“A Dance” Is Finding Its Rhythm
Maybe A Dance To The Music Of Time has finally worn me down. It’s beaten me up, bruised me, tossed me around like a Cabbage Patch Kid without a leg. Because, somehow, I’m willing to say the fourth book in the series, At Lady Molly’s, wasn’t that bad.
It’s not that anything changed with Anthony Powell’s style. It’s not that, all of the sudden, the plot took off and became action-packed and filled with suspense.
I still would say A Dance To The Music Of Time might be compared to the most boring reality show ever, a show in which the main characters sit around and talk about history and go to social parties to discuss the merits of Communism over a glassy of sherry.
All of that is still the same. I think the characters are just finally starting to grow on me. After nearly 1,000 pages of reading, I would hope a few of these characters would begin to seem interesting. And they have.
But I’m also starting to “get” the book a little more. In sum, A Dance is a book about how people weave in and out of our lives.
It starts with elementary and high school. Maybe you have a few friends you still keep up with, but most of us haven’t talked to 99% of our high school friends in years. We might move from town to town, change jobs, and with each of those changes we give up one set of acquaintances and friends for another new set.
When we run into those old friends again, maybe we’re surprised at how life has treated them. In the example below, I love Powell’s description of two people who turned out totally different than their teenage status would’ve implied. It would be like the high school cheerleader who turns into the loser druggie and the nerdy, loner girl who becomes a major success.
Life jogs along, apparently in the same old way, and then suddenly your attention is drawn to some terrific change that has taken place. For example, I found myself brought up short at that moment, like a horse reined in on the brink of a precipice, at the thought of the astonishing reversal of circumstances by which Eleanor Walpole Wilson was now in a position to feel sorry for Barbara Goring–or, as she had by then been for some years, Barbara Pardoe. The relationship between these two first cousins, like all other relationships when one is young, had seemed at that time utterly immutable; Barbara, pretty, lively, noisy, popular: Eleanor, plain, awkward, cantankerous, solitary. Barbara’s patronage of Eleanor was something that could never change. ‘Eleanor is not a bad old thing when you get to know her,’ she used to say; certainly without the faintest suspicion that within a few years Eleanor might be in a position to say: ‘Poor Barbara, she does have a time of it.’
So “The Year of The Dance” continues on. I’ve now completed one-third of the twelve volume, 3,000+ page novel. In May, I’ll be tackling the fifth book in the series, Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant. Hopefully, my growing enjoyment of this series will continue.
For those of you who I scared off with my thoughts on the first few books, do you think you might be willing to tackle this behemoth of a book at some point?
Check out my previous posts about A Dance To The Music Of Time.