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The author of the award-winning, two-volume Matisse: A Life, now gives us the long-awaited, definitive biography of literary master Anthony Powell--the critic, editor, and novelist known as "the English Proust"-- that, at the same time, takes us deep into twentieth-century London literary life. Anthony Powell (1905-2000), best known for his twelve-volume comic masterpiece, The author of the award-winning, two-volume Matisse: A Life, now gives us the long-awaited, definitive biography of literary master Anthony Powell--the critic, editor, and novelist known as "the English Proust"-- that, at the same time, takes us deep into twentieth-century London literary life. Anthony Powell (1905-2000), best known for his twelve-volume comic masterpiece, A Dance to the Music of Time, was also the author of sixteen earlier novels, plays, and biographies, five memoirs, and three volumes of journals. He was a prolific literary critic and book reviewer. Between the two world wars, before making his name, he kept company with rowdy, hard-up writers and painters--and painters' models--in the London where Augustus John and Wyndham Lewis loomed large. He counted Evelyn Waugh and Henry Green among his lifelong friends, and his circle included the Sitwells, Graham Greene, George Orwell, Philip Larkin, and Kingsley Amis, among many others. Now, drawing on his letters, diaries, and interviews, Hilary Spurling--herself a longtime friend of Powell's-- has written a fresh and masterful portrait of the man, his work, and his time. Insightful, poignant, and cinematic in scope, this biography is as much a brilliant tapestry of a seminal moment in London's literary life as it is a revelation of an iconic literary figure.


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The author of the award-winning, two-volume Matisse: A Life, now gives us the long-awaited, definitive biography of literary master Anthony Powell--the critic, editor, and novelist known as "the English Proust"-- that, at the same time, takes us deep into twentieth-century London literary life. Anthony Powell (1905-2000), best known for his twelve-volume comic masterpiece, The author of the award-winning, two-volume Matisse: A Life, now gives us the long-awaited, definitive biography of literary master Anthony Powell--the critic, editor, and novelist known as "the English Proust"-- that, at the same time, takes us deep into twentieth-century London literary life. Anthony Powell (1905-2000), best known for his twelve-volume comic masterpiece, A Dance to the Music of Time, was also the author of sixteen earlier novels, plays, and biographies, five memoirs, and three volumes of journals. He was a prolific literary critic and book reviewer. Between the two world wars, before making his name, he kept company with rowdy, hard-up writers and painters--and painters' models--in the London where Augustus John and Wyndham Lewis loomed large. He counted Evelyn Waugh and Henry Green among his lifelong friends, and his circle included the Sitwells, Graham Greene, George Orwell, Philip Larkin, and Kingsley Amis, among many others. Now, drawing on his letters, diaries, and interviews, Hilary Spurling--herself a longtime friend of Powell's-- has written a fresh and masterful portrait of the man, his work, and his time. Insightful, poignant, and cinematic in scope, this biography is as much a brilliant tapestry of a seminal moment in London's literary life as it is a revelation of an iconic literary figure.

30 review for Anthony Powell: Dancing to the Music of Time

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nigeyb

    Hilary Spurling knew Anthony Powell over many years and agreed with him that she would publish a posthumous biography. Anthony Powell: Dancing to the Music of Time is the result. It's a page turner, from Powell's troubled family background to a triumphant conclusion at which Powell was established as one of the great 20th-century novelists. Anthony Powell's contact list was a thing of wonder and awe, he seemed to have the happy knack of getting on well with a wide range of fascinating people. Hi Hilary Spurling knew Anthony Powell over many years and agreed with him that she would publish a posthumous biography. Anthony Powell: Dancing to the Music of Time is the result. It's a page turner, from Powell's troubled family background to a triumphant conclusion at which Powell was established as one of the great 20th-century novelists. Anthony Powell's contact list was a thing of wonder and awe, he seemed to have the happy knack of getting on well with a wide range of fascinating people. His list of friends is a who's who (in the UK) of the Twentieth Century. With his wife Violet, he was also a prodigious host and entertainer and enjoyed close relationships with many key figures. I read all twelve A Dance to the Music of Time novels between May 2014 and July 2014. The twelve-volume sequence A Dance to the Music of Time traces a colourful group of English acquaintances from 1914 to 1971. The slowly developing narrative centres around life's poignant encounters between friends and lovers who later drift apart and yet keep reencountering each other over numerous unfolding decades as they move through the vicissitudes of marriage, work, aging, and ultimately death. Part of the pleasure of Anthony Powell: Dancing to the Music of Time is discovering how Anthony Powell wrote A Dance to the Music of Time, who he collaborated with, which autobiographical details he included, who he based some of the characters on, and so forth. If you’ve read A Dance to the Music of Time you’ll devour this splendid biography however it's impossible to read without experiencing a strong desire to revisit it. If you haven't yet read them, it's hard to imagine you would be able to resist the urge to read all twelve of the A Dance to the Music of Time books at your earliest available opportunity. The twelve A Dance to the Music of Time books are available individually, or as four seasonally themed compendium volumes: Spring A Question of Upbringing – (1951) A Buyer's Market – (1952) The Acceptance World – (1955) Summer At Lady Molly's – (1957) Casanova's Chinese Restaurant – (1960) The Kindly Ones – (1962) Autumn The Valley of Bones – (1964) The Soldier's Art – (1966) The Military Philosophers – (1968) Winter Books Do Furnish a Room – (1971) Temporary Kings – (1973) Hearing Secret Harmonies – (1975) (dates are first UK publication dates) 4/5

