favourite characters from these books throughout their lives, add in the kind of twists and turns you'd find in superior soap operas, then sprinkle liberally with the humour of someone as gifted as P.G. Wodehouse, and all written in an accessible, beautiful and lucid style. A Dance to the Music of Time is utterly fantastic and gets better and better as the characters become more familiar. It's now 1934 and Nick Jenkins is working as a scriptwriter and At Lady Molly's sees Nick finally embrace the adult world completely. It's the first time we encounter Nick making a proactive decision rather than passively observing what is happening around him. At Lady Molly's also introduces us to a large number of new and diverse characters who, I'm guessing, will continue to play significant roles as the Dance progresses. The key character is the eponymous Lady Molly who, whilst she only appears in two scenes, provides the meeting places for diverse and eclectic characters to interact. Needless to say we encounter Widmerpool once again and, as always, in many ways he is Nick's alter-ego and the star of the show. Despite having yet more ignominy heaped upon him he continues his reinvention and upward trajectory as his evolution from school boy nerd to driven and successful businessman continues. Two tips for anyone reading the A Dance to the Music of Time series: 1. I referred to Invitation To The Dance by Hilary Spurling when I needed to remind myself who's who, and recommend it. It's a fantastic resource and a good read in its own right. 2. www.anthonypowell.org.uk has a character list, synopsis, and some excellent essays that throw light on various aspects of the book and further enrich the reading experience. 4/5

  7. 5 out of 5

    Connie G

    In 1934 Nick is working as a scriptwriter for the film industry. He meets a new group of people at Lady Molly's, and gets to know the Tolland family. Nick is courting Isobel Tolland, but we find out very little about their relationship. Widmerpool shows up quite often in this fourth book of the series, and gets involved with an unusual older woman. There are many humorous events and eccentric new characters in this book. Very entertaining! In 1934 Nick is working as a scriptwriter for the film industry. He meets a new group of people at Lady Molly's, and gets to know the Tolland family. Nick is courting Isobel Tolland, but we find out very little about their relationship. Widmerpool shows up quite often in this fourth book of the series, and gets involved with an unusual older woman. There are many humorous events and eccentric new characters in this book. Very entertaining!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Manny

    [The following passage was discovered in 2007 in an early draft of Anthony Powell's novel At Lady Molly's. It was presented at a joint meeting of the Anthony Powell and Sigfrid Siwertz societies held earlier this month in Stockholm, where it was the occasion for considerable debate.] I suddenly realised that the person talking with Sir Magnus was General Conyers, whom I had not seen in over a year. I scanned his face anxiously - at that age, senility can set in with terrible suddenness - but he s [The following passage was discovered in 2007 in an early draft of Anthony Powell's novel At Lady Molly's. It was presented at a joint meeting of the Anthony Powell and Sigfrid Siwertz societies held earlier this month in Stockholm, where it was the occasion for considerable debate.] I suddenly realised that the person talking with Sir Magnus was General Conyers, whom I had not seen in over a year. I scanned his face anxiously - at that age, senility can set in with terrible suddenness - but he seemed almost preternaturally unchanged. A moment later, he had moved over to join me. "You look well, sir," I hazarded. "Keeping busy," said the General. "That's the important thing. Had I started reading Swedish when we last met?" The rest of this review is available elsewhere (the location cannot be given for Goodreads policy reasons)

  9. 5 out of 5

    Algernon (Darth Anyan)

