Monday, February 13, 2012

The Kindly Ones: Book Six of A Dance to the Music of Time (by Anthony Powell)

Halfway through the sequence, and this one really gives you a feeling of scope, incorporating flashbacks to the narrator's childhood (a childhood that abruptly ends when WWI begins) and ending with the beginning of World War II. (The implication is that the author is going to be enlisted; he doesn't want to join the infantry, but is supposed join as an officer--I guess this is because he's from the upper classes.)

In this book we spend more time with the characters we've spent five books getting to know, including the ridiculous Widmerpool and the (as gossip tells it) sexual deviant Sir Magnus Donners. (There's a whole scene where a bunch of people are at Donners's castle and they act out the seven deadly sins; it's the comic setpiece of this book, though of course there's something tragic about it in the person of Betty Templer.) I love the interpersonal drama here most, and I look forward to seeing it played out in volume seven against the backdrop of war.

"He used to read in the evenings, never with much enjoyment or concentration. “I like to rest my mind after work”, he would say. “I don’t like books that make me think.” That was perfectly true. In due course, as he grew older, my father became increasingly committed to this exclusion of what made him think, so that finally he disliked not only books, but also people – even places – that threatened to induce this disturbing mental effect."

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