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    I have always been rather ambivalent towards biographies as I find the minutiae of people's lives rather dull reading, especially when we have to wade through the subject's childhood and 'all that David Copperfield kind of crap'; but certain people have generated enough interest in me to find out about their lives and quite a lot of those subjects have been authors. Typically those I have read biographies of have been authors that have led exciting or extraordinary lives, those I've read a large I have always been rather ambivalent towards biographies as I find the minutiae of people's lives rather dull reading, especially when we have to wade through the subject's childhood and 'all that David Copperfield kind of crap'; but certain people have generated enough interest in me to find out about their lives and quite a lot of those subjects have been authors. Typically those I have read biographies of have been authors that have led exciting or extraordinary lives, those I've read a large amount of their work and those whose work is autobiographical or semi-autobiographical. Part of the interest of reading biographies of those authors whose work is at least partially autobiographical is comparing the work with their real life and this was, in part, the interest for me in reading this recent biography of Anthony Powell by Hilary Spurling. Writers, such as Powell and Proust, as well as their biographers warn us that we shouldn't be looking for real life comparisons of characters in their books, but in the end it's just too tempting to resist, especially when many of the novelists' characters do have real-life counterparts and events are similar to those in the author's life; I then think we are justified in looking for them and as long as we're grown-up enough to realise that there isn't necessarily a one-to-one connection, that not all the characters are taken from real life and that some may be a mixture of different people or just inventions of the author then I don't see any harm in this pastime. At first Anthony Powell's life doesn't seem to be a particularly interesting topic but as with his novel series, A Dance to the Music of Time, it is the characters that he comes in contact with as well as his reflections on them and himself that ends up making this an interesting book to read. Spurling doesn't attempt anything fancy, instead she cracks on from 1905, the year of Powell's birth, giving a brief description of Powell's mother and father and his childhood years before surging on. The opening sentences gives a picture of these early years. Small, inquisitive and solitary, the only child of an only son, growing up in rented lodgings or hotel rooms, constantly on the move as a boy, Anthony Powell needed an energetic imagination to people a sadly under-populated world from a child's point of view. His mother and his nurse were for long periods the only people he saw, in general the one unchanging element in a peripatetic existence. His mother was very introverted, religious and had a liking for the occult, whereas his father was explosive and demanding and mostly absent from Anthony's early life, especially once WWI began as he was an officer in the army. Spurling then covers Powell's school years at New Beacon School in Sevenoaks, Kent followed by Eton, where he became friends with Henry Green, and then on to Balliol College, Oxford, where he befriended Evelyn Waugh. Although the sections on Powell's schooldays and university period are of interest as we get to see the young Anthony Powell and we can compare it with Nick Jenkin's life in the first novel of 'Dance', the biography really became interesting for me after he left university and he began work at the publishers Gerald Duckworth and Co. in London. It's here where we start to see several interesting characters filtering through Powell's life. Duckworth's was a strange publishers for young Powell to end up at as the owner seems rather uninterested in publishing books and tries to block any attempts to revitalise the firm. But it is at Duckworth's that Powell begins to experience life more fully and on his own terms. During this period he has love affairs, meets artists, buys a car and starts writing his first novel, Afternoon Men. Spurling does an excellent job in portraying the rather seedy bohemian lifestyle that Powell was immersed in. His rather dilapidated lodgings in Shepherd Market appealed to him as a counterpoint to his life at Oxford. Reading the chapters on this period in Powell's life has really made me want to read more of his pre-WWII (and pre-'Dance') novels, especially What's Become of Waring?, which is set in a publishers much like Duckworth's. During a visit to Pakenham Hall, Ireland, he met and fell in love with Violet Pakenham, whom he married in 1934. Powell left Duckworth's and tried, but failed, to make it in Hollywood as a scriptwriter. During the war he entered the army as a Second Lieutenant and, like Nick Jenkins, ended up in Intelligence. The post-war years were somewhat difficult for Powell, as they must have been for nearly everyone. Spurling describes Powell's moments of depression during this period, convinced that he'd wasted the most productive years of his life and that he'd never write again. During the war years his sole work had been a biography of John Aubrey but it is during this period that he came across Nicolas Poussin's painting, A Dance to the Music of Time in the Wallace Collection which was to inspire his own work. Powell worked as a freelance writer, a book reviewer and wrote a regular column at the Daily Telegraph. Powell became friends with many famous people whom most of us have heard of, such as Malcolm Muggeridge, George Orwell, Evelyn Waugh, Julian MacLaren-Ross, Ivy-Compton Burnett, Kingsley Amis, and many other interesting people that I hadn't heard of before such as Gerald Reitlinger, Edward Burra, John Heygate etc. He seems to have formed deep and lasting friendships with many of these people and to have enjoyed socialising with them, possibly making up for his rather sombre childhood at home and young adulthood at university. Powell began writing A Question of Upbringing, the first novel of 'Dance', in March 1948 and which was published in 1951. When the first volume was published Powell had envisaged the whole work as 'at least a trilogy' but he was to continue over the next twenty-five years to publish a new novel in the series roughly every two years. It was only when he was writing the volumes relating to WWII that he knew that it was going to consist of twelve volumes. Curiously, Spurling seems to race along with the narrative once Powell begins work on 'Dance' and even stranger is that the biography more or less ends with the publication of the last novel of the series. There's a Postscript which covers this period from 1975 up to Powell's death in 2000 but it appears rather rushed especially as Powell still produced a couple of novels and a four-volume set of memoirs during this period. This is my only criticism of this excellent biography and is recommended to anyone who has read the novels of Anthony Powell.