    'Come along, all of you,' said Molly. 'You must all see the monkey. You too, Tuffy. You simply must see him.' People say that you can meet anybody at one of the evening parties given by Lady Molly, and Nicholas Jenkins is about to test the theorem when he gets invited by one of his new friends, Chipp Lowell: "You can find anything at Aunt Molly's - even lovely girls. Are you coming?" "I'd like to very much." The monkey residing in the bedroom of the host is actually one of the least controvers 'Come along, all of you,' said Molly. 'You must all see the monkey. You too, Tuffy. You simply must see him.' People say that you can meet anybody at one of the evening parties given by Lady Molly, and Nicholas Jenkins is about to test the theorem when he gets invited by one of his new friends, Chipp Lowell: "You can find anything at Aunt Molly's - even lovely girls. Are you coming?" "I'd like to very much." The monkey residing in the bedroom of the host is actually one of the least controversial and surprising guests in the house. Old acquaintances from the first three books are popping in and out of the limelight: Tuffy Wheedon, Dicky Umfraville, an elderly reclusive gentleman that seems related to everybody else, old school friends and old flames. New names and their family connections are thrown at the reader: Molly and Jeavons the hosts, a general that trains poodles for hunting dogs, Alf alias Erridge alias Lord Warminster, an unconventional butler named Smith and a society lady that smokes like a chimney stack and swears like a soldier in the trenches, even the pretty girls that are liable to make the heart of the still young Nick flutter. All of them though are eclipsed by the dramatic entrance of the most ubiquitous character in the whole series. (view spoiler)[ Life is full of internal dramas, instantaneous and sensational, played to an audience of one. This was just such a performance. The fiance was Widmerpool. Based on this particular scene, I have a fancy that Widmerpool should be played onscreen by Kramer from the Seinfeld TV series (hide spoiler)] With each volume of the Dance, it seems to me that the prose gets better, the character descriptions get both funnier and more poignant, the self-assurance and the talent of our Narrator is developing at the same pace as the skill of the author. Nick Jenkins in the first volume was shy and passive, a simple witness of the events around him. By this fourth volume Nicholas is a young author with a couple of books under his belt, with a heart that has known love and its pitfalls, a man that accepted the world as it is and is now ready to actively play his part. On the professional side, we are treated to a glimpse of the budding British movie industry, when a local protection law required that every American movie shown in cinemas is accompanied by a homemade show. I was then at the time of life when one has written a couple of novels, and moved from a firm that published art books to a company that produced second-feature films. On the emotional side, Nick is less liable to fall in love with every girl he meets and he is still pining for Jean, but prefers to look ahead instead of backward: ... I was firmly of the opinion that even the smallest trace of nostalgia for the immediate past was better avoided. A bracing future was required, rather than vain regrets. Regarding the world Nick chronicles for us, conversations overheard in a restaurant, in a jazz club or around the dinner table hint at the approaching storm brough by the Nazis, but the focus of the series is still on family dramas, on marriages that work despite the spouses being total opposites and on marriages that fail, despite being 'a match made in heaven' to the outsiders. I have remarked before that what makes Nick an excellent narrator and a future great writer is his power of observation coupled with a still fresh interest in everything that happens around him: Curiosity, which makes the world go round, brought me in the end to accept Quiggin's invitation. Be prepared to be, like Nick, constantly surprised by the follies and by the hidden talents of the people you will meet again and again in the course of the Dance. The literary critic Quiggin is trying to hold on the trophy wife he stole from another old schoolmate. Mona the wife dreams of becoming an actress on the silver screen, while casting apraising eyes at the peer living next door. Templer, her ex-husband, is patching his pride by taking starlets out to night clubs, but his aphorisms are sounding more than a little bitter ( Women may show some discrimination about whom they sleep with, but they'll marry anybody. ). A wealthy lord is living in the poor houses because he wants to study the social conditions of the proletariat. A retired army general is taking an interest in Virginia Woolf and Carl Jung. The elderly butler is about to be arrested by the police for obscure reasons and is very shifty when asked to put the liquor on the table. Widmerpool continues to refuse to conform to the image Nick has constructed of him, and proves that the will is not always enough for success, especially in matters of the heart ... but I am getting too close to spoiling some of the best scenes in the novel now, and I think I shoud refrain from more revelations. (view spoiler)[ It was good though to find out that the grubby communist nymphet Gypsy Jones is still waiting in the stalls for her comeback, as a love interest for the oddball Erridge (hide spoiler)] I had always felt an interest in what might be called the theoretical side of Widmerpool's life: the reaction of his own emotions to the severe rule of ambition that he had from the beginning imposed upon himself: the determination that existence must be governed by the will. I have used the quote above as a sort of key to understanding why Widmerpool, and others like him, are constantly coming back into the Dance, the basic duality between the people of will (business tycoons, politicians, critics) and contemplative people who search for the meaning of life (Nick and his Boema of painters, writers, musicians, social butterflies). For Nick Jenkins, I believe maturity means accepting the fact that the dividing line between the two categories is constantly shifting and it needs to be updated as new information is available or as old events are examined in a new light: The fact that Widmerpool seemed