The second novel in the 12-part Dance to the Music of Time series. I enjoyed this one a little more than the first volume. I believe this due to the first volume’s need to introduce and elaborate on the four main characters. Nicholas Jenkins, our narrator, who I complained about being almost invisible in the first book, starts taking on shape here, dissembling on love and ambition. Stringham and Templar are still here, and by the end of the book, both married, but the real main character here is Widmerpool, the young man with the least social status, but with the most ambition of the four.
The first book was about the four in grade school to university; this one is about their initial entry into society, including romance and marriage. It is within the context of his feelings for the opposite sex that we finally start to understand Jenkins, but even he is overshadowed here by the fumblings and failings of Widmerpool, who first pines for the heart of Barbara, then falls in with a “bad” girl.
I’m still unsure whether Powell is a writer for me. Although I do enjoy mysteries and puzzles and admire books that are clever, I still like to get a feeling that I have solved the mystery by the end of the book. I believe that a character here gets an abortion, but as it is never spelled out (Jenkins is too much a gentlemen to actually put it into raw language), I wonder if I am reading between the lines correctly.
After the first book, I was not sure that I would continue the series, but since I have the first three in an omnibus volume, I decided to continue on. If the following books make the same jump in readability and interest as between the first two, the twelfth book will likely be my all-time-favorite novel.
[Finished 21 September 1997]