  3. 5 out of 5

    June Louise

    This is wonderfully written biography of an outstanding author who, nowadays, is relatively unknown. Spurling's account of Tony, his acquaintances, his loves, and events in his life, reads almost like his Dance masterpiece itself. It is incredibly interesting, but yet very poignant - especially the last chapter. Having read all of Powell's books, and now this recently published biography, I feel immensely proud to be writing my thesis on this author, and in doing so, attempting to dissolve the in This is wonderfully written biography of an outstanding author who, nowadays, is relatively unknown. Spurling's account of Tony, his acquaintances, his loves, and events in his life, reads almost like his Dance masterpiece itself. It is incredibly interesting, but yet very poignant - especially the last chapter. Having read all of Powell's books, and now this recently published biography, I feel immensely proud to be writing my thesis on this author, and in doing so, attempting to dissolve the inaccurate and wrong snobbish image that people who have not read his novels have fixed onto him for no other reason that he spoke differently or held old fashioned values (he was 90 when he died). Altogether a wonderful book that I will enjoy referring to in the course of my studies.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Timothy Hallinan

    I'm an almost lifetime fan of Anthony Powell's 12-volume masterpiece A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME, and Spurling's book is the first biography of Powell I know of that really focuses on his crowning achievement. Spurling knew Powell and his wife, Violet, and had access to rooms full (it seems) of Powell memorabilia, including his notebooks and sketchbooks, letters, and other valuable glimpses into the man behind the books. In reading Powell's life, it was a little startling for me to realize that I'm an almost lifetime fan of Anthony Powell's 12-volume masterpiece A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME, and Spurling's book is the first biography of Powell I know of that really focuses on his crowning achievement. Spurling knew Powell and his wife, Violet, and had access to rooms full (it seems) of Powell memorabilia, including his notebooks and sketchbooks, letters, and other valuable glimpses into the man behind the books. In reading Powell's life, it was a little startling for me to realize that he and Violet were so poor (despite having bought a rather grand house) for so long. His first four novels earned widespread enthusiasm and the first three volumes of the DANCE provoked some of England's best critics into producing the kinds of reviews most writers only dream of, but for most of his career Powell earned the money that kept the wolf from their very fancy door by editing the literary page of PUNCH and other periodicals and writing endless reviews on a cash-on-delivery basis. Everyone who's read the DANCE wonders about the real-life inspirations for some of the characters, and Spurling nails down some of them, but leaves as a mystery the series' most overwhelming character, the comic and sometimes not-so-comic monster Widmerpool. A really fascinating book for anyone who'd predisposed to be interested in one of the last century's greatest novelists. A little slow in places, but so is life.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Claire