a grotesque figure to some who knew him provided no reason why he should not inspire love in others. I record these speculations not for their generosity of feeling, but to emphasise the difficulty in understanding, even remotely, why people behave as they do. Nick, as a man who keeps an open mind, is a student of human nature and is ready to admit he was wrong in his previous judgements of people, appears to me as the perfect guide for the rest of the Dance, a guarantee that we will continue to be enchanted and intrigued by what the future has in store for us: So often one thinks that individuals and situations cannot be so extraordinary as they seem from outside: only to find that the truth is a thousand times odder. My favorite illustration of the above mentioned Law is in the portrait of Jeavons, the veteran of the Somme who married a lady of the high society, and who seems out of sorts, an anachronism, among the sparkling guests of his wife: Like one of those mammoths - or, in Jeavons case, somewhat less gigantic form of primeval life - caught in a glacier and physically preserved into an age when his very kind was known only from fossilised bones, or drawings on the walls of subterranean caves, he somehow managed to look just as he must have looked in 1917: hardly a day older. Perhaps a better simile to indicate the effect of remoteness he gave, standing there with a vacant expression and both hands in his pockets, would be that of some rare insect enclosed in amber. Before the end of the novel though, Jeavons is revealed as a dark horse, a man of secret passions and hidden depths. Also as a heavy drinker and occasional lecherous habits. He is, like the world he lives in, shaped by the momentous events of a world war: 'People don't think the same way any longer,' he bawled across the table. 'The war blew the whole thing up, like tossing a Mills bomb into a dug-out. Everything's changed about all that. Always feel rather sorry for your generation as a matter of fact, not but what we haven't all lost our - what do you call 'em - you know - somebody used the word in our house the other night - saying much what I'm saying now? Struck me very forcibly. You know - when you're soft enough to think things are going to be a damned sight better than they turn out to be. What's the word?' 'Illusions?' 'Illusions! That's the one. We've lost all our bloody illusions.' Similar revelations are expected by now from almost any character participating in the Dance. From time to time, I felt when visiting Molly, that I have strayed into a parallel universe of P G Wodehouse frolic. I rate this as high praise for Anthony Powell, given the delight in the use of language and in the raucous goings on that have put Wodehouse among my favorite writers. ( Wasn't your father the chap who rode his horse upstairs after dinner? is one of the conversations starters overheard in the Jeavons house). Samuel Pepys also gets a nodding reference in relations to a country manor that we will probably visit in a later novel. Romance is in the air, as Nick Jenkins, while still reticent in sharing with us details of his private love life, is for once determined to take the plunge: Would it be too explicit, too exaggerated, to say that when I set eyes on Isobel Tolland, I knew at once that I should marry her? Something like that is the truth; certainly nearer the truth than merely to record those vague, inchoate sentiments of interest of which I was so immediately conscious. It was as if I had known her for many years already; enjoyed happiness with her and suffered sadness. I wish Nick all the happiness in the world until the next time we meet him at the Dance, and I am grateful to him for pointing out that Lady Molly's house, after all, is not that different from my house or your house, from my family or my circle of friends, if only one cares to look under the surface: Little about the house could be thought quiet, or conventional, when closely examined. Perhaps, after all, when closely examined, no sort of individual life can truly be so labelled.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    A third of the way through this unique series, and I expect I'll continue (at a modest pace) to work through to the end. The narrator and the cast of characters that revolve around him continue to interest (and at times fascinate). I can't say that I loved this book or that I'm obsessed with starting the next one, but the content (so far) fully justifies continuing to see where things will go and how the relationships will play out. In many ways, one of the most intriguing aspects of the books an A third of the way through this unique series, and I expect I'll continue (at a modest pace) to work through to the end. The narrator and the cast of characters that revolve around him continue to interest (and at times fascinate). I can't say that I loved this book or that I'm obsessed with starting the next one, but the content (so far) fully justifies continuing to see where things will go and how the relationships will play out. In many ways, one of the most intriguing aspects of the books and the series is how neutral - unassuming, (at times, passive), vanilla, unexceptional? - Powell has crafted his protagonist. It's not fair to describe Nick as a cipher, but it feels that, while he may be the axle around which the action spins, his actions seem largely irrelevant to what animates each book. On a book-by-book basis, and, particularly, on a chapter by chapter or page by page level, this is leisurely, languid stuff. Nothing jaw dropping, but, similarly, reading the books is a comfortable ... and strangely compelling experience. Today, it's very much a period piece - almost like reading a male-centric Jane Austen in serial form or, I'm guessing, for some, like watching Downton Abbey - lots of parlor room banter, social commentary, abstract observation, caste-and -status-related jockeying, etc. One thing I find striking is that - while the story line (at least so far) evolves between WWI and WWII, the books (as I understand it), were originally published from 1951 to 1975. Nonetheless, it feels fresh and contemporary. As literary, historical fiction goes, it's easy to see why it's stood the test of time. This may seem obvious, but my sense it would be a huge mistake to read these out of order.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Eleanor

