A Dance to the Music of Time: First Movement

  • by Anthony Powell
  • Narrated by Simon Vance
  • 21 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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. Four very different young men on the threshold of manhood dominate this opening volume of A Dance to the Music of Time. The narrator, Jenkinsa budding writer shares a room with Templer, already a passionate womanizer, and Stringham, aristocratic and reckless. Widermerpool, as hopelessly awkward as he is intensely ambitious, lurks on the periphery of their world. Amid the fever of the 1920s and the first chill of the 1930s, these four gain their initiations into sex, society, business, and art. Considered a masterpiece of modern fiction, Powell's epic creates a rich panorama of life in England between the wars. Includes these novels: A Question of Upbringing, A Buyer's Market, The Acceptance World.
As an added bonus, when you purchase our Audible Modern Vanguard production of Anthony Powell's book, you'll also receive an exclusive Jim Atlas interview. This interview – where James Atlas interviews Charles McGrath about the life and work of Anthony Powell – begins as soon as the audiobook ends.


What the Critics Say

"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." (New York Times)
"Vance's narration captivates listeners throughout this outstanding examination of a life in progress." (AudioFile)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

It is no good being a beauty alone...

***** "For reasons not always at the time explicable, there are specific occasions when events begin suddenly to take on a significance previously unsuspected; so that, before we really know where we are, life seems to have begun in earnest at last, and we, ourselves, scarcely aware that any change has taken place, are careering uncontrollably down the slippery avenues of eternity."
-- Anthony Powell, A Buyer's Market

BOOK ONE (A Question of Upbringing): the first of Powell's monster 12-book 'A Dance to the Music of Time' deals primarily with Nick and his fellow students during their last year in public school and first couple years either "up" at University or "down" in the city working. The four major players in the first book: Nicholas Jenkins (the narrator), Charles Stringham, Peter Templer, and Kenneth Widmerpool. These characters all show up again in Book 2. Along with various other characters (Nick's uncle, Jean Templer, Mark Members, JG Quiggin, Bill Truscott, etc.).

BOOK TWO ('A Buyer's Market'): focuses on Nick and some new characters, and many of the old, as they maneuver through the social dinners, dances and teas that seem designed to both stratify society AND bring together these young people together to get married; to find adequate husbands for daughters and satisfy the social or monetary need of the men who are just starting to 'make something' of their lives.

Events seem to guide the paths of these people in and out of each others lives. Probably the most painful to watch is Widmerpool, who seems always to exist in a socially difficult place and constantly dealing with sugary embarrassments.

I love how art is taking on a larger presence in his novels. Not a surprising fact given that the book itself is named after a painting with the same name by Nicolas Poussin. But, internal to the book, it makes sense given that Edgar Bosworth Deacon (an artist) plays a part and that Nick is now working in a publishing house devoted to art books.

There are parts of this novel that, obviously, bring to mind Marcel Proust, but a lot of the first two novels, at least, seem substantively more related to both Evelyn Waugh and F. Scott Fitzgerald. I wonder if the either the character of Members/Quiggin is, in fact, E. Waugh. And if so, who the other writer "is".

***** "Emotional crises always promote the urgent need for executive action, so that the times when we most hope to be free from the practical administration of life are always those when the need to cope with the concrete world is more than ever necessary"
-- Anthony Powell, The Acceptance World

BOOK THREE ('The Acceptance World'): There is something amazing about Powell's attempt to gather the passage of time, the progression of life, the dynamic of relationships over 12 novels. When I read Proust and as I read Powell and even Knausgaard, I am always a bit shocked by the boldness of folding together six (Knausgaard), seven (Proust), or twelve novels into a narrative that actually works.

Reading Powell reminds me of reading an Evelyn Waugh that is stretched out over decades, or reading Proust where instead of the narrator focusing in, the narrator is actually ignoring the inner-life and capturing the world and the people around him. It is kind of dizzying if you step back and think about it. It is like reading Downton Abbey serialized from the 30s into the 60s with more characters, more art, and a bit more London and bit less Abbey.

So, I'm done with A Dance to the Music of Time: First Movement and done with Spring. Bring on Summer and I'm guessing World War 2.
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- Darwin8u "I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^"

A Masterpiece on All Counts

A Dance to the Music of Time, inspired by the painting of the same name by Nicolas Poussin, was rated by Time magazine as one of the 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005. Written by the English novelist Anthony Powell, who took almost 25 years to create the 12-volume set, provides a highly-literate and highly-amusing look into the English upper-middle class between the 1920s and the 1970s. The book covers politics, class-consciousness, society, culture, love, social graces, manners, education, power, money, snobbery, humour, and more.

Although daunting in terms of length, the absolutely brilliant narration by the talented Simon Vance rewards the reader over thousands of pages, hundreds of characters, and twelve installments of gorgeous prose. This is a not-to-be-missed collection of novels for any serious reader of English literature.
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- Jennifer

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-19-2010
  • Publisher: Audible Studios