    Very interesting times and people. An amazing life and all the more engaging having read ‘Dance to the Music of Time’. Of course it is reflective of a certain cohort, mainly male, old school connections, supported often with some sort of yearly stipend from family. Shouldn’t generalize. Still they worked hard, were passionate thinkers, writers, artists, poets, soldiers, leaders. Women were a big part of their lives and there were a lot of famous women writers and artists. But these mainly not so Very interesting times and people. An amazing life and all the more engaging having read ‘Dance to the Music of Time’. Of course it is reflective of a certain cohort, mainly male, old school connections, supported often with some sort of yearly stipend from family. Shouldn’t generalize. Still they worked hard, were passionate thinkers, writers, artists, poets, soldiers, leaders. Women were a big part of their lives and there were a lot of famous women writers and artists. But these mainly not so well known. His wife wrote and I would like to get her take on life. They seemed to all enjoy social contacts over weekends and often a serious night life of parties and events. All set around in and between war times. The capacity for reading, writing and correspondence between friends was huge.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Liam Guilar

    If you didn't know who Anthony Powell was, and hadn't read A Dance to the Music of Time, this would still be worth reading as an insight into the British Literary world. Most of the major players, from the 1920s onwards, some long forgotten, drift in and out of Powell's life in a way that is reminiscent of the way characters drift in and out of A Dance. Spurling handles the vast cast of characters and her prose is a pleasure to read. If you do know who Powell was, and you've read A Dance, then t If you didn't know who Anthony Powell was, and hadn't read A Dance to the Music of Time, this would still be worth reading as an insight into the British Literary world. Most of the major players, from the 1920s onwards, some long forgotten, drift in and out of Powell's life in a way that is reminiscent of the way characters drift in and out of A Dance. Spurling handles the vast cast of characters and her prose is a pleasure to read. If you do know who Powell was, and you've read A Dance, then this is probably essential reading.

  7. 4 out of 5

    William

    "Tony needed a project to keep him sane through the coming months or years of war when it would be impossible to concentrate on anything so demanding as a novel. Wanting something scrappier and more prosaic, requiring no creative input, he picked biography instead." A characteristic remark from a biographer almost as self-effacing as her subject matter. Probably there is no greater testament to Powell's disinterest in himself than one's desire to read his biography only a few months after reading "Tony needed a project to keep him sane through the coming months or years of war when it would be impossible to concentrate on anything so demanding as a novel. Wanting something scrappier and more prosaic, requiring no creative input, he picked biography instead." A characteristic remark from a biographer almost as self-effacing as her subject matter. Probably there is no greater testament to Powell's disinterest in himself than one's desire to read his biography only a few months after reading his memoirs, and being constantly surprised by its contents. Some revelations came with the breaking down of accepted cliches concerning his class and attitudes: born to a socially-dubious pair of eccentrics, he might have been a (low-level) fixture of the London 20s deb scene, but he was still treated by Sacheverell Sitwell as 'an upper servant' - connectionless and without any great expectations, existing in a state of financial anxiety until his forties. He read modernist literature, frequented seedy nightclubs and moved primarily in the company of painters and penniless writers. Other disclosures were less expected. I was taken aback to learn of his wife Violet having had an affair with an unknown man during the war, and felt a vicarious bottoming-out of the stomach on reading her disclosure to George Orwell's widow Sonia: 'he was the love my life.' Up until reading that I perhaps hadn't realised just how invested in Powell's life-story I really was - the sensation was close to personal affront. It is a curious demonstration of how one can be possessed, as A.S. Byatt would have it, by the authors one admires. Appropriate, given her subject, Spurling barely permits the account a whole page before briskly moving on, pausing only to suggest its later importance as emotional weight behind Dance narrator Nick Jenkins' own romantic dealings with Jean Duport. However, on the whole Spurling is hesitant to engage in what Christopher Hitchens has elsewhere called literary England's 'favourite parlour game' - the matching up of Powell characters with their real life counterparts. The book is straight-forward and lucid, quoting from a trove of letters and contemporary accounts, occasionally supplemented by Powell's own laconic autobiographical remarks. Yet something of the ultra-urbane edifice lingers. Spurling, who knew Powell from 1969 onwards, confines all personal experience to a final postscript, outlining his later years. Any hope of Aubrey-esque anecdote - Powell racing up Frome high street in desperate need of loo paper - remain unfulfilled. Perhaps it is precisely because she was a close friend that Spurling respectfully withholds the scatalogical incidents which must accrue in every person's life. The loyalty certainly makes itself known when she defends her subject from literary criticism: the only quoted bad reviews are from friends who have previously expressed admiration, being thus easily dismissed as back-stabbing or marks of jealousy. (Such is the appraisal of criticisms made by Philip Larkin, V.S. Naipaul, Malcom Muggeridge, Auberon Waugh). One might agree that they were callous, but it seems a sign of complacency on Spurling's part not to treat them seriously. Powell's ultimate critical legacy is not touched on. Spurling goes no further than to (rightly) defend him from accusations of snobbishness, and to cast him as the most European of British writers: IE not someone to be enjoyed exclusively by the English upper classes. A Dance to the Music of Time remains probably my favourite book. It is quiet and wry, devoid of undergraduate grandiloquence. Perhaps one might have expected a little more humour from his biographer, but otherwise a fittingly unemphatic read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    David