    I have been spending too much time on photography and not enough on reading, so have taken a long time to read this. No reflection on the book at all - it's delicious. Wonderfully funny passages, as for example those involving the butler Smith. When asked whether there was any champagne: "Smith's face puckered, as if manfully attempting to force his mind to grapple with a mathematical or philosophical problem of extraordinary complexity. His bearing suggested that he had certainly before heard th I have been spending too much time on photography and not enough on reading, so have taken a long time to read this. No reflection on the book at all - it's delicious. Wonderfully funny passages, as for example those involving the butler Smith. When asked whether there was any champagne: "Smith's face puckered, as if manfully attempting to force his mind to grapple with a mathematical or philosophical problem of extraordinary complexity. His bearing suggested that he had certainly before heard the word 'champagne' used, if only in some distant, outlandish context; that devotion to his master alone gave him some apprehension of what this question - these ravings, almost - might mean. Nothing good could come of it. This was a disastrous way to talk. That was his unspoken message so far as champagne was concerned. After a long pause, he at last shook his head. 'I doubt if there is any champagne left, m'lord.'" (page 142)

  12. 5 out of 5

    Katie Lumsden

    A great read. This is one of my favourites in the series.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Paola

    It took me a while to get going, but with the fourth novel I am really starting to enjoy the series. There is quite a bit of action as far as relationships go - but we are at that age in which marriages and relationships both flourish and wither. As usual, the plot does not really matter, it simply has to carry around these well constructed characters that give insight in the intellectual, economic and political elites in the interwar period. Maybe an “interlude” book, setting the stage to devel It took me a while to get going, but with the fourth novel I am really starting to enjoy the series. There is quite a bit of action as far as relationships go - but we are at that age in which marriages and relationships both flourish and wither. As usual, the plot does not really matter, it simply has to carry around these well constructed characters that give insight in the intellectual, economic and political elites in the interwar period. Maybe an “interlude” book, setting the stage to develop more fully the personalities of the people around Nick, all now really growing into maturity. But it is still hit and miss, bright young things still looking for their footing, now however appreciating that their actions may have long lasting consequences.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dawn

    Really loved this book ! I am already into next book and I just can't stop reading Powell to write my reviews . I am to involved with his soap opera type style to quit and write a review before going on ! This is such a great selection. I will have to read Proust next to compare the difference because Powell has me hooked ! Really loved this book ! I am already into next book and I just can't stop reading Powell to write my reviews . I am to involved with his soap opera type style to quit and write a review before going on ! This is such a great selection. I will have to read Proust next to compare the difference because Powell has me hooked !

  15. 5 out of 5

    Steven

    And more parties and more people meeting up and more gossip...

