Anthony Powell’s brilliant twelve novel sequence chronicles the lives of over three hundred characters, and is a unique evocation of life in twentieth-century England. It is unrivalled for its scope, its humour and the enormous pleasure it has given to generations.
Volume 4 contains the last three novels in the sequence: Books do Furnish a Room; Temporary Kings; Hearing Secret Harmonies.
As ever no spoilers will be contained in this review so as not to mar the experience for readers yet to embark on, or are already in amongst the wonderful prose.
Having read each season in a different one, Spring in Autumn, Summer in winter and so forth, I finally finished Winter in the heat of August and feel that melancholy of emptiness when eventually concluding a mammoth series and wondering what could top that.
Starting book ten I was feeling a little sad for this, the twilight of the final trilogy and it seemed my thoughts were echoed by Narrator Nick as well. It has been an absolute pleasure to watch characters come and go and age but sadly these last three books didn’t quite live up the magnificent first nine books.
As journey’s go, this one has been immensely gratifying. Even this late into the series, there are still new characters to be met as well as much welcomed appearances from the series stalwarts. Although after the previous war books, the original cast does feel sparse and it does leave a gap, knowing that those characters won’t be popping up unexpectedly in the Dance.
What makes it a little less immersive is the modernity of its time, whilst the inevitability of things moving on is one thing, the choice of actions and, in particular words chosen in their speech felt jarring against previous books. In other chronicles, this would, perhaps, be a minor point but having the grounding books one to seven (and arguably eight as well), the change has been subtle but is easy to trace on reflection.
Unsurprisingly nostalgia and melancholy litter the prose and I found myself thinking of all those little stories and memories people have and share in real life, especially those of local legend that are always reminisced about. How this glorious richness of life lives on for a brief time before memory fades and the folk-lore becomes forgotten. These stories have always been a reminder of this and the passing of this set of characters leaves a thought-provoking scar on the mind.
This series has been a fantastic read, the eventual culmination of a certain character and the final lines were very nicely done. Despite this omnibus of three books being, for me, the weakest it is still a more than satisfying ending to a collection of books that demands to be read again for the sheer pleasure one has in getting lost in its people and events.