    A welcome addition to contemplation of AP and his achievement. There are a few errors (but of the sort AP himself committed in the Novels—time cues that do not gel, characters reversed). Many early responses have questioned Spurling’s decision to, in effect, ignore AP’s final quarter century, bringing the biography to a conclusion in tandem with AP himself completing DANCE in 1975. That perspective is not quite fair; Spurling gives a brief treatment of 1976-2000, mentioning the memoirs, novels, A welcome addition to contemplation of AP and his achievement. There are a few errors (but of the sort AP himself committed in the Novels—time cues that do not gel, characters reversed). Many early responses have questioned Spurling’s decision to, in effect, ignore AP’s final quarter century, bringing the biography to a conclusion in tandem with AP himself completing DANCE in 1975. That perspective is not quite fair; Spurling gives a brief treatment of 1976-2000, mentioning the memoirs, novels, and journals of those years. One wonders if AP more or less stipulated a 1975 ‘cut-off’ as the terminus ad quem of his public life. The book adds relatively little to what I already knew of AP, but I have been a fanatic for 40 years. It is a good examination of his formative influences, his methods, and his accomplishments.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Anne Fenn

    An interesting and valuable book about Tony Powell, author of the 12 volume series A Dance to the Music of Time. This is well loved within my family, and I'm very inspired now to read it myself. Spurling's biography has it all - his life story, an excellent analysis of his most famous works, and many enticing references to other writers of the times, with titles well worth following up if you're a fan. The author makes Tony Powell and his wife Violet very real people, living through all of the s An interesting and valuable book about Tony Powell, author of the 12 volume series A Dance to the Music of Time. This is well loved within my family, and I'm very inspired now to read it myself. Spurling's biography has it all - his life story, an excellent analysis of his most famous works, and many enticing references to other writers of the times, with titles well worth following up if you're a fan. The author makes Tony Powell and his wife Violet very real people, living through all of the struggles, conflicts and hardships of the twentieth century. The biography's focus is on writing - mostly Tony's, but also many other known and unknown writers. We learn who and what inspired it, how and when it was done. Troubles with publishers feature a lot. Tony also worked within the publishing world, writing reviews and editing magazines. The people he meets across, close friends, family, work and army colleagues, all provide the basis of his writing. He was recognised as a brilliant chronicler of being human in the twentieth century, drifted out of sight a bit with current general readers, but his value is fully restored within this biography.

  10. 5 out of 5

    BiblioPhil

    An exemplary biography, but the work is more fascinating than the life. Better that way.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mario Hinksman