  16. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    From Wiki: This is the fourth volume in Anthony Powell's twelve novel sequence, A Dance to the Music of Time. A first person narrative, it is written in precise yet conversational prose. Winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize 1957, At Lady Molly's is set in England of the mid-1930s and is essentially a comedy of manners, but in the background the rise of Hitler and of worldwide Fascism are not ignored. The comedy is character driven and ranges from the situational to the epigrammatic. Many From Wiki: This is the fourth volume in Anthony Powell's twelve novel sequence, A Dance to the Music of Time. A first person narrative, it is written in precise yet conversational prose. Winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize 1957, At Lady Molly's is set in England of the mid-1930s and is essentially a comedy of manners, but in the background the rise of Hitler and of worldwide Fascism are not ignored. The comedy is character driven and ranges from the situational to the epigrammatic. Many of the scenes are studies in embarrassment with those involving the supremely self-important Widmerpool inducing acute embarrassment in the reader. The driving theme of At Lady Molly's is married life; marriages – as practised or mooted – among the narrator's (Nick Jenkins) acquaintances in bohemian society and the landed classes are pondered. Meanwhile the career moves of various characters are advanced, checked or put on hold. Page 29: There is no greater sign of innate misery than a love of teasing. Page 85: The Lewis gun may be sounding at the barricades earlier than some of your Laodicean friends think. Page 151: Woman may show some discrimination about whom they sleep with, but they will marry anybody. Page 160: All men are brothers, but, thank God, they aren't all brothers-in-law. 4* A Question of Upbringing (A Dance to the Music of Time, #1) 4* A Buyer's Market (A Dance to the Music of Time #2) 4* The Acceptance World (A Dance to the Music of Time, #3) 4* At Lady Molly's (A Dance to the Music of Time, #4) CR Casanova's Chinese Restaurant (A Dance to the Music of Time, #5) TR The Kindly Ones (A Dance to the Music of Time, #6) TR The Valley of Bones (A Dance to the Music of Time, #7) TR The Soldier's Art (A Dance to the Music of Time, #8) TR The Military Philosophers (A Dance to the Music of Time, #9) TR Books Do Furnish a Room (A Dance to the Music of Time, #10) TR Temporary Kings (A Dance to the Music of Time, #11) TR Hearing Secret Harmonies (A Dance to the Music of Time, #12)

  17. 5 out of 5

    Catullus2

    Brilliant and funny again.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Brooklyn

    Delightful - hilarious - insightful. 2nd time round and still amusing + suprising. A joy

  19. 4 out of 5

    Glen Engel-Cox

    At the end of the first season of Powell's "monumental" novel, A Dance to the Music of Time, I stated that each book was getting better. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy At Lady Molly's very much, and I'm going to try to pin it down. I believe the main reason is that Jenkins reverts back to his observer role, whereas he had finally become much more of an active character in the last book. Herein, everything revolves around Widmerpool's strange engagement to a woman much older than him (and much mo At the end of the first season of Powell's "monumental" novel, A Dance to the Music of Time, I stated that each book was getting better. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy At Lady Molly's very much, and I'm going to try to pin it down. I believe the main reason is that Jenkins reverts back to his observer role, whereas he had finally become much more of an active character in the last book. Herein, everything revolves around Widmerpool's strange engagement to a woman much older than him (and much more eccentric, if more of a "class" with their compatriots than Widmerpool). I am starting to fear that Widmerpool may be the single most important character in the novel, boding ill for my enjoyment. The problem is that Powell's humor centering around Widmerpool is akin to the humor of Seinfeld. Like the characters of that show, Widmerpool is often sailing amongst the people around him, steadfast in his selfishness, and then has a bowl of sugar unexpectedly dumped on his head. While you do not feel sorry for him--he is, after all, quite an ass in his egotistical way--the manner by which he gets his comeuppance does not put the other characters in all that favorable a light either. Truth to be told, I was much more interested in Jenkins, newly ensconced in the world of British cinema screenplay writing, and engaged by the end of the book. Unlike his romance with Jean Duport, his wooing of Isobel Tolland occurs entirely offstage, and one wonders at whether it was a thing born of love or of that endlessly ticking biological clock. Stringham and Templar, so important at the beginning of Powell's narrative, are little more than quick asides here. Now that I'm a third of the way through the Dance, I'm committed to finishing its steps. I only hope that this current turn was simply a miscue on the part of my partner, Mr. Powell, and not a headlong fall into the bandstand.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nik Morton