    A brilliantly researched, very readable biography of Anthony Powell, the author best known for the 12-part series 'A Dance to the Music of Time'. That the author of this biography knew its subject seems an obvious advantage for her. However that is not to detract from the achievement here. In many ways this biography mirrors 'A Dance to the Music of Time' in that the account of Powell's life is told through interactions with a wide and rich cast of characters. What could be distracting tangents i A brilliantly researched, very readable biography of Anthony Powell, the author best known for the 12-part series 'A Dance to the Music of Time'. That the author of this biography knew its subject seems an obvious advantage for her. However that is not to detract from the achievement here. In many ways this biography mirrors 'A Dance to the Music of Time' in that the account of Powell's life is told through interactions with a wide and rich cast of characters. What could be distracting tangents in a lesser writer's work, only add to the rich tapestry of Powell's life as told by Hilary Spurling. The author also mirrors her subject's brilliant one sentence portraits of people that capture so much with so few words. Much has been written of Powell and indeed this biography but for me a couple of themes stood out: 1) Above all, for so superficially a privileged life, there was struggle. Struggle with his father, struggle at school in what sounded horrific conditions at a prep school, struggle at Oxford which he didn't enjoy, ongoing struggles with depression, with disappointing jobs, with relative poverty, in the army, with loss and later with friends who seemed to turn against him as he became more successful. He only seemed to gain financial independence at around 55 when his frugal and apparently poor father surprised him by leaving an unexpectedly large legacy when he died. Twenty-five years in the writing, all twelve volumes of ADTTMOT seem to have been a true struggle but one that made the author who he was. 2) His marriage to Violet was vital in its contribution, not only to his life but his creative work. 3) The 12 part work of ADTTMOT came to dominate his life for a quarter of century of writing as well time beforehand in its ideas being born. Once complete, there was a more than a sense of sadness and loss, despite the fact that the author was to live another 25 years and reach the grand old age of 94. There was also a sense that literary fashion and perceived political correctness swung unfairly against the author for a while in the 1960s and 1970s although this phase has passed now, I feel A pedant's point 'a la Mr. Child', the accountant at Duckworth's Publishers or Blackhead in ADTTMOT, but maybe I share something with those two bores: I thought the references to honours refused and accepted mixed up the years of the Thatcher and the Heath governments. However this is not really a book for pedants but for genuine Powell fans: a rich heart-felt biography that does not hide the author's deep affection for the subject. It is a book that illuminates the creative journey of a man whose legacy endures for readers today and whose books demonstrate, to apply Powell's quote on Shakespeare to Powell himself, "an extraordinary grasp of what other people were like".

  12. 4 out of 5

    Catullus2

    Interesting to read about the intersections of Powell’s life and the Dance.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Paula

    Mine is a bit of an unfair review; this was presented in 5, 13-minute segments, and I caught only the last two. But those two covered the writing of Dancing to the Music of Time, which is what Powell is known for. I'm afraid I was distracted by the reader's presentation, which I found somewhat inappropriate. She read like it was a thriller, every word weighted with drama, when the fact of the matter was that it was rather mundane. If you are particularly interested in Powell, you would likely en Mine is a bit of an unfair review; this was presented in 5, 13-minute segments, and I caught only the last two. But those two covered the writing of Dancing to the Music of Time, which is what Powell is known for. I'm afraid I was distracted by the reader's presentation, which I found somewhat inappropriate. She read like it was a thriller, every word weighted with drama, when the fact of the matter was that it was rather mundane. If you are particularly interested in Powell, you would likely enjoy this biography. Otherwise, it didn't appear that there was anything unusual or exciting about his life that would keep the average person interested, and I'm certain that wasn't the result of the abridging. The reader, Hattie Morahan, furthermore had a tendency to use odd inflections. I realize the British inflect differently from Americans, but typically that's within a word itself. But when the inflection occurs within a phrase, such as "spring WATER" rather than "SPRING water", it affects the attention given. Suddenly one is focusing on the water itself, rather than the fact that it was a spring being highlighted. Momentarily distracted, I would find myself lost in the narrative and have to backtrack and replay the last few minutes. It was very good for inducing sleep, however.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    Anthony Powell's A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME is one of the cornerstone works of literature in 20th century British literature and the author himself has been described as England's Proust. Even more than that, the long-lived Powell (1905 - 2000) was also right there in the center of everything that was going on in art, letters, music, film and television and Hilary Spurling's biography puts you right there alongside all those makers and shakers of the past. Whether it was growing up with Henry Anthony Powell's A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME is one of the cornerstone works of literature in 20th century British literature and the author himself has been described as England's Proust. Even more than that, the long-lived Powell (1905 - 2000) was also right there in the center of everything that was going on in art, letters, music, film and television and Hilary Spurling's biography puts you right there alongside all those makers and shakers of the past. Whether it was growing up with Henry Green, almost publishing Evelyn Waugh's first novel, spending time with Aleister Crowley being best friends with Constance Lambert, and helping nurture the careers of Kingsley Amis and V. S. Naipul, almost every page has at least one reference to someone of note and if you put a little work into it, could become the source for a wicked game of six degrees of separation. A fantastic biography of one of my favorite authors.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Graham Galer

    This is an exceptionally good biography, which relates the events of Powell's life to characters and events in his novels, especially 'Dance'. Very interesting, if you have read the novels.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Varney