    Early 1930s. As before, the narrator, Nick Jenkins seems cold and detached. ‘I always enjoy hearing the details of other people’s lives, whether imaginary or not…’ (p211) Nick has achieved some modest success with his writing: ‘Written a couple of novels, and moved from a firm that published art books to a company that produced second-feature films.’ (p16) Clearly heavily influenced by Powell’s own work at Duckworths, the publishers and his later stint as a scriptwriter for Warner Brothers in Eng Early 1930s. As before, the narrator, Nick Jenkins seems cold and detached. ‘I always enjoy hearing the details of other people’s lives, whether imaginary or not…’ (p211) Nick has achieved some modest success with his writing: ‘Written a couple of novels, and moved from a firm that published art books to a company that produced second-feature films.’ (p16) Clearly heavily influenced by Powell’s own work at Duckworths, the publishers and his later stint as a scriptwriter for Warner Brothers in England. ‘I on what is called the “scenario side”. I help to write that part of the programme known as the “second feature”. For every foot of American film shown in this country, a proportionate length of British film must appear. The Quota, in fact.’ (p55) When we last shared Nick’s life, he was romantically involved with Jean Duport. Now, that was over and he was ‘fancy-free’, aged twenty-eight or so, and open to his confederate Chips Lovell’s suggestion to visit his aunt –Molly Jeavons. Previously married to Lord John Sleaford, Molly lived in the mansion Dogdene; Sleaford died of Spanish Flu in 1919; she was now married to Captain Teddy Jeavons. ‘Molly remained a big, charming, noisy young woman, who had never entirely ceased to be a schoolgirl. When the Dogdene frame was removed, like the loosening of a corset of steel, the unconventional, the eccentric, even the sluttish side of her nature became suddenly revealed to the world.’ (p159) Molly is quite a character. ‘… exceptionally kind-hearted. The house is always full of people she is doing good turns to. Children stay here while their parents are fixing up a divorce.. Penniless young men get asked to meals. Former servants are always being given help of one sort or another…’ (p164) While at Lady Molly’s, Nick comes across Widmerpool who is in the company of an older woman, Mildred. Powell’s strengths are his character descriptions, such as this sighting of Widmerpool: ‘He was wearing a new dark suit. Like a huge fish swimming into a hitherto unexplored and unexpectedly exciting aquarium, he sailed resolutely forward.’ (p46) In this fourth outing it is obvious that certain characters will continue to surface in Nick’s life. ‘Widmerpool was a recurring milestone on the road; perhaps it would be more apt to say that his course, as one jogged round the track, was run from time to time, however different the pace, in common with my own.’ (p47) Nick is surprised to learn he is getting married to Mildred, which is quite shocking news… Other news concerns the rumbling in Europe caused by the ascension of Herr Hitler. Widmerpool has a leaning towards the ‘socialist’ political spectrum. ‘People talk of rearming. I am glad to say the Labour Party is against it to a man – and the more enlightened Tories, too.’ (p66) This is another one of those lengthy speeches Powell’s characters indulge in. ‘What is much more likely to be productive is to settle things round a table…’ (p67) So, while the bohemians and businessmen enjoy their chatter over cocktails, all of Europe sleepwalks towards a world war. Later, mention is made of the embargo on arms to Bolivia and Paraguay, the ‘Smash Fascism’ group, the worries about Mosley, and the independence of Catalonia, and free meals for schoolchildren. (p120) And, briefly touched on, the conflict between Japan and China (p203). Not a lot changes, really... Again, Nick meets Quiggin and the Tolland family, notably Erridge. The arrival one evening of Susan and Isobel Tolland is quite seismic for Nick: ‘The atmosphere changed suddenly, violently. One became all at once aware of the delicious, sparkling proximity of young feminine beings. The room was transformed.’ (p136) Powell doesn’t go in for emotion. The books are observational, dealing with manners, pomposity, venality, and the narrator is virtually invisible. ‘Would it be too explicit, too exaggerated, to say that when I set eyes on Isobel Tolland, I knew at once that I should marry her?’ (p137) There’s much about marriage – and divorce, too. Nick’s friend Peter Templer said, ‘Women may show some discrimination about whom they sleep with, but they’ll marry anybody.’ (p187) And Nick himself contemplated that blessed union, too: ‘I, too, should be married soon, a change that presented itself in terms of action rather than reflection, the mood in which even the most prudent often marry: a crisis of delight and anxiety, excitement and oppression.’ (p201) While there are no great laughs, despite this being described as a humorous novel, there are moments that raise a smile. One of these is Erridge’s butler, Smith. An alcoholic who imbibed from the cellar, he was shaken when asked if there were any champagne in the cellar. ‘Champagne, m’lord?’ ‘Have we got any? One bottle would do. Even a half-bottle.’ Smith’s face puckered, as if manfully attempting to force his mind to grapple with a mathematical or philosophical problem of extraordinary complexity. His hearing suggested that he had certainly before heard the word “champagne” used, if only in some distant, outlandish context; that dvotion to his master alone gave him some apprehension of what this question – these ravings, almost – might mean… After a long pause, he at last shook his head. ‘I doubt if there is any champagne left, m’lord.’ (p143) Nick’s friend Stringham seems dominated in some manner by Miss Weedon, Tuffy, who may have designs on curing Stringham of his affection for alcohol. Nick ‘found her a trifle alarming. She gave an impression of complete singleness of purpose: the impression of a person who could make herself very disagreeable if thwarted.’ (p163) We shall see more of her in volume 5. Molly’s sister Lady Warminster is a widow and a hypochondriac, and ‘awe-inspiring. Something of the witch haunted her delicate, aquiline features and transparent ivory skin: a calm, autumnal beauty that did not at all mask the amused, malicious, almost insane light that glinted all the time in her infinitely pale eyes. When young, she must have been very good-looking indeed.’ (p205) The book begins with recollections of Nick’s family’s distant relation, General Conyers and almost ends with him in the flesh, paraphrasing Foch: ‘War not an exact science, but a terrible and passionate drama? Something like that. Fact is, marriage is rather like that too.’ If I’d been reading these books when they were first published, I may well have lost the thread and interest, waiting a year or more between each ‘episode’. Being able to read them in close proximity (even if interspersed with other books), the characters do tend to live – even if essentially uneventful lives.