    I very much enjoyed the TV series many years ago, and I very much enjoyed the books when I read them afterwards. Anthony Powell was so good at inventing characters and bringing them to life. They spoke and acted consistently, often in very idiosyncratic ways. I remember one hostess talking to her guests at a party and thinking it was like being in the same room. There was another character, Charles Stringham, who was so witty, I wondered how the author could write someone as witty without being I very much enjoyed the TV series many years ago, and I very much enjoyed the books when I read them afterwards. Anthony Powell was so good at inventing characters and bringing them to life. They spoke and acted consistently, often in very idiosyncratic ways. I remember one hostess talking to her guests at a party and thinking it was like being in the same room. There was another character, Charles Stringham, who was so witty, I wondered how the author could write someone as witty without being at least as witty, and if he was as witty as that then why wasn't he doing something in that line. The biography reminded me of what it was like to read the books. There was a great sense of wit and fun when Powell was a young man, visiting friends, attending parties, conducting love affairs. The mood changed during the war and again post war. My favourite book in that sequence was The Valley of the Bones, in which the narrator protagonist, who by this time is approaching middle age, enrolls in the army and is sent to Northern Ireland with his Welsh battalion for training. After that I think the pre war books were best. There's a sense of loss and sadness in the later book and a feeling of getting old. When I was reading the books, I sometimes used to wonder whether the narrator protagonist, Nick Jenkins, was basically Anthony Powell the author. I wondered if Nick were real whether Anthony Powell would wonder why he kept running into him all the time. The biography makes clear Powell was not just fictionalizing his conversations with his friends and associates. You cannot draw a one-to-one mapping between every character in the book and a real life person. I knew Anthony Powell had been a friend of George Orwell, but I could not spot anyone on the books who was definitely based on him. I was surprised there was no one model for his most famous character, Kenneth Widmerpool, at least not one who played a big part in the Anthony Powell's life. Some characters were lifted almost directly from real life, for instance, Pamela Flitton was based on Barbara Skelton. Thinking about it now, considering how Pamela Flitton was one of the three most vibrant characters in the Dancing to the Music of Time, it is strange there was not a bit more about Barbara Skelton. There was a bit, just not much. In one of the later books, there was a strange bit in which Nick Jenkins mourns the loss of his friend, Hugh Moreland. It was so movingly written, I was sure it must have been written about one of the author's real friends. The biography says it was Constant Lambert, who was a successful composer in the 30s, but now completely forgotten. I was interested to read about Anthony Powell's early writing career. I have read one of those books. It was alright. I remember it had an amusing, dirty French song in it. He wrote a couple of books after Dance. One was set on a cruise ship, so I might check that out and send it to my stepmother if it's any good. Still, I expect if Anthony Powell does continue to be remembered, it will be for his Dance series.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Pauline Butcher Bird

    I have not read any of Anthony Powell’s novels because apparently they are ponderous, so I thought I’d read this biography to get more background and appraisal of the writer. Sadly it turns out to be less than I wanted. You could get almost the same information from the pages of Wikipedia. Powell’s mother was 15 years older than his father who appeared to require as much mothering as Anthony himself and it must have been with relief that he escaped to boarding at Eton at age 13. He himself wedde I have not read any of Anthony Powell’s novels because apparently they are ponderous, so I thought I’d read this biography to get more background and appraisal of the writer. Sadly it turns out to be less than I wanted. You could get almost the same information from the pages of Wikipedia. Powell’s mother was 15 years older than his father who appeared to require as much mothering as Anthony himself and it must have been with relief that he escaped to boarding at Eton at age 13. He himself wedded his wife only three weeks after they met and we are told only that it was a happy marriage. Subsequently she is barely mentioned except through miscarriages and births. Spurring seems keener to tell us about other writers Powell met during his life rather than delve into Powell’s bouts of depression or how he dealt with them. When, Malcolm Muggeridge or Evelyn Waugh wrote scathing reviews of Powell’s novels, all Spurling can tell us is that Powell was hurt. Nor does she discuss the merits or otherwise of the novels. So plenty of scope has been left for someone else to write a more ambitious and insightful biography. Freak Out! My Life with Frank Zappa

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mrs D

    I read Powell's "Dance to the Music of Time" sequence many years ago and thought it a great thing: marvelous in its entirety, subtle and ironic almost, although the early volumes might seem dated in language. So I was very keen to read this biography by Hilary Spurling, a very reputable biographer and friend of Powell. Her story of the years of his youth is fascinating and detailed, particularly as it becomes married to his sequence of novels. The big "But" for me is that I was disappointed by h I read Powell's "Dance to the Music of Time" sequence many years ago and thought it a great thing: marvelous in its entirety, subtle and ironic almost, although the early volumes might seem dated in language. So I was very keen to read this biography by Hilary Spurling, a very reputable biographer and friend of Powell. Her story of the years of his youth is fascinating and detailed, particularly as it becomes married to his sequence of novels. The big "But" for me is that I was disappointed by her account of his later years. The relationship to the cycle he was still writing seems sketchier and there are a lot of cultural cruises listed, but not even much detail there. In this sense I found this biography uneven. (Although there are pages of scrupulous reference notes.)