  21. 5 out of 5

    gwayle

    OK, I still love this series (it's gorgeously written LOL British soap opera crack) but the narrator's refusal to discuss the dramas in his own life--an affair! an engagement!--at length, blow-by-blow, instead opting for minute focus on Widmerpool or some new or hitherto obscure minor character, is positively maddening. He is as socially devious as he accuses Lady Warminster of being, always collecting gossip but never revealing more than he must to get the next crumb. This is of course not enti OK, I still love this series (it's gorgeously written LOL British soap opera crack) but the narrator's refusal to discuss the dramas in his own life--an affair! an engagement!--at length, blow-by-blow, instead opting for minute focus on Widmerpool or some new or hitherto obscure minor character, is positively maddening. He is as socially devious as he accuses Lady Warminster of being, always collecting gossip but never revealing more than he must to get the next crumb. This is of course not entirely true, but the fact that we don't get to see Nick and his fiancée interact at all is just plain cruel. OK, I'm obviously more than a little emotionally involved with this story... By this rather coy technique, Powell implies that the events/people in your life you think are important (e.g., your engagement, your fiancée) aren't necessarily the salient features of your life's landscape: it's the chance encounter with someone you never thought you'd see again that is worthy of note. This is a rather shocking and intriguing hypothesis. Come to think of it, Powell delights in chance encounters: most of the chapters are centered around social situations brought about by chance (wherein numerous characters suddenly reemerge, having been absent for hundreds of pages), and long months, even years, quietly intervene. I'm surprised that I rarely found the introduction of new characters annoying: it's natural to want to jealously follow threads and characters you get attached to, but every character in this saga is drawn with such skill that I'm rather effortlessly swept along. Onward!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Illiterate

    The themes are weaker than in earlier volumes. The new characters are particularly amusing.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lars Guthrie