  19. 4 out of 5

    Colin

    This is a good biography of the author of one of the finest novel sequences in English literature. That said, I suspect that if you have not read "A Dance to the Music of Time", this life of Anthony Powell would not appeal to you, as you would quickly become disengaged from the Bohemian world in which Powell lived his life. But for those, like me, that have read and enjoyed "the Dance", this is an invaluable and informative account of Powell's upbringing, character and lifestyle. I particularly c This is a good biography of the author of one of the finest novel sequences in English literature. That said, I suspect that if you have not read "A Dance to the Music of Time", this life of Anthony Powell would not appeal to you, as you would quickly become disengaged from the Bohemian world in which Powell lived his life. But for those, like me, that have read and enjoyed "the Dance", this is an invaluable and informative account of Powell's upbringing, character and lifestyle. I particularly commend the closing chapter which neatly describes the author's work and friendship with Powell during the final thirty years or so of his long life.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ali Miremadi

    An excellent literary biography of a terrific writer. It is good to have a recap of Powell’s novels but I really enjoyed the history of twentieth century Grub St through the prism of a single life. Almost a factual version of William Boyd’s “Any Human Heart”. Powell, who lived from 1905-2000, wrote prolifically, served throughout the war and knew everyone is the perfect subject. In being a little picky, I’d have preferred Spurling not to have referred to her friend and subject as “Tony” througho An excellent literary biography of a terrific writer. It is good to have a recap of Powell’s novels but I really enjoyed the history of twentieth century Grub St through the prism of a single life. Almost a factual version of William Boyd’s “Any Human Heart”. Powell, who lived from 1905-2000, wrote prolifically, served throughout the war and knew everyone is the perfect subject. In being a little picky, I’d have preferred Spurling not to have referred to her friend and subject as “Tony” throughout the text, and the decades after “Dance to the Music of Time” were highly condensed. A very worthwhile biography all the same.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lyn Ekedahl

    If you're a fan of Anthony Powell and his 12-book masterpiece--A Dance to the Music of Time--you'll love this book. It provides a lovely description of Powell and his life and provides the context in which he wrote his novels.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Aveugle Vogel

    "the Quorn, the Belvoir, the Cottesmore"

  23. 5 out of 5

    Margery Osborne

    helpful if you loved Dance to the Music of Time

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ian Coutts

    If you like Powell, you'll like this. Even if you read his own four volume autobiography this is still worth looking at.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tim Julian

    I first read Anthony Powell's peerless 12-volume roman fleuve A Dance To the Music of Time at university in 1980, then again in 1986, a third time between 1997 and 2002 and began it for a fourth time in 2016. So you could say I'm a fan. And it's a pretty safe bet that this biography will only be read by Powell enthusiasts, which is a pity since it's a cracking read in its own right and a model of what a sympathetic biography should be. Spurling knew Powell well, and has also written the definiti I first read Anthony Powell's peerless 12-volume roman fleuve A Dance To the Music of Time at university in 1980, then again in 1986, a third time between 1997 and 2002 and began it for a fourth time in 2016. So you could say I'm a fan. And it's a pretty safe bet that this biography will only be read by Powell enthusiasts, which is a pity since it's a cracking read in its own right and a model of what a sympathetic biography should be. Spurling knew Powell well, and has also written the definitive guide to his magnum opus but she manages to avoid any hint of hagiography. For the Powell obsessive, of course, the chief fascination lies in tracing the real life origins of Stringham, Temple, Widmerpool and the rest of the eternally entertaining gallery of eccentrics that populate the pages of the Dance but Spurling also paints a wonderfully vivid picture of British life in the last century. Powell had a genius for friendship and here we meet, among others, Henry Yorke (the novelist Henry Green), Orwell, Evelyn Waugh, Muggeridge and Constant Lambert. Superb.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Gary Rowlands

    A wonderful review having read his "Dance to the Music in Time" a few years ago. Interesting biography, in that it is complied of hundreds of quotations from Powell's series and comments by contemporary writers and friends (Evelyn Waugh and others who I or anyone else has probably not read). I don't think this bio would be of interest unless you have read his 12 volume series, which I found brilliant.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Howlett

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rosemary

  29. 4 out of 5

    Frank

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mike Philipps

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