    Widmerpool is the glue holding 'Dance to the Music of Time' together as I finish a third of the twelve volume series. He literally stumbles onto the scene in the first book, and much of 'At Lady Molly's' is devoted to his farcical engagement to an older and wilder woman. Even though I was a bit let down that Powell fast forwarded past his narrator's affair with Jean Templer, this is what the series is all about: minor characters nearly intruding into the narrative landscape and establishing a mo Widmerpool is the glue holding 'Dance to the Music of Time' together as I finish a third of the twelve volume series. He literally stumbles onto the scene in the first book, and much of 'At Lady Molly's' is devoted to his farcical engagement to an older and wilder woman. Even though I was a bit let down that Powell fast forwarded past his narrator's affair with Jean Templer, this is what the series is all about: minor characters nearly intruding into the narrative landscape and establishing a motif almost despite themselves. Powell is telling us to look carefully at what we think doesn't matter, but yet shows up again and again in the tableaus we make of our lives.

  24. 5 out of 5

    James

    The 4th book in Powell`s a Dance to the music of time Opus. Covers the early adult phase of Jenkins and the usual suspects. For me these books require a special frame of mind, nothing much happens during the swirl of parties and dinners the main character attends. All the characters are emotionally repressed in an english bohemian upper class way which I have to assume actually existed in a particualr time period. I found it really enjoyable once I was a little zen, was able to devote substantia The 4th book in Powell`s a Dance to the music of time Opus. Covers the early adult phase of Jenkins and the usual suspects. For me these books require a special frame of mind, nothing much happens during the swirl of parties and dinners the main character attends. All the characters are emotionally repressed in an english bohemian upper class way which I have to assume actually existed in a particualr time period. I found it really enjoyable once I was a little zen, was able to devote substantial chunks of time to the book and just enjoyed the humour and the vividness of the characters.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Todd Martin

    I have no idea how I came to read At Lady Molly’s. I suspect I found it on someone’s list of best books. At any rate, it’s a 20th century British drawing room tale centered on the subject of marriage. The book is billed as a comedy, but only in the sense of aristocrats milling about making dry, and somewhat clever remarks.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    The further into this series I get, the more I like it. I will probably rate the series overall as 5 stars, even though I'm giving the individual books only 4. There is something special about the complete experience that truly is a masterpiece. I'm looking forward to reading a bio of Powell to see how much of this is based on his own life. The further into this series I get, the more I like it. I will probably rate the series overall as 5 stars, even though I'm giving the individual books only 4. There is something special about the complete experience that truly is a masterpiece. I'm looking forward to reading a bio of Powell to see how much of this is based on his own life.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ellie

    Reading a recent review of this one made me remember what a wonderful time I had reading this and the entire Dance to the Music of Time series. It remains one of my all-time favorite works! It's portrait of England and its various characters were fascinating and the writing outstanding. Definitely on my "rereads whenever I have time (retirement?)" list. Reading a recent review of this one made me remember what a wonderful time I had reading this and the entire Dance to the Music of Time series. It remains one of my all-time favorite works! It's portrait of England and its various characters were fascinating and the writing outstanding. Definitely on my "rereads whenever I have time (retirement?)" list.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Eadie

    This is a very addictive read and lots of fun. The characters are very entertaining and it's like watching a soap opera unfold on paper. I can't wait to read the next book in order to follow what all these characters are up to. This is a very addictive read and lots of fun. The characters are very entertaining and it's like watching a soap opera unfold on paper. I can't wait to read the next book in order to follow what all these characters are up to.

  29. 4 out of 5

    David Highton

    Nick Jenkins approaches 30 and Kenneth Widmerpool is already there - early enough in the 1930s for the rise of Hitler not to overshadow events in England as both main characters move through the social scene in their very different ways. Great writing.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nente

    Nick goes on being a professional observer, keeping up the appearance of total disengagement even when things concern him very closely. I have stopped wondering about why we are following these people, some of them rather unpleasant, quite so closely. Now I'm just drifting with the current here. Nick goes on being a professional observer, keeping up the appearance of total disengagement even when things concern him very closely. I have stopped wondering about why we are following these people, some of them rather unpleasant, quite so closely. Now I'm just drifting with the current here.

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